Wheatless Wednesday – Beet and Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese & Pine Nuts

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Citrus is here!  I love eating with the seasons, especially when nature provides such colorful abundance.  Right now citrus is at it’s best and, for a short time, blood oranges are available.  So take advantage!  I paired citrus – oranges from my tree, which are surprisingly sweet and juicy this year in spite of the drought we are having in California, blood oranges and grapefruit – with golden and red beets.  This is the time of year for root vegetables as well, and together they make a spectacularly colorful presentation.  Topped with creamy goat cheese, toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of a savory-sweet balsamic vinaigrette, this salad is a sensory delight!

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Beets are funny little root veggies, rather on the homely side with their tough skins and little ‘mouse’ tails (root end) until you cut them open to find their jewel-like interiors.  The greens, on the other hand, can be quite lovely.  So looking at these gorgeous beet greens, I knew I had to  make something with them.  Often I saute them with butter and garlic for a delicious side dish and if you don’t overcook them, they keep their brilliant colors. This time, however, I wanted to make more of a main course.  When I spotted the 10 eggs on my counter fresh from my next door chickens, I decided to make a frittata which did not disappoint.  Recipe will post tomorrow but here is a preview:

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Okay, back to the Beet and Citrus Salad, which actually pairs nicely with the beet top frittata by the way.  The intense colors of this salad are a visual indicator of how nutritious this salad really is.  Roasted beets are rich and intense in flavor but also loaded with vitamins, phytonutrients and antioxidants.  We all know that citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C but they also contain an impressive list of other essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

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TIPS AND SUBSTITUTIONS: Beets can be roasted a day or so ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.  I like to sprinkle a bit of micro greens over the top of the salad to add freshness without covering all the bright colors, however, a good alternative would be to place the beets and citrus on a bed of greens. Arugula or baby spinach would be good choices.  Toasted pine nuts add a nice buttery crunch but roasted pistachios would also make a nice alternative. Non goat cheese fans can substitute feta or just omit the cheese and let the vivid colors stand on their own.

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BEET AND CITRUS SALAD WITH GOAT CHEESE

1 bunch red beets(3 large or 4 small)
1 bunch golden beets (3 large or 4 small)
1 orange
2 blood oranges (if available, or substitute any other citrus)
1 pink grapefruit
3 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup micro greens (optional)

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey, agave nector or sugar (scant teaspoon or to taste)
1/3 cup olive oil

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  • Cut beet greens from beets leaving a half inch of stem remaining.  Do not cut into the beets.  Rinse, dry and place beets on a square of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and close the foil so no steam will escape.

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  • Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour or until they are easy to pierce with a fork.

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  • Let cool.  Using a papertowel, peel the skins from the beets and pinch or cut the beet tops to remove.

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  • Cut the top and bottom off of the orange and the blood oranges, then cut  downward to remove the peel and pith and work your way around the fruit.

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  •  Slice into rings

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  • Repeat the process with the grapefruit, except that once the peel and pith are removed, use your knife to separate the tough membrane from the segments.  For my wordsmith friends, these membrane free sections are called ‘supremes’ and they are worth the extra work.

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  • Dry toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet until golden brown and aromatic, several minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

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  • Slice the beets into rounds and place on a serving dish.  Top with citrus and micro greens.

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  • Sprinkle with goat cheese and pine nuts

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  • Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together and drizzle over beet and citrus.

Beet and Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

20150308_195202

1 bunch red beets(3 large or 4 small)
1 bunch golden beets (3 large or 4 small)
1 orange
2 blood oranges (if available, or substitute any other citrus)
1 pink grapefruit
3 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup micro greens (optional)

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey, agave nector or sugar (scant teaspoon or to taste)
1/3 cup olive oil

  • Cut beet greens from beets leaving an inch remaining.  Do not cut into the beets.  Rinse, dry and place beets on a square of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and close the foil so no steam will escape.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour or until they are easy to pierce with a fork.
  • Let cool.  Using a papertowel, peel the skins from the beets and pinch or cut the beet tops to remove.
  • Cut the top and bottom off of the orange and the blood oranges, then cut  downward to remove the peel and pith and work your way around the fruit.  Then cut into rings
  • Repeat the process with the grapefruit, except that once the peel and pith are removed, use your knife to separate the tough membrane from the segments.
  • Dry toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet until golden brown and aromatic, several minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Slice the beets into rounds and place on a serving dish
  • Top with citrus
  • Sprinkle with micro greens, goat cheese and pine nuts
  • Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together and drizzle over beet and citrus.

