Grilled Golden Beet and Chicken Salad with Crispy Goat Cheese

I’ll admit that when I grabbed a bunch of organic golden beets at our local grocery, King Soopers, the other day, I hadn’t a clue what I’d do with them except my main squeeze loves beets and I was bringing them home no matter. They looked all gorgeous, fresh and brightly colored with crisp whole greens attached, despite the healthy dirt around the edges. So whatever happened in that kitchen with those beets, it was going to make him happy. When folks say, “Food is love,” there’s something to it. More on that at the end. Because I regularly make goat cheese spread for our summer appetizers or even lunches while our herbs are plentiful, I always have a big log or two of chèvre (the plain white fresh goat cheese sold in nearly any grocery store) in the fridge. I had no problem considering a riff on the quintessential beet and goat cheese salad made by lots of cooks and in many restaurants worldwide. (Is that something you make or order if it’s on the menu?) What I didn’t like the idea of was turning on the oven for the hour it takes to roast those beets. Boiling them sounded worse, messy, and way too steamy for July. Why couldn’t I grill them in a grill pan on the stove? I thought about grilling them whole or in quarters, but that would take just way too long. Do people grill sliced beets? It seems they do according to google and I thought I’d just do it, too. A quick look-see into the fridge showed a bunch of fresh greens; radishes, scallions, red bell peppers and a single, lonely leftover roasted chicken breast I soon shredded within an inch of its life (always tastier than chopped — try it and see). Soon we were about to feast on one more whole meal salad outdoors. Thank you, summer!

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Golden Beet Ricotta Salad with Fresh Cherries and Carmelized Shallots or What’s in a Name?

Could this have a better name?  How about “Delicious?”

I know.  This sounds like something off a froofroo menu, right?  I couldn’t think of another name for it that said what it was. When you’re naming a recipe, it must

  • catch the ear
  • catch the eye
  • represent the dish accurately in a thrice (or right away, you might say)
  • not be too long (ha)
  • end up in the right place in the index ( on google)

Of those things, the most important one for me is that you know what you’re making just by the name. There’s no sense being halfway through making something and saying, “Geez, this is full of walnuts!” with your jaw dropped.  On the other hand, I’m sometimes taken in by coy, cute, or gimmicky recipe titles like

  • Funny Bones
  • Babysitter’s Spaghetti Casserole (You can google either of the first two; they’re real.)
  • Chocolate Nut Heavens  (This one being my own; I held a contest for the name on fb.)

I mean, think of it.  Sally Lunn Cake.  Anadama Bread.  Brunswick Chicken.  Pagliacci’s Cheesecake. And I make those.  How about Anzac Biscuits?  Slippery Soup?

To say nothing of Pasta Puttanesca, Grandma Clark’s Soda Bread, Sabayon, Pavlova, Mother’s Pie, Ruffled Ham, Oysters Ernie, Rose D’s Mushroom Monterey, Hot Toddy, Chatham Artillery Punch, and so on.

Compare those to:

  • Chicken and Potatoes
  • Fried Clams with Tomato Sauce
  • Scallop and Artichoke Soup
  • Cheese Omelet

If you see “Chicken and Potatoes,” you know what you’re getting.  If you see “Mystery Soup,” in the index, it’ a mystery.  (Heat, mixing well, 2 cans beef broth and 1 8 oz package cream cheese.  —That’s the entire recipe from THE EASTERN JUNIOR LEAGUE COOKBOOK.)

To some of us (who grew up in the mid west, for example)  Quahog Chowder sounds like something out of Star Trek.  We didn’t know from clams. We probably weren’t picking that name out of the index.

Two friends  this week kindly invited us to a  potluck for a group that typically meets once a month to try a new restaurant.  Somehow, backyards, mosquitoes, and vegetable gardens beckoned an outdoor summer gathering and a homemade potluck was the July event.  Because summer fruit is coming on and I love a reason to fix a big dessert, I brought (more than a) pound cake with sliced fresh peaches and homemade ginger ice cream.  (Ok, come over; I’ll make it for you, too.)  The cake, I kid you not, was called “Elvis Presley’s Favorite Cake.”  Would you have jumped to the conclusion that this was a regular old, if delish and huge, pound cake?

Elvis Presley’s Favorite Cake

The recipe’s on, and probably in other places as well.  And if your berries are in, get up early and make this baby.  Invite the neighbors; it’ll serve 12-14.

Ah, well–back to today’s salad with it’s apropos name.  A trip to the farmer’s market blessed us with a big mess of still-dirty greens, tiny zucchini, spring and summer onions, fresh garlic, golden and red beets, and the first of the string (green) beans and tomatoes.  Running into Whole Foods for a small Friday list, I came out with two pounds of cherries @ $2.99 per pound.  That’s $4 off per pound.  A bowl of shallots (still dirty in their skins, too)  I grabbed a couple of weeks ago from the downtown market caught my eye when I returned and that was the start of the salad.

dirty shallots


clean beets

Pencil for scale and memories.

