Summer means salad time — the vegetable are at their peak, it’s hot out and you don’t want to heat up the kitchen. Salads just honestly hit the spot on a summer day, but we can tend to fall into a salad “rut”. Anyone else out there sick of iceberg, tomato, cheese and croutons? And don’t get me started with bottled dressings….unimaginative, full of corn syrup, and just downright lame.

This salad has several things going for it, including magical roasted beets and a homemade vinaigrette made with my favorite ingredient, BEER. By reducing the beer down to an almost syrupy consistency, you get all that great flavor in a concentrated form. Pick a malt-forward beer for this technique, as any bitter flavor the beer has will just be amplified by reducing it.

We don’t want to overwhelm the salad, we want a great balance of flavors. I picked Arcadia Ales’ Whitsun, which has a bit of orange and coriander in it, ingredients that you can amplify in the dressing, layering flavors.

With the slight bitterness of the beer offset by a bit of honey (for natural sweetness), we can get perfect balance. Add some zing by using frozen orange juice concentrate — its intense flavor won’t water down the salad. I keep a can in my freezer specifically for cooking, and use it in dressings and marinades all the time.

This dressing can be made up ahead of time, and will keep in a mason jar in the fridge for about two weeks.

Chefs talk about balance in a dish all the time, and home cooks should too. The roasted beets will provide sweetness and earthiness, contrasted by the crispness of the lettuce, crunchiness of the nuts, and creaminess of the goat cheese. When you toss the whole thing with a beer dressing, it’s the perfect summer salad.

Whitsun Beet Salad

For the salad:
4-6 beets, trimmed
6 cups mixed greens
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (optional)
1/4 cup chopped toasted pistachios
1/2 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese

For the dressing:
1 bottle wheat beer (like Arcadia Ales Whitsun)
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coriander
salt and pepper

For the salad: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets, then wrap them up in foil, and place in a baking pan. Roast the beets until tender. Depending on the size of the beets, this could take up to 1 1/2 hours. When done, let cool, then peel the beets. Slice into wedges.

Meanwhile make the dressing, pour the beer in to a saucepan, and over medium heat, reduce down to 1/4 a cup. Whisk everything else together, except the oil. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking. The dressing should start to thicken up into an emulsion. Check the seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed.

Toss the greens with the dressing and layout on a platter. Then toss the beets with some of the dressing and place them on top of the greens. Sprinkle on the mint if you are using it, the pistachios, and crumble the goat cheese all over. Add another couple grinds of pepper. Serve the salad right away, with another cold Whitsun to pair it with.