Can’t Beet This Salad by Mike Verano

Growing up in Western New York in the heart of the “Snowbelt,” I’m accustomed to thinking of winter as a time for heavy soups, stews, roasts and since I lived in Buffalo, chicken wings. One never knew when the next blizzard was going to hit, so packing on a few layers of protection was simply a matter of survival of fattest.

Now that I have lived south of the Mason-Dixon line for over twenty-five years, winter dining is no longer associated with calorie-packed, stick-to-your-ribs, “how come my pants no longer fit” experiences. However, until recently, it still had the “I can’t wait for Spring and fresh food” vibe. Since neither my wife, Kathy, or I have ever mastered the secret of canning summer’s harvest in order to bring a bit of sunlight into the dark evenings of the season, we would thumb through seed catalogs dreaming of what will be when the ground warmed.

Thanks to Off the Vine, we no longer go into fresh food hibernation and instead continue to add splashes of color to our plates despite the glow of the wood stove. Our recent fresh creation was the result of a new twist on an old tradition.

To the ire of all of my northern family members, Kathy and I spent Thanksgiving at the Outer Banks with her family. Wearing shorts, sunglasses and suntan lotion, we slept with windows wide open to let in the sounds of the ocean. After days of holiday wining and dining, Kathy and I made our usual stop in Duck on the way home to have a “farewell for now ” meal at the Blue Point www.thebluepoint.com. This tradition helps to ease us out of vacation mode as we linger over plates of extraordinary creations (many using their local fare) while looking across the Inlet.

On this particular occasion we were informed that one of the specials being served was a roast beet salad with an apple cider vinegar dressing. As we were still primed from the Thanksgiving binge, neither Kathy nor I felt like a salad was the proper way to bid farewell to the beach. We did, however, think that it sounded fantastic. As Kathy committed the ingredients to memory she pointed out that we could reproduce the dish entirely by using selections from our recent share from Off the Vine.

Once back home, we used our collective failing memories to make a list of the ingredients we would need. A quick Google search of apple cider vinaigrettes turned up one that would go with a beet salad. Using it as a guide, we tinkered with the levels of cider to cider-vinegar until we got just the right touch of sweetness.

Since neither Kathy nor I bought the salad dish at the Blue Point we were not able to judge our creation against its inspiration. However, we both humbly agreed that we had created a winter masterpiece. Thanks to Off the Vine and our fine local farmers, many of whom I would guess have never seen seven foot high snow drifts as I did in New York, we’re able to put some other colors back into what was once just our winter blues.

Ingredients

3 medium beets
4 cups mixed salad greens
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
Crumbled goat cheese
Country ham, cut into strips
3/4 cup apple cider
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Directions

Wash beets, peel and cut into bite-size pieces. Cover lightly with oil and roast @ 385 until tender. Let cool.
Whisk together the apple cider, cider vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and mustard.
Divide the greens among four salad plates. Add beets, pecans, goat cheese and
country ham. Drizzle vinaigrette over top.

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