Beets have become a hugely popular, ubiquitous item on restaurant menus. But just because they're a hearty root veggie doesn't mean they don't need careful treatment: They can run the gamut from steamed and bland to deliciously roasty and caramelized. "Well-roasted beets can be eye-opening," chef Josh Habiger says. "A lot of chefs use beets as a really colorful ingredient that brightens up a plate. But if you don't do the ingredient justice, you could be ruining it for that person forever."

The distinctive flavor of beets lends itself to simple preparations. "You can make a salad of roasted beets and vinegar; you don't even need to add oil," he says.

Habiger was a founding chef of the celebrated Catbird Seat in Nashville and now runs the kitchen at Pinewood Social, one of the country's most buzz-worthy restaurants. He also worked in such world-renowned kitchens as The Fat Duck in England and Alinea in Chicago. Though well versed in some of the planet's most elaborate cooking, Habiger shows restraint when needed, as with this salad. Roasted beets get tossed in a full-bodied, citrus-spiked vinaigrette made with pureed roasted leek. In his original version—available this month at Pinewood Social—he grills the leeks for added complexity.

MARINATED BEET SALADHands-on: 22 min. Total: 1 hr. 45 min.

1 pound red baby beets, trimmed½ cup water, divided1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided6 thyme sprigs, divided2 rosemary sprigs, divided1 pound gold baby beets, trimmed1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwiseCooking spray1 teaspoon grated orange rind3 tablespoons fresh orange juice1 teaspoon grated lime rind2 tablespoons fresh lime juice2 tablespoons sherry vinegar2 tablespoons olive oil1 teaspoon thyme leaves1/8 teaspoon salt6 cups herb salad mix3 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt1 tablespoon toasted unsalted sunflower seeds

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Place red beets, ¼ cup water, a dash of salt, 3 thyme sprigs, and 1 rosemary sprig in an 11 × 7--inch glass baking dish; cover with foil. Repeat procedure with gold beets, remaining ¼ cup water, dash of salt, 3 thyme sprigs, and 1 rosemary sprig. Roast at 375° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife inserted into center of a beet meets little resistance. Remove from oven; uncover. Let stand until cool enough to handle; rub skins from beets with a kitchen towel. Discard skins.

3. Coat leek with cooking spray. Place leek, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast at 375° for 25 minutes or until very tender. Cool slightly. Combine leek, orange rind, and next 7 ingredients (through 1/8 teaspoon salt) in a blender. Process until smooth.

4. Place beets in a large bowl with half of vinaigrette; toss to combine. Add salad mix and remaining vinaigrette; toss gently to coat. Place 1 2/3 cups salad on each of 6 plates. Top each serving with 1½ teaspoons yogurt; sprinkle each with ½ teaspoon sunflower seeds.

SERVES 6CALORIES 144; FAT 5.6g (sat 0.8g, mono 3.5g, poly 1g); PROTEIN 4g; CARB 21g; FIBER 6g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 233mg; CALC 45mg