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Luscious Beet Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

(recipe, Cynthia Lair)


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Introduction

This recipe was inspired by Jeff Basom and his friend Tara. I love it because it uses the whole beet. Adds beautiful color and a bounty of vitamins to a simple rice-and-fish meal. If beet greens are unavailable or if the greens are wilted, use raw spinach, watercress, or arugula leaves.

Ingredients

    Dressing
    1. 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
    2. 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    3. ¾ tsp. Dijon mustard
    4. ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
    5. 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
    Salad
    1. 4 large beets with greens (see Note)
    2. ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
    3. 2 scallions, finely chopped
    4. ¼ lb. feta cheese

    Steps

    1. Make the dressing: Place all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well. Set aside.
    2. Cook the beets: Remove the greens from the beets and set aside. Wash the beets and place them in a large pot covered with water; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the beets are tender, about an hour. (You can hasten this step by pressure-cooking the beets.) Set aside to cool.
    3. Toast the pumpkin seeds: Place the seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Move the skillet back and forth over the heat with one hand; stir the seeds using a wooden spoon with the other hand. This will toast the seeds evenly and prevent burning. When seeds begin to puff up and give off a nutty aroma, they are ready. Remove the seeds from the skillet and set aside.
    4. Prepare the beet greens: Wash the greens carefully. (An easy way is to fill your sink with cold water and submerge the greens. If the water has sediment, drain the sink and repeat.) Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Submerge the whole leaves of the greens. Boil tender young greens for about 10 to 20 seconds, tougher leaves for 3 to 4 minutes. Timing is everything; if you remove the greens too soon, they will be bitter. If you let them cook too long, they will lose nutrients and have a flat taste. Remove a piece and test every 30 seconds or so. You are looking for a slightly wilted leaf that still has a bright green color and (most important) a succulent, sweet flavor. Pour cooked greens into a colander in the sink or a bowl to catch the cooking water. Let cool. Squeeze out the excess water with your hands and chop into bite-size pieces.
    5. Assemble the salad: Peel the cooled beets by holding under a trickle of cold water and pushing the skins off with your fingers. Cut into small cubes. Put the cubed beets, greens, pumpkin seeds, and scallions in a salad bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Crumble the feta cheese on top. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

    Note

    Culinate editor's notes: Cynthia Lair, in her introduction above, suggests using spinach, arugula, or watercress if your beets don't still have their greens attached. But since beet greens are more similar to chard, kale, or even collards, try those instead if you have them on hand. And if you don't have any greens available, just make this salad with beets alone. Try roasting them for extra flavor.