When it comes to vegetable gardening, few plants bring me as much joy as a variety of sweet tomatoes. Their lovely colors often grace my plate at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They’re one of those foods that almost no store-bought specimen will come close to in flavor. Toward the end of growing season, I’m often faced with a little uncertainty. I watch the weather and my plants, trusting my instincts to harvest on the right side of that “fine line”: leaving my babies on the vine as long as possible to maximize my tomato love, yet harvesting them before they fall prey to the change in seasons.
In the past, I’ve braved the odds and still enjoyed sun-ripened tomatoes in November. But most of the time, at some point, I’m left with a massive amount of green tomatoes that desperately need to come inside from the cold. The traditional Southern application of frying these neglected fruits in cornmeal crust is always a good go-to, but as a chef, artist, and dreamer, I prefer to think outside the box and come up with less conventional approaches to things. So today I want to introduce you to this amazing autumnal salad!
Touted as one of the world’s most nutrient dense foods, beets are a perfect addition to this salad and offer an impressive portfolio of vitamins and minerals. They’re an excellent source of folate, and provide significant doses of manganese, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamins C and B6, iron, and potassium. They’re so good for you that they’re even included in Sally Fallon’s list of the 14 Super Foods, alongside liver and oysters.
Beets have a much longer growing season than tomatoes, and I enjoy them year-round, though I do find I’m generally more drawn to root vegetables in cooler months than in the summer heat. They also tend to be at their prime right around the same time as the late tomato season, which makes me feel like this combination is somewhat destined.
The preparation required is minimal and the simplicity of the dish lets each unique part shine through without fuss—which creates a sort of elegance that would likely be lost with more complication. Roasting the beets concentrates their flavor, and a quick char on the tomatoes creates a mellow sweetness behind their tang. Pairing the tart tomatoes with the earthy beets is a perfect match—the contrast in flavors and colors harmonizes beautifully and it seems these two were meant to be together. The creamy goat cheese adds a certain richness and just enough of a salty bite to offset the other flavors and textures. It’s like a big, delicious party in your mouth that’s equal parts sweet, tart, and salty.
Grilled Green Tomato and Roasted Beet Caprese Salad with Herbed Goat Cheese
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, plus time to chill/cool
4 medium-size beets, any color
4 medium-size green tomatoes (for the prettiest presentation, use some that are similar in circumference than your beets)
4 ounces soft goat cheese, flavored with herbs, chilled
1 small handful basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar (optional)
Salt and cracked pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the beets in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover dish tightly with foil and roast until fragrant and a knife slips in and out of the beet flesh with ease, about 45–60 minutes.
- Preheat the grill to high. Cut tomatoes into about ½-inch-thick slices. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill each side until lightly charred and slightly tender. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- When the beets are fully cooked, cool until you’re able to handle them, then slip the skins off and slice into rounds about the same width as the tomatoes. Cool completely in fridge (or freezer if you’re in a hurry). Note: I prefer this salad to be served at room temperature, not fully chilled, so you don’t need to cool until cold.
- Cut goat cheese into about ¼-inch-thick slices (this is easiest if you use cold cheese, so you I suggest chilling it in the freezer for 10 minutes or so first). Set cheese aside until ready to assemble salad.
- In a serving dish, arrange alternating slices of beet, tomato, and cheese. Tuck basil leaves in between a few slices. Drizzle salad with olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, if using. Season liberally with cracked pepper and a pinch of salt. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Image from Briana Goodall.