Leek, Beet and Orange Salad With Walnut Cream 4.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post; tableware from Crate and Barrel

Weeknight Vegetarian Jan 29, 2014

This salad -- more delicate when you can find baby versions of the beets and leeks, more rustic when you can’t -- was inspired by a dish by chef Francis Layrle at La Piquette in Cleveland Park. His technique of charring the leeks (he uses a grill, but at home in winter the broiler works nicely) results in a concentrated, barely smoke-kissed flavor.

The walnut cream is thick, so rather than dress the salad and eat it in collections of bite-size pieces, compose the elements on the plate and cut the vegetables with a knife and fork, swiping them through the cream as you go.

Make Ahead: The walnut cream can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. The roasted beets and charred leeks can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Let all ingredients come to room temperature before using.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings

  • 1 pound beets, preferably baby beets, scrubbed and trimmed
  • 1 pound leeks, preferably baby or thin leeks
  • 2 medium oranges of your favorite variety
  • 1 cup walnut halves or pieces, toasted (see NOTE)
  • 3/4 cup plain nonfat Greek-style yogurt (may substitute low-fat or regular yogurt)
  • Sea salt
  • 1/4 cup sunflower sprouts or other micro greens, for garnish (optional)


Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Wrap the beets tightly in aluminum foil and place them on a rimmed baking sheet; roast until tender when pierced with a skewer through the foil, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the beets. Unwrap; when they are just cool enough to be handled, hold them under a stream of running water and rub off/discard the skins. Cut the beets in half, then into thick slices or chunks. (If you use baby beets, serve them whole or halved.)

Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiling element or flame; preheat to broil.

Cut off the dark green parts of the leeks and at least 1/2 inch of the light green parts, to avoid the section where dirt can collect inside. (This is particularly important with larger leeks.) Arrange the leeks in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; broil until deeply charred all over, turning a few times as necessary. Cool slightly, then peel off/discard the outer charred skin and tops. (If you use medium or large leeks rather than baby or thin ones, cut them in half lengthwise and again into large chunks, if desired. No need to cut baby leeks.)

Use a rasp-style grater to finely grate 2 teaspoons of zest (no pith) from 1 orange into the bowl of a food processor. Use a knife to remove all of the peel and white pith from both oranges, then cut their flesh into thick rounds or chunks, removing seeds if necessary.

Add 3/4 cup of the walnuts, all of the yogurt and a pinch of salt to the food processor; puree to form a thick walnut cream. Taste, and add salt as needed.

Place a large dollop of the walnut cream at the center of each plate. Arrange the leeks, beets and oranges on and around it. Add dollops of the cream here and there, if desired. Scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of walnuts over the portions. If desired, scatter with sunflower sprouts or other micro greens. Sprinkle the beets and leeks lightly with sea salt, and serve.

NOTE: Toast the nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan as needed to avoid scorching.

Rate it

Recipe Source

From Food editor Joe Yonan, author of “Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook” (Ten Speed Press, 2013).

Tested by Joe Yonan.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.