Wheatless Wednesday – Fennel Citrus Salad with Avocado and Olives

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Is the dinner party dead?  One of my goals for this new year is to host a dinner party every month. My husband and I are finding that as ’empty nesters’ we are no longer attending school events where we get to hang out with our friends without any planning on our part,and we just aren’t seeing people that we really like as often.  Let’s just say that it takes more of an effort when you have to physically reach out and organize something.  In some ways, our schedules are less busy with soccer and lacrosse games, carpools and school events in the distant past. In other ways we are busier than ever.  Chairing a school committee segues into a new hobby, like volunteering at WildCare, competing in triathalons or starting a blog about something you enjoy (sound familiar?). There is more time for hikes and hot yoga classes if you are so inclined.  Unless you have a Boomerang kid (of which we have had our share) it’s easier to take off and travel. Many of my friends never seem to be around any more.  So this is where the dinner parties come in.  I’m going with the “You build it they will come” theory. We had a dinner party last weekend, a group of 10 fun people for no specific reason, and hopefully, just the first of many in 2015.  January, done and great fun!

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Arugula + fennel bulbs + blood orange + red onion+fresh cilantro from my CSA box + oranges from my tree + an avocado and olives from the market = a gorgeous salad for dinner.  Along with the Fennel Citrus Salad, I served Maple Bourbon Glazed Salmon, a deliciously easy main course that can serve many people, along with one of my favorite GMD dishes, Black and Wild Rice with Roasted Squash and Pomegranate followed by Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse for dessert. You can click on the links to go directly to those recipes. My guests asked what the trick is to having a successful dinner party without being really stressed out. One friend claims she runs around like a crazy person when she has just a couple of people over. I think she is not alone which is probably why people don’t have very many dinner parties.  I think the key is to keep it simple.  I like to have only one item that needs my immediate attention during a dinner party.  The Fennel Citrus salad and dressing can be made ahead and tossed right before serving.  The Black and Wild Rice dish is best served at room temperature so perfect for making ahead.

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The Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse is a very easy, no-cook recipe I’ve been making since the 80’s and prepared the day before and put right into small jelly jars so they’re ready to serve.  Only the salmon required my attention.  It was pre-cut and resting in the glaze needing less than 10 minutes in the oven for a perfect golden finish. Set up a lovely buffet and you’re all set. I used the lovely china from Nana Rosella, my husband’s grandmother, because I like an excuse to use them and I don’t have ten of my regular plates that aren’t chipped, however you could use paper plates and the salad would still be beautiful and delicious, just don’t use plastic forks unless you’re at a picnic.  I don’t know anyone that can eat with those dreaded implements.  Dinner parties are fun but only if you’re relaxed and enjoying your guests.  It’s not really about the food.  It’s about the friends…

FENNEL CITRUS SALAD
2 cups fresh arugula
2-3 small fennel bulbs
2 large naval oranges (grapefruit or blood orange)
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 firm avocado
1 Tbsn fresh herbs (cilantro, mint or parsley)

Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice,1 Tbsn apple cider or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Wash and dry arugula and place in the bottom of a salad bowl

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  • Trim fennel bulbs taking care not to cut too much off the bottom end.  Cut each bulb in half lengthwise, then into quarters lengthwise.  Slice quarters as thinly as possible. Place in the bowl with the arugula

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  • Slice both ends off the oranges and place one cut end on a cutting board.  Using a downward motion, slice the peel and pitch away from the fruit.  Go back and get any remaining pith then slice horizontally into wheels.  Use wheels whole or quartered.  OR if you like perfect slices, check out this handy short video: How To Peel An Orange in 5 Seconds

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  • Slice the onion in half lengthwise and then into quarters.  Slice each quarter as finely as possible.

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  • Slice avocado in half and then slice horizontally. Add all vegetables into bowl with arugula.  If you aren’t serving right away include the avocado pits (to keep the avocado from turning brown) but take them out before tossing.

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  • Whisk together the dressing and set aside until you’re ready to serve. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Fennel Citrus Salad with Avocado and Olives

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 cups fresh arugula
2-3 small fennel bulbs
2 large naval oranges (grapefruit or blood orange)
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 firm avocado
1 Tbsn fresh herbs (cilantro, mint or parsley)

Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice,1 Tbsn apple cider or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

  • Wash and dry arugula and place in the bottom of a salad bowl
  • Trim fennel bulbs taking care not to cut too much off the bottom end.  Cut each bulb in half lengthwise, then into quarters lengthwise.  Slice quarters as thinly as possible. Place in the bowl with the arugula
  • Slice both ends off the oranges and place one cut end on a cutting board.  Using a downward motion, slice the peel and pitch away from the fruit.  Go back and get any remaining pith then slice horizontally into wheels.  Use wheels whole or quartered.  OR if you like perfect slices, check out this handy short video: How To Peel An Orange in 5 Seconds
  • Slice the onion in half lengthwise and then into quarters.  Slice each quarter as finely as possible.
  • Slice avocado in half and then slice horizontally.
  • Add all vegetables into bowl with arugula.  If you aren’t serving right away include the avocado pits (to keep the avocado from turning brown)
  • Whisk together the dressing and set aside until you’re ready to serve.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs.