The inspiration for this salad came to me in shifts. It was partially based on what I had on hand, but then more and more flavors kept popping into my head and I must have run out to the store about three times before I was ready. Also, don’t let what looks like a clean kitchen in the pictures convince you that I was working in an orderly environment. My dad went to Johnson and Wales culinary school and was a chef in the US Navy for four years based out of Gaeta, Italy. Much of his creativity unleashes itself in our kitchen, and when there are two of us trying to put something together at the same time, a chaotic blur of pots and pans and dripping sauces and bubbling stovetops ensues. Today the cooking frenzy was exacerbated because I had music playing loudly on shuffle. We whisked and chopped and tasted and stirred to everything from Glenn Miller to Blue October. My mom, who needs everything neat and clean, is happiest when she evacuates the kitchen till its all over. Point being: its a miracle that my winter salad retained all the ingredients proper to it and didn’t accidentally borrow from everything flying into my dad’s pots. The final product was sweet and tangy and bursting with flavor. It is full of B vitamins and antioxidants and vitamin C, among others. Vitamin B is a real champion and you do not want to be deficient in that department. So enjoy this salad.
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 knuckle of ginger root, about 2 inches long
1 tsp kosher salt
3 beets with their greens in tact
1 large leek
1/2 large eggplant, sliced width-wise into circles
1 cup water
5 cups extra beet greens or lettuce of preference
Preheat oven to 400° Combine honey, balsamic vinegar, the juice of two lemons, and sesame seeds into a bowl. Grate in the ginger root, as well as the zest of one of the lemons. Set aside a third of the mixture in a separate bowl for the dressing. Add the olive oil into the other 2/3. Peel and quarter the beets. Place one of the beets in a pot on the stove with a cup of water over low heat. Slice the fennel and leeks, and set them in the sauce along with the 2 beets and the eggplant. Toss everything together until the vegetables are well coated, and lay them on a cooking tray in the oven. After 20 minutes, take them out and turn them over and set them back in for 25 more minutes. In the meantime, pour the rest of the sauce into a frying pan. Add the juice of one clementine, and peel the other clementine and add all the slices. Stir over low heat. Remove 1/4 of the water that the beet has been cooking in and add it to the pan. Add the salt and keep stirring on low for about 15 minutes. Rinse and chop the beet greens and other lettuce into a large bowl. When the vegetables are done, remove them from the oven, cut them into smaller pieces, and lay over the salad. Pour the dressing from the pan over everything. Garnish with sprigs of fennel and enjoy!
Serves 4 and can be easily multiplied by adding more veggies and doubling the sauce.
Save the extra boiled beet for later. (I suspect beets are a vegetable that people don’t feel neutral about; they are either loved or hated. I pity the people who hate them. They are delicious and oh so good for you!)