Roasted Beet and Mandarin Salad

Since starting to eat according to a Paleo template July 2011, I have grown an appreciation for several foods that I didn't really care for all that much before. One of those much detested foods was beets! The first time I tasted a beet that didn't totally gross me out was in one of my guilty-ish pleasures, Terra sweets and beets chips. I started to like the sweet earthiness.

On busy nights during the week, I make a salad at the salad bar at the grocery store. They have several ready-made salads, and one I have fallen in love with is a baby beet salad. Sometimes they put orange wedges in it, and other times canned mandarin oranges. Truth be told, though I know they are in sugary syrup, I prefer the version with the mandarin oranges. The regular oranges are a bit pithy and flavorless. I know pre-made salads are sub-optimal because of the veggies oils in the dressing, but it's one of my allowances. I get so excited when I see this salad on the bar that I typically say "ooh beets!" out loud like a weirdo...I don't care I love the stuff! I have come up with my own version that I absolutely adore. It's pretty easy to make and is a perfect substitute for the store version. If you have disliked beets most of your life, like I did, you should give this one a try. The mandarins and balsamic dressing give the beets a lot of character and detract from their earthiness. Plus, roasting veggies takes their flavor to the next level. I really love the shades of red and pink in the salad.

Roasted Beet and Mandarin Salad
Printable Recipe

4 medium beets (about 1.25-1.5 lbs), scrubbed clean and greens removed
a little water
9 seedless mandarin oranges (aka: "Cuties" or "Halos")
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp pure maple syrup (optional)
 salt and pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, cut into slivers
1 cup chopped pecans

1. Roast the beets. There are lots of methods, and I used this one. I added a little water to the foil to keep the beets from scorching and to build up some steam. They took about 1.25 hrs (a good time for prepping other food for the week!). You could also steam them. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut them into chunks.
2. Meanwhile, juice one of the mandarins. Blend in the mustard, syrup, and some salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil. As an optional step, soak the onion slivers in cold water to remove some of their heat. Peel and section all the mandarins.
3. In a large bowl, toss the beets, mandarin wedges, drained onions, pecans, and dressing. Toss well and chill at least 1 hour before serving.

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