Citrus & Beet Salad with mixed greens

I was once told that you start at the beginning, continue to the end, then stop. Then you do the same with the next task. This is how things get done. Wise words, when it comes to writing, but hard to do. Especially when this bright and lovely thing that I’m sharing with you today doesn’t start at its beginning but at the beginning of my week.

It seems that griping about past weather did the trick, because what a glorious week we’ve had weather-wise. Personally, it could have been one out of those old silent era comic movies. Someone having a bad week would have been considerably cheered up with a glimpse into mine. Talk about comic relief.

An unusual bout of insomnia has me falling asleep too late and waking up too early for a couple of weeks now. Last week, this offered me the opportunity to get into more trouble than I normally do, which aiming to please, I did. On Monday morning, I woke up at five, decided to make dinner for the evening while trying to call my cousin in New Zealand. I’m probably the only person in the history of dinner who burnt it at six a.m.

Tuesday, I almost got run over. Not the driver’s fault; no one should be looking at the sky and thinking about Rottweilers and Retrievers when she’s crossing the street. Wednesday is a bit of a blur in my head. There’s a good chance I might have told someone that he sucked. Also, I missed a perfectly good chicken and waffles dinner with friends since I was otherwise occupied with trying to kill my too-slow work computer.

I did not succeed.

Thursday was manic at work, and after. I remember a killer good brownie that morning. The sugar rush didn’t help though. I also remember talking a lot. In my typical clumsy fashion, I tripped over nothing and sprained my leg which started to hurt in earnest when I woke up the next morning. Friday was a crazy day on so many fronts, there aren’t enough words to encompass the madness. Saturday, and my road runner act was still in place as I ran my fastest spell through the Farmer’s Market ever. I also got told off by a grandma. She was probably having a bad week. More on that later.

Somewhere in the lunacy though, I learned a lot, worked tons and got to know three, count ‘em, three fabulous individuals a bit more than I did before. Only in a week like this could I meet so many wonderfully optimistic and idealistic persons with such hope for the future and a rare lack of cynicism. In today’s world, outside of my apartment, this is a hard thing to truly find. There have been more lunches and dinners out this week than any other, but each one was so enjoyable. At least for me. Given that my brain had me talking fifty miles an hour, my lunch and dinner partners may not have been so lucky.

All of these events led me to being a shopper with no focused plan for my Farmer’s market stint. I picked up a little of a lot of things. I couldn’t help it, have you seen the markets right now? They are bursting with the most beautiful greens, beans, peas and citrus you ever saw. And the flowers, Oh.my.god, the flowers. Sitting around in generous buckets, petals fluttering in the breeze. Only aforementioned grandma could remain in a bad mood around them. Maybe she should have slow-mo’ d the highlights of my week on her black-and-white television.

Coming home and confronting all the stuff I’d picked up, I was faced with the fact that time would not be kind to the fruit and veg I’d acquired. Especially the greens. In my frantic rush around everything, I’d picked a couple of handfuls each of baby arugula, ancho cress, chicory, spinach and dandelion greens. Not to mention snow, snap and English shelling peas. These, along with three kinds of citrus, some spring garlic, beets and tomatoes lay strewn on my counter in my tiny kitchen. I’d have to do something with them,  even if just to see the counter again. My manic week wasn’t done doing me in. Cue more hyperventilation with even less sleep.

Amey’s been a real sport about having the lights on late and the books scattered all over the bedroom these past nights. He’s even put up with the tossing and turning. Once, he even sat by the bed gently strumming his guitar, playing Extreme’s More than words & GnR’s Don’t cry more times than anyone should have to (my idea of lullabies). But having the kitchen covered in vegetables with no plan in sight was the last straw. He sat me down and told me sternly that it was time I considered salads.

Salads. I love them. But when it comes to this blog, the idea of posting a salad as a recipe makes me feel like a bit of a chump. I mean, here you are, expecting something you have to cook, and I present you with a salad? Seems a bit of a cop-out, no? But it takes a proper understanding of how things taste to elevate a mixture of veg and oil to a good salad. Elements have to be properly and adequately dressed with flavour. Too much or too little dressing has sounded the death knell to many a good salad.

So I bring you here two fabulous salads in two separate posts this week. This first one here is more of a true salad, though with fruit. The next one could even be called marinated veggies. Both lend themselves fabulously to spring ingredients and weather. This first one is a bit sweet, a bit tart and bursting with possibility, just like spring. It has a unique vinaigrette for a dressing with ingredients that I would swear wouldn’t work together. But they do, they really really do. It brings focus to the diverse elements in this salad. I would like to have this for lunch every single day for the next whole week. Pity I only made enough for the weekend.

