Golden Beet Salad

This Golden Beet Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts and Torn Mint is a labor of love but it's a beautiful addition to any dinner party and delicious to boot.  Beets make for a great side salad because they are filling and sweet.  They're not an everyday at-home meal, so they feel special for guests.  This salad isn't at all difficult but it is a bit labor intensive.  Feel free to use red beets rather than golden beets; the recipe is exactly the same.  But it's a much messier endeavor (your hands will be dyed purple!) and I just love the color of the golden beets at this time of year.

Annie's Golden Beet Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts and Torn Mint
(the ingredients below will serve 8 people, but you can easily adjust this salad for any size.  Assume roughly 1.5 beets per person)

12 golden beets, as uniform in size as possible (smaller beets will roast faster)
1 bunch mint
4 oz goat cheese (1 small log)
1 cup hazelnuts (buy with skins removed)
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil
High quality salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Scrub beets clean with a dishtowel and place in a baking dish.  Toss beets in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place a heavy splash of water (roughly 1/4 cup) into the bottom of the baking dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake for 1 hour.  The beets are done when you can easily slide a knife all the way through a beet.  The size of beets varies greatly, so be patient if they aren't finished at one hour.  (I roasted 30 beets this weekend and it took two hours total roasting time.)  When finished, remove beets from oven and allow to cool completely.

Place hazelnuts in a cast iron skillet on low heat.  Toss with olive oil and high quality salt.  Toss the hazelnuts occasionally; they will slowly become light brown in color.  When toasted, add additional salt and set aside to cool completely.  Once cooled, grind in a food processor, pulsing briefly 3-4 times (you want some large pieces so don't over grind).

When beets are cool enough to handle remove the skins with a dishtowel.  The skins should slide right off. 

Slice beets into wedges and place in a mixing bowl.  Toss with 1 bunch of mint, leaves removed and rougly torn into large sized pieces.  Add crushed hazel nuts (reserving a small handful).  Add 4 oz goat cheese, crumbled.  Make a lemon vinaigrette with 1 part lemon to 3 parts oil, salt & pepper.  Whisk to combine.  Toss over beet salad.  Place in serving dish and top with reserved hazelnuts and a few sprigs of mint.