By definition, winter is a season of waiting. However, in harsher winter climates, waiting rises to a whole new level of understanding for those in its grip. The desperate desire and longing for the sun to shine and bring the promised newness and warmth of spring with all its glory is palpable.
This salad recipe reflects the provision of beauty, color, and nutrition available in the winter. Citrus is a winter season fruit, and beets are a winter season vegetable. Even in the winter waiting, we are met with wonder.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
Citrus and Beet Wonder-Salad!
2 pounds medium beets or about 2 bunches (red/golden), washed and stems cut off
4 cloves garlic, slightly smashed and peeled or unpeeled
4-6 sprigs of thyme
3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra as needed
2 grapefruits, peeled and segmented (*use “supreme” technique: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQr9QQLtBU0 )
2 oranges, peeled and segmented (*use “supreme” technique: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQr9QQLtBU0 )
1 small bunch (or a few sprigs) fresh mint (fresh tarragon may be substituted)
1 small bunch (or about 6-8 long strips) fresh chives
1 lemon, halved
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
(Optional garnishes: toasted pine nuts, warm goat cheese on toasted baguette slices, goat cheese sprinkled over top of salad.)
- Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large roasting pan, or glass baking dish, toss beets with about 1/2 cup olive oil, and fill pan with thyme sprigs, garlic cloves, salt and pepper, and a splash of water. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 45 min to 1 hour, or until tender so that when a knife is inserted into the beet, there is no resistance. You may also choose to make a foil packet instead of using a baking dish (see video below).
- Once cooled but still warm, peel beets using a paper towel or gloves. The skins come right off if they have been roasted long enough. Here’s a helpful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4OEhQD0sLE.
- Slice or wedge the beets evenly and set aside in a small mixing bowl. Squeeze one half of the lemon over the beets and drizzle a bit of olive oil over the beets.
- In another bowl, place citrus segments, gently straining off and keeping the juice for later as needed. (Separating the two main ingredients is helpful because red beets will turn everything its same color. Also, if you are an aggressive salad tosser, you will end up tossing the citrus segments into nothing. They break and shred easily.)
- Now it’s time to “play chef” and decide how you like your salad best. Roughly chop the fresh mint leaves (use as much or as little as you like) and put half of it in the bowl of beets and half in the bowl of citrus. Then cut the chives in a uniform pattern that you like, either into half inch, quarter inch, or eighth of an inch pieces. You can put more or less of the chives in each bowl according to your taste. Finally, over each bowl of ingredients, sprinkle salt generously (according to your taste) followed by a few grinds of pepper, a splash of the citrus juice (1-2 tablespoons? or according to your taste), followed by a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (2-3 tablespoons? or according to you taste). Gently fold and mix ingredients separately in the two bowls. Make sure acid, salt, sweet, bitter balance is in harmony. Taste, taste, taste!
- Serve immediately on a platter in a layered fashion so that the two maintain their color better. (If you should be using golden beets, you can gently mix them at the end because the color will not pose a problem.)