Monday, July 12, 2010

Bountiful Beets

It's been a while since I have enjoyed a meal this simple and this delicious. All thanks to a beautiful bunch of beets from my trip to the farmer's market this past weekend! Beets are in season right now, and I hadn't used them in a while, so I decided to pick up a bunch yesterday. These beets were on the small size, all smaller than a baseball, and the greens on the bunch were plentiful and vibrant. You have to love a vegetable that gives you two totally different things to eat.

So after my initial beet excitement, I sort of got stuck on what to do with them. I really didn't want to heat up the whole house with the oven to roast them, and I didn't wait to boil them and watch all the color and vitamins (especially folate) leach out into the water. Luckily for me, the New York Times ran a section that was more than appropriate - Recipes for Health: Beets. Lo and behold, there I found a raw beet recipe. So tonight, I went ahead and tried out the Grated Raw Beet Salad. Let me just say this first. I had never eaten beets raw before, so I was a little nervous about how they would taste. I am nervous no more. After eating these beets, I'm not sure I ever want to cook them again. The one thing I changed in the recipe was the lettuce; instead, I put the beets over spinach. Other than that, this was beet perfection. The citrus complimented the fresh beet flavor without overpowering it. The fresh herbs (I used parsley) added more color and bite. So simple, but so perfect. Here's the bowl of beets and citrus juice (notice the stained cutting board; wear your apron!). I could have just eaten this for dinner, but I figured I ought to control myself and finish the recipe.

I couldn't let the beet greens go to waste, and I needed a little protein in this meal. To make that happen, I cooked up some quinoa. When it was about half done, I added the washed and chopped beet greens with some orange and lemon juice, and let the greens wilt. After finishing with some salt and pepper, I served this alongside the beet salad. What a plate! Cooked and raw, red and green. This was delicious and satisfying. I'm really looking forward to returning to the farmer's market this coming weekend to tell the farmer how great the beets were and to buy another bunch!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thanks Twitter, for Pointing Me Towards a Sustainable Dinner

The whole eastern seaboard is currently in the midst of a pretty epic heatwave, and as a result, I simply do NOT feel like cooking, let alone eating. So, salads it has been, for both lunch and dinner. But today I jazzed up my salad with just a teeny bit cooking! After yet another plain salad for lunch, I checked my Twitter account. I follow my local Whole Foods on Twitter, and one of their recent tweets advertised Alaskan sockeye salmon on sale for $12.99, $4.00 off. That piqued my interest, and since I needed to hit the grocery store after work, I figured I would check it out. By the time I got there, there wasn't too much of the salmon left, so I presume I'm not the only one following Whole Foods on Twitter. I ordered a nice sized fillet, about 5 ounces. Besides looking beautiful and being on sale, I was excited to see that this particular salmon was certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. On top of that, the fish was not previously frozen, ensuring great texture. Before I left the store I picked up some New Jersey produce to add to my salad. I grabbed a few cucumbers from Maugeri Farms and a bunch of radishes from Twin Pond Farm. It's so great that a big store like Whole Foods has these kinds of relationships with local farms. I'm happy to be able to feel good about the produce I buy, even when I can't get to the farmer's market and buy it directly.

I decided to use orange to tie the whole salad together by using orange segments on top and orange juice in the salmon marinade and dressing. Now keep in mind, you can really use any vegetables you like in a salad like this. I used the cucumbers and radishes I mentioned above over romaine lettuce, but you could just as easily substitute carrots, red onions, spinach, or whatever else you like with orange flavor. While I prepped the veggies, I let the salmon sit with olive oil, orange juice (about half the juice from the orange I segmented), lemon juice, and salt and pepper. It was just about 10 minutes or so of marinating. Once the veggies and orange segments were ready to go, I heated up a nonstick pan to medium and added the salmon, skin side down, along with some of the extra marinade. I let it cook for about 4 minutes, then I added the rest of the leftover marinade, lowered the heat to medium low, and put a lid on the pan. After about 8 minutes, the salmon was done to flaky perfection. I removed the meat from the skin and used a fork to break the fillet into chunks. After topping the salad with the cooked salmon, I mixed up a quick vinaigrette. I used the rest of the juice from the orange, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, parsley, mustard, and salt and pepper. It had a nice citrus flavor and added a bit of needed acidity to the salad.
Overall, this salad was a great success. The salmon was just great simply prepared and added substance and protein to the salad. The radish gave a nice spicy kick and the cucumbers and romaine were cooling on this hot day. The vinaigrette brought everything together with more citrus and acid. I could feel good about the fish and produce I bought today. This salad is definitely a must try, and to think I have Twitter to thank for it!