I got into cooking because it calmed me. Like many, I feel a little overwhelmed by stuff, physical and otherwise. Misplaced papers, promises to self, worries about global warming. This stuff conspires daily to overtake my productivity. My way to find calm is to make a light vegetarian supper.
Did you read Pico Iyer’s beautiful ode to quiet in last Sunday’s New York Times? He says, “The only way to do justice to our onscreen lives is by summoning exactly the emotional and moral clarity that can’t be found on any screen.”
This winter composed salad promises to fill a peaceful hour of your time peeling and chopping, while you muse and turn off the noise of your life. My cooking is ingredient-based. Use what’s in season. Blood oranges, golden and red beets, pale endives, walnuts and a scattering of Roquefort cheese – combined they make a satisfying meal, especially with a few pieces of buttered toast on the side.
Make more beets than you need. Roast them in the morning while you get ready for the day. In the evening, make this salad, peeling only the beets you need. Use the rest the next night, warmed with a little butter and chopped parsley as a side dish (my mother calls these “Harvard Beets,” an homage to her 1950s stomping ground).
Calm and nourish yourself all at the same time.
Recipe for Beet, Endive and Blood Orange Salad
1 lb. of beets, preferably different varieties (red, gold, Chioggia), washed and trimmed of stems and root tails
2 blood oranges, skin, membrane, pith and seeds removed; flesh cut into sections (see below, supreme*)
4 endives, rinsed and ends trimmed
¼ cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped roughly
2 ounces Roquefort cheese, or any blue cheese, broken into bits
For the Vinaigrette:
3/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup champagne or white vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs such as parsley or chives (optional)
Big pinch salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place beets, stem side up, so they fit snugly in a baking dish. Add a little water, about 1/8” deep in the dish. Sprinkle with a large pinch of salt and cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a small knife. Uncover and cool.
Supreme the oranges in a small bowl and strain them of their juice. You’ll only need the fruit; drink the delicious juice!
Prepare the vinaigrette in a glass jar. Just add all the ingredients and give it a shake.
Once cool, peel the skin off the beets using a small paring knife. Cut each beet into ½” wedges, keeping the varieties in separate bowls so as not to muddy their different colors. Add a few spoonfuls of the vinaigrette over each of the separate bowls of beets and toss gently to coat them.
This salad is best prepared on individual plates rather than tossed in one bowl. The colors will stay vibrant and distinct.
Before serving, get each of the ingredients (except the endives) ready in small bowls. You can do this several hours in advance. Marinating the beets will only make them taste better.
Pull leaves off the endive and distribute on four plates. Spoon a little vinaigrette over the leaves. Scatter beet pieces of different colors and sections of blood orange over the endives. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of walnuts and ½ ounce cheese on top, on each plate. Spoon a little more vinaigrette over each plate.
*To supreme a citrus fruit:
On a cutting board, cut off either end enough to expose the citrus flesh. Discard the ends. Turn fruit to stand on flat, cut side. Using a sharp knife and holding the fruit firmly, cut the skin away starting at the top and curving slightly around the bulge of the fruit, then rotating as you go, continue to cut away all the skin and pith (the white part). Once you have all the flesh exposed, hold the citrus in the opposite hand from your dominant one and, over a bowl, carefully cut down to the center of the fruit along one side of a section, demarcated by the faint membrane line. Stop at the center, not cutting all the way through. Cut again at the next membrane line, just to the center of the fruit, letting the section drop into the bowl. Continue doing this all the way around the fruit until all the sections have been removed. Squeeze the remaining flaps of membrane in your hand, getting every last bit of juice into the bowl, before discarding.
Sometime later this year, I will post images of supreming… much easier to understand when you see it!