I’ve just started making cheese this week after saying I’d do it forever.  That’s another post, but I’ll share one pic:

Just add great honey and black pepper.

Colorful, lovely, fresh foods simply yelled to be together last night.  Leftover whole milk whimpered, “Make more cheese.”  The result:

Golden Beet Ricotta Salad with Fresh Cherries and Carmelized Shallots 
serves 2-4 (2 as a main course, 4 for a first course)

  • 6-8 cups fresh greens, chilled or not
  • 6 small-medium gold beets, roasted in the microwave*
  • 1/2 cup fresh, sweet cherries stemmed and pitted 
  • 6 small shallots, sliced and carmelized**
  • 1/2 c fresh ricotta (You can sometimes find fresh ricotta at a good cheese shop; it’s dear.  You can use regular store-bought or -last resort fresh goat cheese or  good cottage cheese- in a pinch.)
  • 1tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1T fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T crushed, toasted hazelnuts or almonds, optional

Dressing ingredients:  1T sherry vinegar, generous pinch sea salt and freshly ground pepper, 1/2 t finely minced garlic, 1/2 t honey, 3T extra virgin olive oil.  Whisk (or use a fork) together all but olive oil.  Then drizzle in the oil one tablespoon at a time, making sure all of the oil is incorporated before adding the next tablespoon.   Two hints: Let the salt dissolve in the vinegar and don’t over beat the dressing.


  1. Make sure greens are clean and free of water.  Use a salad spinner if necessary.  I don’t mind room temperature greens, but you might like them chilled.  Place them in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle in cooked shallots and toss lightly with your hands.
  3. Scatter the beets evenly on top of the salad and mound the cherries in the center.
  4. Add 2-3 small scoops of fresh cheese around the cherries.
  5. Add orange rind and sprinkle lemon juice evenly.  Dust with salt and pepper, making sure each pile of cheese gets an extra smack of pepper,
  6. Add dressing to taste and toss quite well to distribute the soft cheese evenly.  Sprinkle with nuts, if using.
  7. Serve immediately.  Does not keep.  Eat it all!

*To “roast” beets in microwave:  Clean, scrub, and trim the roots off the beets, leaving about an inch of greens on each. Rub in a little olive oil over each beet.  Place beets in a microwave-safe casserole, cover, and cook on high for 10 minutes.  Carefully (HOT!) uncover and pierce with small, sharp knife to make sure they’re tender.  Let cool a few minutes and rub skins off with paper towels.  Slice off greens and a bit of the top of the beet and then slice into 1/4″ pieces.  copyright Alyce Morgan, 2011

**To carmelize shallots:  Peel shallots and slice thinly.  Place in a small-medium skillet with 1T olive oil and heat to low-medium low.  Let cook slowly 20-25 minutes until soft and browned.  Stir occasionally, but keep a good eye on them.  You don’t want them crispy or fried; turn down if you see that happening.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood:

We enjoyed the long Fourth of July weekend at home, working a bit on the house and yard, taking long walks, having a meal or two with friends, and generally breathing.  It’s too hot to do much cooking or baking except in the early morning, but we’ve been grilling (see my bbq bison ribs on or just cleaning, chopping, and eating.

Move over, Fred and Barney

 I’m working on music and practicing my conducting for a church job audition, which is a wonderful thing.  I covet your prayers there.  But I’m also spending some time on piano bar type music with vocals just for grins.  We have tickets to the Minnesota Symphony for Sunday night; it’s chamber music!  They have lovely summer programs that include coming early and having dinner on the plaza downtown.  Of course there’s live music for the meal, too.  Love that.

I’m reading THE PIANO TUNER by Daniel Mason (a bit late, I know) and also Diana Butler Bass’  A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY:  THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY- a little late there, too, but my bedside table is always piled high. 

This week, our family room couch arrives on Tuesday.  Four months without a couch!  We did have a tv (though the regular one just got mounted last week), but had outside chairs or one borrowed rocker down there.  What a baby, but I’m so excited to do something like watch a movie!!  We’ll be all cozy for winter now.   We looked in six stores and all over the internet to find the ONLY couch (we did find one small sectional, too) that will fit down our stairway.  That’s the couch we bought.  Hundred-year-old houses.

Also this week is our 37th wedding anniversary and we’re taking a week and going to Devil Track Lake, where we’ve rented a house and will paddle around the lake with the doggies.  Can’t wait.  Devil Track is just west of Lake Superior, off the north shore near Grand Marais.  I’m working on how to take a week’s worth of groceries in one cooler.  The stores there have little and that little isn’t so good.  This is good for me…kind of upscale camping.

If I haven’t nathered on enough, you can call me.
Sing a new song,