After making this dish for six hundred people, I thought I would never make it again. (Yes, six hundred people.)
That's a lot of beets to peel.
I forgot that making it for eight people is much more manageable and oh yeah, pretty delicious. The sweetness of the beets gets a good dose of sherry vinegar, pepper and olive oil, which when paired with a tangy cheese and salty toasted nut is... pretty heavenly. Oh yeah, the mint. Who doesn't love mint? It also makes the dish rather pretty.
Beets with Feta, Hazelnuts and Mint
2 bunches of beets, preferably organic (they tend to be smaller and sweeter)
4 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup hazelnuts (or substitute pistachios, almonds or walnuts)
1/2 pound French or Greek Feta
1 handful fresh mint, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
Cut the tops off the beets and place in a pot with enough cold water to cover them. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and a big pinch of salt.
Simmer the beets for about 40-50 minutes or until you can easily pierce them with a knife.
Drain the beets and run them under cold water to cool. I like to peel them using my hands and just rubbing off the skins under cold running water.
Dice the beets into bite sized cubes and drizzle with olive oil, about 2-3 tablespoons. Sprinkle them with the sherry vinegar, salt and pepper and set aside.
Toast the hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven drizzled with a little olive oil and salt for about 12 minutes. You can alternately toast them over a low flame in a skillet until golden brown, shaking the pan often about 12 minutes. Cool the hazelnuts and rub off their skin with a paper towel. Chop the hazelnuts and toss them with the beets.
Place the beets on a platter and sprinkle the feta over them, ending with the fresh mint, and any left over hazelnuts if you have them. Drizzle one last bit of olive oil over the whole thing and voila! You will be the hit of the barbecue without ever grilling a thing.