Beet salad sounds like such a cliché dish, but I think there's good reason for its popularity. When rock-hard beets are roasted until soft and sweet, then tossed with a vinaigrette to cut through all the sweetness, there's something amazing that happens.
Skipping the fast-wilting lettuce in favor of slabs of creamy feta cheese and a big handful of fresh, fragrant herbs really makes this salad special and beautiful.
You're probably all too familiar with the staining power of red beet juice. If you use all red beets in this salad it doesn't really matter, but if you want to have a mix of light- and dark-colored beets, I recommend dressing the different beets separately so that the dark ones don't bleed and discolor the light ones. After they're both dressed, just layer them on your platter and they'll look gorgeous and vibrant.
Marinated Feta-Beet Salad
Serves 4 to 6
extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
finely chopped shallot
Finely grated zest of 1/2 medium lemon
freshly squeezed lemon juice
champagne or white wine vinegar
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
coarsely chopped fresh soft herbs, such as dill, parsley, or mint (or combination), divided
feta cheese, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slabs
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F.
Scrub the beets thoroughly, then wrap them loosely in aluminum foil. No need to dry the beets before wrapping. Small beets can be wrapped together, but it's easiest to roast large beets individually. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.
Roast until knife-tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Check the beets every 20 minutes or so. If they are starting to look dry or are scorching on the bottoms, dribble a tablespoon of water over the beets before re-wrapping. Beets are done when a thin knife or skewer slides easily to the center of the beet. Small beets will cook more quickly than large beets. Meanwhile, make the dressing.
Place the oil, shallot, lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and whisk to combine; set aside until the beets are ready. (If using 2 different colors of beets, divide the dressing into 2 medium or large bowls.)
Set the roasted beets aside until cool enough to handle but still warm, about 15 minutes. Hold one of the beets in a paper towel and use the edges of the paper to rub the skin away. The skin should peel away easily; if it doesn't, the beets likely need to cook for a little longer. Peel the remaining beets.
Halve the beets, then cut into wedges about 1/2-inch thick. (Cut red beets last so the color doesn’t bleed onto the cutting board.) Place the warm beets in the dressing and toss to combine. Let sit until cooled to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Add half of the herbs and toss to combine.
Reserve one slice of feta cheese for crumbling. Place the remaining cheese on a serving platter in a single layer or overlapping slightly. Pile the beets on top, then sprinkle with the remaining herbs and crumble the reserved feta on top. Drizzle with olive oil.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Make ahead: The beets can be roasted and tossed in the dressing up to 2 days ahead. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.