Lovin’ Fresh is a series of recipes
designed to showcase produce gathered
from local farms or grown in my own garden.
Reading Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, which is where today’s recipe comes from, got me thinking about the pleasure and occasional shame that is a solo diner’s. In a restaurant, dining alone, you may cower, or worse yet, be forced to dine at a table squeezed in beside the kitchen door. But at home, cooking for one can be a real joy when you throw in a bit fancy flare and fresh healthy ingredients.
A long-time solo diner myself, I’m prone to falling back on my old stand-bys instead of trying something new that will give me a more balanced menu. As tasty as baked beans piled over two slices of whole wheat toast is, no one can pretend such a dish makes for a well-balanced meal (although beans and toast does make a “complete” protein). So, a salad made of those ingredients that bind spring and summer produce together is a welcome breath of fresh eating.
It’s funny how pleased I was to find a lone beet at the bottom of my crisper drawer…proof that getting produce straight from the farm often means it’ll keep a lot longer than that that’s spent a week or more in the back of a truck to make its way to you. This beet had been in there for about a month, its buddies having been put to good use in the salad I posted last week. But this last-to-be-picked beet was still in perfect condition and just what I needed to make an interesting salad that made me feel, dare I say, sexy to be eating it by myself, wine glass in hand, out on my deck in the cool early summer twilight.
If you are indeed what you eat, then this is something you’ll definitely want to be consuming! Even the dirty plate at the end was pretty!
Roasted Beet and Cucumber Salad with Asiago Cheese Shavings
1 small cucumber
1/3 red onion
4 or 5 radishes
a few leaves of fresh mint
a stem of fresh dill
fresh ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil
orange muscat champagne vinegar*
asiago or similar firm salty cheese that shaves easily
*The original recipe calls for red wine vinegar but I had this bottle of vinegar I’d gotten a while back and thought I’d finally put it to good use. It was a superb compliment to the salad flavors.
To begin: Roast the beet by removing any stems and placing it whole in a small baking pan with a 1/2 inch of water in the bottom. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the beet and sprinkle with coarse salt. Place pan in 350 F oven for about an hour, or until the beet is fork tender. Let cool before peeling off skin and slicing into 1/4 inch rounds. Set aside.
While the beet is roasting: Peel the cucumber in alternating strips to make it a little fancier. Slice in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Slice into 1/4 slices and place in a medium bowl. Slice the radishes into very thin rounds. Place in the bowl with the cucumber. Cut the red onion into very thin slices and place in the bowl. Chop the fresh herbs and scatter on top of sliced vegetables.
In a small bowl begin to make a dressing by whisking together olive oil and vinegar in a 2:1 ratio (i.e., 4 T. olive oil and 2 T. vinegar). If you like lots of dressing, make lots. If not, the example amount should work well. Add salt and pepper and whisk for another minute to be sure the dressing is emulsified.
Toss half the dressing with the sliced cucumber, radish, onion mixture and set in the fridge until beet is ready.
When beet has been prepared as directed above, toss beet slices with the remaining dressing. Plate up by laying out beets on a nice large plate. Give the cucumber salad a quick toss again before piling up on top of the beets. Using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, shave off several generous bits of cheese to crown the salad.
Serve immediately with a sprig of fresh mint. Salad can be prepared a few hours ahead of time – just keep the beets seperate from the cucumber until ready to serve.