Citrus and Beet Salad with mixed greens
Inspired by Field of Greens
Makes 4 salad-for-lunch servings

For the salad:-
Beets – 6, small
Blood Oranges – 1 1/2, sliced into 1/4″ discs, peels removed
Mineolas – 2, sliced into 1/4″ discs, peels removed
Clementines – 2, sliced into discs, peels removed
Kumquats – 6, finely sliced
Mixed greens – a good three handfuls of leaves

- Heat the oven to 400°F.
- Cover the surface of your roasting pan with just a little water, then place the beets in it and put into the oven. Roast for about 30 to 40 minutes until beets are soft.
- Make the vinaigrette per the directions below.
- Peel the beets and then cut into small wedges or short, fat matchsticks.
- In a bowl, place the greens. Tear the larger leaves roughly into smaller pieces. Add the beets and half the vinaigrette. Toss together evenly to coat everything well. Add more vinaigrette as needed until everything is perfectly dressed (coated with vinaigrette but not dripping with it).

Place the greens and beets on a large platter and then strew the citrus discs over, with along with few more beets.

For the Citrus Vinaigrette:
Fresh Orange juice – 1/2 cup
Cumin – 1/2 tsp, toasted and bashed up coarsely with a mortar-and-pestle
Orange zest – 1 tsp
Garlic clove – 1, finely chopped
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Champagne vinegar – 1 tbsp
Salt – about a tsp

Mix everything together and whisk until emulsified.

Makes a fabulous weekend lunch served with some bread, maybe some vino of your choice.

Cook’s notes:-
I used all the different types of orange citrus because I had acquired them in my mad dash. Feel free to use only one kind if that’s all you have. I would strongly encourage the use of kumquat. It is super tart and that works really well here. Use a mix of at least a couple of greens for the herbage and hopefully not butter or romaine lettuce. Arugula is awesome here. Wash the leaves and dry them well. Water tends to dilute vinaigrette and throw off flavours. You don’t want that in something so simple.

The beets simultaneously roast and steam in the oven and their ruby bittersweet juices intensify. Of course, my white kitchen counter hinted at stories of untold carnage when I was done dealing with the dripping red vegetables. Par for the course in such a week, I think. The scrubbing that ensued after gave an outlet for all my madness to go somewhere because I did calm down after it. But only a little. The textural symphony of the beet, citrus and greens also does wonders for calming a mind.

Cumin and orange should be christened best friends really. They are different but get along so well together. The toasted cumin imparts a spicy under-note to each bite you take and turns even this cool salad into something a bit warm. Not that it needs to be warm. Just looking at this plate is warming. Have you ever seen a more gorgeous looking salad? Even though those blood oranges aren’t as bloody as I would have liked, all those colours soothe my tropical soul.

Try this one as soon as you can. It just will make you happy, it is one of those things.

More in the salad saga to follow in short course…

11 comments

  1. Kadambari via FB

    So colourful! Should try to come up with something parallel here in Bangalore.

  2. Sudha

    You must be experiencing spring fever! Came through in your writing – great job describing your restlessness.
    Love the salad recipe too. Now I have an idea of what to do with all the kumquats hanging from my little tree. Been wanting to try my hand at making marmalade.
    Cumin and citrus – never thought of those going together. Sounds like a great combination.

  3. Gini

    The colors are just fabulous. My CSA share has been full of greens and beets. Roasted beets are now a regular and I am going to try that vinaigrette.

  4. Gauri

    Beautiful! And very sensual! I’m going to try it this weekend. You think adding bits of walnuts might ruin it?

    g

  5. designhouse9

    Definitely a beautiful plate of food/salad. I’m sure it tastes as divine as it looks. One question I have: Is there any easy way to peel the roasted beets? I keep reading about how easy they are to peel and yet they always seem to peel in the smallest pieces, thereby taking forever. Any advice? Thanks!

  6. Sharmila

    Thanks so very much everyone. It’s such a cheerful looking plate and becomes a fantastic salad.

    Gini – that vinaigrette is just awesome. Works on bunches of stuff. The next salad I’m going to write about would also work great with it.

    Sudha – I love feedback on the writing so thanks very much! I’m sure you’ll love it whan you try the combo.

    Gauri – I think walnuts would work quite work quite well depending on the greens you use. If you use something a bit peppery or something bitter, the walnuts would be fabulous. Slivered almonds would be great too.

    designhouse9 – Thank you. It does taste great! I think if you your beets are well-roasted the peel will sort of slop off in large sections quite well. (The very little bit of water you lay down on the roasting pan really helps in this regard too) Unfortunately you do always have a couple of tiny little bits left that you have to chase after, but for the most part, it is pretty painless, if a bit messy.
    Good luck!