January 25, 2006

Saint Valentine's Salad

In my ever present effort to expand my salad repertoire, I believe I've stumbled across something good.

Beets, baby. Maybe beets aren't that old-fashioned anymore, but I remember them as canned weird squiggly things that my Grandma would serve on a relish tray, along with cold sour pickles. I think those were pickled beets, actually. For a long time I found their scarlet seeping juices peculiar and was annoyed how they turned everything in their path that devastating pink color. Even when working with them last night I was scared my fingers would be forever pink. (The stain washed right off). Beets are actually amazing things. They happen to be very high in potassium and folic acid should you be looking for a nutritional excuse to eat them.

I've seen them around Paris, popping up on menus and are easy to find in grocery stores. A standard salade composée might include greens topped with grated carrots, corn kernels, and diced beets. They make for a perfectly sweet triptych when placed beside little mounds of carrot salad and celery rémoulade, where their striking color is used for optimal effect.
Try this pink salad with beets for your Valentine.

Apple and Beet Salad
with Honey Orange Vinaigrette

1 large beet (or canned beets are fine)
1 apple, sliced
1/2 head of romaine lettuce or 2 cups of mesclun greens
1/4 walnuts, toasted (optional)

3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 tsp. orange zest (optional)
1 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a jar with a lid. Shake to combine.
Cook whole beet(s) in boiling water for 40 minutes or until tender and you can easily insert a knife (as you would with potatoes). Drain and remove peel. Slice beets and apples. Toast walnuts in a dry skillet until fragrant and lightly browned.

In a large salad bowl, toss lettuce, apples and beets together with as much dressing as you prefer. The apples will turn neon pink with this preparation. An alternate preparation leaving you without the snarky pink apples would be to toss the lettuce and apples with the dressing and then top the salad with the slice beets. I happen to like those sexy pink apples, but it's up to you. Garnish with more mint. Serves 2.

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