Monthly Archives: July 2010

We’re Swimming in Beets

I’ve mentioned before that we LOVE beets at our house. I hit the jackpot at Wilson Farm this week. They had three different kinds of beets on offer: regular red beets, golden beets, and candy-cane-striped Chioggia beets. Of course, I bought all three.

My favorite way to cook beets is to roast them, to maximize the sweetness, as the roasting caramelizes the sugars. I also find I can roast the beets a day or before I use them in a salad. I roasted each type of my treasure trove of beets in a separate pan, mostly because I wanted to keep the red ones from staining the others.

With the red and Chioggia beets, I made a couple of batches of our house favorite Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts.

I used the golden beets in another summer favorite, Russian Salad. I’m not exactly sure why this is called Russian Salad. As best I can tell, it has its origin in Salade Olivier, a recipe originally created by a famous Russian chef in the nineteenth century. That recipe included meats and was bound with a secret type of mayonnaise. I’ve had versions of Salade Olivier made by Russian colleagues, and while my recipe shares some ingredients, it is quite different. This salad is vegetarian, and the dressing is a vinaigrette, not mayonnaise, making it much lighter.

This is not truly a beet salad since it contains several different vegetables, including golden beets and wax beans. Since these two vegetables are usually only available from farmers’ markets, this is definitely a seasonal salad.

I suppose you could use red beets, but then the colors would just blend together. It’s so pretty with its assorted colors: green, white, orange, and two shades of yellow. The capers and chopped pickles add a vinegary surprise to the vegetables.

Russian Salad
Serves 6-8
Adapted from Verdura: Vegetables Italian Style by Viana La Place

1 bunch golden beets (3 or 4 beets)
2 medium red-skinned potatoes
¼ lb wax beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ lb green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and diced into ¼-inch pieces
3 Tbsp capers
2 Tbsp chopped cornichons (or dill pickles)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450F. Scrub the beets, and place in a small baking pan. Add about ½ inch water to the bottom of the pan and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 1 hour, or until the beets are tender. When the beets are cool enough to handle, the skins should slip right off. Trim the ends. Dice into ¼-inch pieces. Add to a large mixing bowl.

In a medium saucepan, steam the potatoes in a steamer basket until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, dice into ¼-inch pieces. I leave them unpeeled. Add the potatoes to the bowl with the beets.

Fill a medium saucepan with water, bring to a boil. Add the beans, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the beans out of the pot, and add to a bowl filled with ice cubes and water to stop the cooking.

In the same pot of boiling water, add the carrots, and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. We don’t need the water anymore, so either scoop the carrots from the pot with the slotted spoon, or just drain. Add to the same bowl of water to stop the cooking.

Drain the bowl of vegetables, and dry them off with a clean dishtowel. Add the vegetables to the beets and potatoes in the bowl. Add the capers and pickles to the bowl.

Whisk the olive oil and vinegar together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and gently toss everything together until the vegetables are mixed together and coated with dressing.

Two Little Salads

Tonight, we had my favorite kind of summer dinner. An assortment of salads. Well, actually, my favorite kind of summer dinner is just an assortment of salads. Admittedly, we did have a few leftover pork ribs from Saturday night’s dinner at Firebox to go with our salads tonight.

For one, we had a Caprese Salad: some sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzarella cheese and slivered basil. As the fresh local tomatoes start to appear, we will start to have this little salad a few times a week. This summer, at Trader Joe’s, I discovered fresh mozzarella that comes in cute little cherry-sized balls. They’re called ciliegine. This salad has no real recipe; it’s more like a guideline.

First, I cut the tomatoes into wedges and arrange them so they look pretty on the plate. I count them so I know how many slices there are. Then, I quarter one little ball for each 4 slices of tomatoes. I like there to be tomato and cheese in every bite. The plate gets sprinkled with fresh herbs. Tonight, I thinly slivered some basil leaves that are just getting big enough to pluck off the plants in the garden. Other times, I chop different fresh herbs, like oregano or savory. Finally, I drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. It only takes about 5 minutes to put together.

The other salad was a delicious Mango Slaw recently posted by Smitten Kitchen. We’re big fans of Champagne or Ataulfo mangoes and currently have a big stash in the fruit drawer. I made half the recipe (one mango’s worth) using peanuts instead of cashews (I was out) and throwing in some chopped cilantro for good measure. The salad was very tasty with the contrast of the crispy cabbage, the sweet mango, and the spicy, tart dressing. Honestly, it was better the first night, not as good as leftovers. I’m glad I made only half the recipe for the two of us, though I would definitely make a bigger batch if we had guests.

Mango Slaw
Adapted from this recipe on Smitten Kitchen
Serves 2-4

1 mango, peeled, pitted and julienned
½ lb Napa cabbage (about half a head), sliced very thinly
½ red pepper, julienned
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1½ Tbsp canola oil
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp Sriracha chila paste
¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup roasted (unsalted) peanuts, coarsely chopped

To make the dressing, whisk lime juice, rice vinegar, oil, Sriracha, and salt in a small bowl. In a very large bowl, toss mangoes, cabbage, red pepper and onion together. Add the dressing, chopped herbs, and peanuts and toss well to combine. Serve immediately.