Make-Ahead Vegetarian Recipe: Beet & Sweet Potato Stacks

It's the details that matter the most at fancy dinner parties and holiday meals. Take this recipe. Really, it's just a warm beet salad. But assemble it in pretty layers, add some toasted walnuts and a citrusy vinaigrette, and suddenly you have a dish that elicits oohs and ahhs as you carry it proudly to the dinner table.

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Equally impressive is the fact that most of this recipe can be made ahead of time. The beets, sweet potatoes, and walnuts can all be roasted. The onions and greens can be sautéed. Even the vinaigrette can be mixed and refrigerated until it's needed. All that needs to happen before dinner is assembling the stacks, warming them up, and adding the finishing touches.

Try to find beets and sweet potatoes that seem to be about the same width. Count on only getting about three slices out of each beet once you trim off the top and the root end. Since beets are normally sold in bunches with one or two big ones and one smaller one, you might need to buy a few bunches to get the right number of beets for the recipe. (Those smaller beets make adorable mini-stacks with the equally skinny ends of the sweet potatoes!)

One good-sized stack would make a fine main course for a vegetarian or someone eating gluten-free as long as there are a few other vegetarian-friendly dishes on the table to round the meal out. The skinnier stacks could also definitely be served as a side dish to other guests.

It's difficult to end up with exactly the right ratio of beets to beet greens to sweet potatoes with this recipe. But no matter! Warmed and plated, the extras are terrific for passing around the table.

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Warm Beet and Sweet Potato Stacks

Serves 4-6

For the Stacks

4 large beets with their greens
2 good-sized, uniformly shaped sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1 cup walnuts
1 large onion
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
8 oz goat cheese

For the Vinaigrette

1/4 cup orange juice from one orange
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper

Prepare 1-3 Days Ahead

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Cut the greens from the beets, scrub the beets clean, and wrap them in foil. Place the foil-wrapped beets in the oven and roast for 45-55 minutes, until tender. Cool enough to handle, then rub the skins off. Cool completely then slice into thick rounds (1/4" - 1/2" or so).

While the beets are roasting, scrub the sweet potatoes clean and slice them into thick rounds (1/4" - 1/2" or so). Toss the rounds with olive oil, salt, and smoked paprika. Lay them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast alongside the beets for 10 minutes, flip, then roast for another 10-15 minutes until soft and starting to show a few toasted spots. Cool completely.

Scatter the walnuts on another baking sheet. When the sweet potatoes are done, toast the walnuts for about 15 minutes, until fragrant and showing toasted spots. Shake the pan a few times during baking to make sure the walnuts toast evenly. Roughly chop the walnuts while they're still warm from the oven. Allow to cool.

Last but not least, prepare the greens. Slice the onion into thin strips. Slice the beet leaves down the middle rib, and then crosswise into thin strips.

Warm a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions with a pinch of salt until they are very soft and beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes. Add the beet greens with another pinch of salt and stir until the greens are fully wilted. Sprinkle the vinegar over the top, scrape up any browned bits from the pan, and give the greens a taste. Add salt or pepper as desired.

Package all these ingredients in separate containers and refrigerate.

To Assemble and Serve the Stacks

Heat the oven to 350°.

Assemble the stacks one at a time inside an 9x13 or similar sized baking dish. Start with a beet round. Spread a good dollop of goat cheese on top of the beet. Top with a sweet potato round and a little pile of greens. Repeat once, ending up with two of each layer in your stack.

Wrap the stack in aluminum foil as pictured in the photos above. It works best to pinch the ends of the foil together and fold the flaps back on themselves. Pinch the top of the foil tubes closed to shield the top layer of greens. Prepare and wrap the other stacks like this.

Bake for 15-20 minutes to warm the stacks through. You can check by un-wrapping one of the stacks and touching the center layers.

Whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

Arrange your serving plates next to the stove. Prepare each one with a small scoop of goat cheese where you want the stack to go. This will help hold the stack in place. Transfer the stacks, still wrapped in their foil, to the plates using a spatula. Unwrap the stacks, drizzle with a few spoonfuls of vinaigrette, and scatter the walnuts on top and around the base of the stacks.

Serve immediately while still warm.

Related: Beets to Cabbage: 20 Recipes for Roasted Vegetables

(Image: Emma Christensen)

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