One of the most beautiful things about eating produce in season is discovering how nature is so well in tune with the human body. In the months when we are most susceptible to depression and lethargy due to lack of exposure to sunlight and often times less physical movement, the winter season brings lots of Vitamin D-rich seafood and loads of tuberous (root) vegetables packed with B Vitamins. B Vitamins are natural antidepressants and its important to get lots of them in while we can.
Beets contain lots of B vitamins such as niacin, (B-3), pantothenic acid (B-5) and pyridoxine (B-6) and are more delicious than swallowing a pill, not to mention their impressive mineral and other vitamin contents. Beet greens have a nice salty flavor when eaten raw, whereas the stalks taste very similar to the beetroots when cooked. Beetroots are wonderful when they are pickled and sweetened, or just boiled and eaten on their own. I like to boil the beets and drink the water that they boil in, which transforms into a sweet red tea full of wonderful nutrients. I never ate beets growing up and my only experience of them was on Easter morning because my mom used to make pickled hard boiled eggs in beet juice. (Don’t knock it till you try it). I began eating them this winter and now I love them both for their taste as well as for the energy they give me. I am just hitting the tip of the iceberg as far as beets are concerned and I’ve seen so many fascinating recipes –including many desserts–where they are featured. I’ll be getting my full share of beets while I wait for warmer weather.
If you still need an extra dose of happiness to shake the winter blues, try playing the Graceland album really loudly. Works for me at least.
Sometimes serendipity, just like creativity, is born out of confinement. Such was the case of my lucky dessert yesterday. I was craving a good creamy bowl of yogurt, but was out. I thought about making some but didn’t want to wait 8 hours and then remembered I’d need a little yogurt to start with in order to make more anyway. Lately I’ve been finding it hard to come across plain full fat yogurt at your average supermarket. There are either flavored ones or plain ones with 0% fat, which to me taste too bitter. I perused the refrigerator and came across some nice whole ricotta. I decided to combine a small portion with some Dutch cocoa, chia seeds and a drizzle of honey. Boom! It was so creamy and perfect. Often when I experiment like that, I end up shrugging my shoulders and giving myself an A for effort while quickly tossing the creation in the garbage, but yesterday was lucky and the dessert satisfied my craving.
The eponymous salad of today’s post was also fortuitous to a similar degree. I had a large bag of carrots on hand and had been wanting to try a Thai-inspired dish. What I was really thinking about was this beautiful meal of duck with peanut sauce that I ate at a Thai restaurant once, but I definitely did not have a duck sitting in the kitchen. This salad had to suffice and it did so wonderfully. It was so refreshing and tasty and nutrient-packed. I could eat bowls of it.
Thai Style Cabbage Salad with Peanut-Carrot Spread and Beets
6 large carrots, peeled
1 head green cabbage
4 beets, boiled and sliced
1/2 cup peanuts
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 knob of ginger (about 2 inches long)
2 tbsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp turmeric
Blend the carrots in a food processor until they are coarsely chopped. Chop the ginger and add it. Squeeze in the juice of two limes and add the peanuts, vinegar and hot sauce. Blend till everything is combined.
Cut the cabbage until shredded. Lay the sliced beets on the cabbage and give the salad a good dollup of the carrot spread. Sprinkle with turmeric. Enjoy!
The carrot spread is great to make by itself and use as a dip for other vegetables.
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!)