Summer is peak salad season. I’m sure nutritionists everywhere would prefer salad didn’t have a season. But in my books, the dead of February really isn’t the time for a salad. Thankfully, we’re nowhere near the dead of February, we’re knocking on the door of prime summertime. And salads always seem to be on the menu, whether they be a leafy side-salad affair or a bread-and-cheese-heavy main event, like this Golden Beet Panzanella. And that really is the beauty of a salad – it can really fit any mealtime role you set out for it. Even dessert if you count Snickers Salad as an actual salad – but for the record, I don’t.
Another reason to love a summertime salad is its versatility. Here in Canada, we don’t have a long growing season. Our winters drag on and consequently, our local harvests are fleeting. Now, I think I speak for a lot of Canadians when I confess I overbuy produce throughout the spring and summer months. We get a little giddy when things get green again, so we just have to buy all the scapes, berries and beets. And a salad is the perfect vehicle for all that seasonal veg we just can’t say no to.
This Golden Beet Panzanella is a prime example because it is the direct result of a produce shopping spree. Since the pandemic, farmers’ markets are not what they used to be. They aren’t their usual laid back Saturday morning indulgence. Now, they are as fraught and strange as the grocery store. So rather than forsake our local growers and skip the whole messy affair, we get a produce box once a week. But as a two-person household, we sometimes struggle to get through it all before the next box arrives. Salads to the rescue!
This Golden Beet Panzanella is everything we had left in our crisper one Friday eve. And it tasted so good, I decided to do it again but on purpose. All this is to say, you can add just about anything you want to this salad. If you have an avocado that’s about to head south or a handful of carrots you’re itching to rid of, throw them in. I swear, it will be delicious.
Now, there are a few items in this salad I refuse to compromise on. And no, it’s not the golden beets. I mean, it would be a little weird to make a Golden Beet Panzanella without beets but who am I to judge you? No, the item I absolutely will not comprise on are the sherry roasted onions. Not only are the onions absolutely delicious, their braising liquid is the base of the vinaigrette for this salad. And, if I’m honest, the vinaigrette is the real star of the show here.
Now, you may be surprised to see so much roasting associated with a summer salad. Well, it’s unavoidable, unfortunately. Beets and onions gotta be roasted and the bread has to be toasted and apparently I have to rhyme about it. The nice thing about this salad, is you pile everything that needs to be roasted in the oven together, so you don’t have to leave the oven humming for very long.
As much as I love firing up the BBQ, I still love the gentle caramelization my oven delivers. While I understand those who shy away from turning the oven on during the summer months, I am simply not one of them. I still bake cakes and roast all manner of things deep into August. Will I sweat for it? Yes. Will I run through more mascara than is necessary? Definitely. But will any of that stop me from cranking my oven to 400° F? Not likely.
Now, if you’re going to stick it to the weather and bake your way through a heatwave, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is minimizing the amount of time you have the oven on. That means the second that sucker is preheated, you better have everything ready to go. Don’t leave it hanging, you want to make sure your oven is at its highest temperature for the least amount of time possible.
The second is ventilation. Crank the fan in your hood vent the second you turn the oven on. It will help draw some of the heat up and out of your house. If you don’t have a hood vent, consider lowering your air conditioner by two extra degrees before turning the oven on. Bringing your home’s internal temperature to sane levels after roasting is difficult regardless of the season. But in the summer it pays to head the increase in temperature off at the pass.
So that’s everything you need to know about this Golden Beet Panzanella. It’s a flavorful mix of the season’s best and brightest served raw and roasted with plenty of cheese and bread to boot. What more could you ask of a salad?
Golden Beet Panzanella with Sherry Roasted Onions
- 2 golden beets scrubbed
- 8 cippolini onions ends removed
- 9 red pearl onions halved
- ½ cup sherry vinegar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- ¼ cup + 3 tbsp olive oil divided
- 1 bunch radishes halved
- 1 ½ tsp salt divided
- 2 cups sourdough bread cut into cubes
- 1 lemon juiced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 small bulb fennel fronds removed and set aside
- 1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- ½ cup feta cheese crumbled
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Place each beet on its own piece of tinfoil. Drizzle 1 tbsp of the olive oil over the beets and sprinkle with salt. Wrap the beets tightly with the tinfoil and place them in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes or until fork-tender. Unwrap the beets and set aside to cool.
- While the beets are roasting, prepare the onions for the oven. In a baking dish, arrange the pearl and cippolini onions cut-side-down. In a small bowl, whisk to combine the sherry vinegar and brown sugar. Pour the mixture over the onions and transfer the dish to the oven. Roast the onions for 25-30 minutes, flipping the onions once halfway-through. Set aside to cool.
- Place the radishes in a medium-sized bowl. Add another tbsp of the olive oil and ½ a teaspoon of the salt. Toss to coat. Transfer the radishes to a baking sheet and arrange them cut-side-down. Pop them in the oven and roast for 15 minutes until golden and tender. Set aside to cool.
- Brush a baking sheet with olive oil and arrange the bread in an even layer. Drizzle the bread with a tbsp of the olive oil and sprinkle with a ½ teaspoon of the salt. Place the bread in the oven and toast until golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- When the beets are cool enough to handle, slice them into wedges, and place them in a large bowl. Add the radishes and the onions. Pour the lemon juice into the baking dish that held the onions. Using a fork, whisk to remove all the residual sherry vinegar and pour it into a small bowl. Add the remaining olive oil and salt, as well as the garlic and Dijon mustard. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- Using a mandolin, shave the fennel bulb and add it to the bowl with the beets, radishes, and onions. Add in the sourdough croutons, chickpeas, and feta cheese. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat. Garnish with the reserved fennel fronds and serve immediately.