Things are heating up this summer in the world of Elizabeth. Today is the hottest day of the summer thus far, which is fitting because it also happens to be the Summer Solstice. That’s right, the longest and hottest day of the year! Sure, we’ll get some hotter days as July and August drag on, but as of right now, the humidity and heat are quite oppressing enough for me.
The weather, however, is not the only thing that’s heating up for this administrative professional turned food blogger – apparently my food writing career is about to take off. The publication I work for (in a non-reporting capacity) has asked me to write a piece for our upcoming special glossy issue. That’s right folks, I’m about to get my very first byline!! I could not be more excited about this opportunity to write for a well-respected publication like POLITICO (of course, I’m not AT ALL biased). The day that one of the editors approached me about it I could hardly contain myself. I think I might have actually bounced around town for about three days. But then, of course, I had to get into the business of reporting, which included, thankfully, a lot of eating. In the interest of not scooping myself (how bad would that be?), I won’t say much more here than it is a piece about DC restaurants. You will all have to stay tuned to find out more! (hint, hint – the issue will be out July 13th)
Ok, so back to this terribly hot weather. I am normally a person who really loves hot food. I actually have a problem with being sated by a large meal that is either cold or room temperature. It’s a bit of dilemma when it comes to packing lunches for work, but somehow I make it happen most days. However, when the weather in this lovely capitol city of ours (which was built on a swamp) becomes as oppressive and miserable as it is bound to be today, I start thinking seriously about cool dishes that I might otherwise avoid. On the docket this week: spinach salad with roasted beets, radishes, goat cheese, and white balsamic vinaigrette. I made this salad a few days ago for a pool-day lunch and it really was the perfect air-conditioned respite from the summer sun.
Beets are quickly becoming one of my favorite vegetables. I used them for the first time in my potato and beet hash a few months ago, but ever since I’ve been contemplating many other uses for them. Dark red beets will stain just about anything they touch magenta, but I am so amazed that nature makes that color outside of the floral world that I don’t care. They’re fantastic. I had a bright pink cocktail last night that contained beet puree. It was fantastic. And of course golden beets are so lovely. I can’t wait to use more of them!
The beets for this recipe were pulled from the garden of Robert and Bernice Walker, who are friends and neighbors of my parents in North Carolina. Robert is a prolific gardener who generously shared the fruits of his labor with me. I left their house with a huge bag of homegrown lettuce varieties, garlic stalks that were big enough to be used as weapons, red beets, and Egyptian onions. And the kicker of it all is that we pulled up all this produce in the dark of night. Robert and I with a shovel and a flashlight must have been a funny sight.
Beets are really easy to prepare. I scrubbed them clean of Robert’s natural (aka, animal) fertilizer, then wrapped them up in tin foil and popped them into the oven for about an hour. When I took them out I allowed them to cool for an hour or so, then used a paring knife to gently peel off their tough skins. After that, it’s up to you what you do with them! I diced them into cubes and kept them in the fridge for salads. I could think of plenty of other purposes though.
For my dressing I made a simple white balsamic vinaigrette with just a tiny bit of Dijon mustard to give it some texture and zip. When you’re making vinaigrette at home just make sure to stick to the 3:1 ratio of oil to acid and you can come up with all sorts of interesting flavors!
I won’t post a recipe here because I don’t really think this salad requires one. I will tell you though that when the thinly sliced red radishes met the beets and the vinaigrette they turned the same beautiful color as my cocktail last night. I highly recommend them.