I think T.S. Eliot had it all wrong: April isn’t the cruelest month – January is. Here in my part of the PNW, we alternate between frigid temperatures, freezing fog, rain and a few sunny days that tempt me into believing that spring is just around that corner – yes, that one – there. It doesn’t help that the daffodils are already poking out of the ground, though it will take them months to actually make it all the way to blooming. It also doesn’t help that the days are getting longer by micro-minutes. I’m tempted to believe that asparagus is going to be at the farmer’s market any day now, and then reminded via cooking logs from previous years that we still have months to go.
I’ve exhausted my hoarded winter squash, though I do still have a box of hazelnuts to shell, as well as many, many jars of preserves to work my way through. Still, I’m craving fresh spring greens in a desperate way. So, I’ll give in for the next few months and buy baby romaine mix and spinach from the store and vary the salads for my lunch from week to week, doing my best to take advantage of what’s seasonal.
Fortunately, our crazy little grocery store, Sherm’s Thunderbird, has a ready stock of citrus (yes, I’m obsessed). They also sell organic beets that have been sheared of their beet greens. I’ve only learned to love beets since I’ve been living in Oregon. We reached detente six years ago when I kept getting beets in our CSA basket and Clayton absolutely refused to touch them. I decided I needed to refine my palette and figure out how to eat them without gagging. This led to beets in chocolate cake, beet gnocchi, and roasted beets in salt. It helped that I also learned that beets come in varieties other than just red, including golden beets and Chiogga beets, which look like a veggie straight from the land of Dr. Seuss.
So this week, I stocked up on blood oranges, golden beets, and spinach. This led to a salad that, if you make nothing else from my blog, you have to make, immediately. This is a combination of green, tart and sweet that I cannot resist. In fact, I took the photo profiled here and had to then stand in the middle of the kitchen eating the salad and making happy eating noises. This tastes like sunshine and the promise that the sun will set later than 4 p.m. and summer will eventually return to us.
Blood Orange, Beet, and Spinach Salad
Serves 2, but can easily be adapted for more servings
2 large handfuls of baby spinach
1 golden beet
1 blood orange
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
Blood orange vinaigrette (recipe below)
Wash and peel the golden beet. Using a vegetable peeler, knife, or mandolin, shave the golden beet thinly. Peel the blood orange and segment. Cut each segment into small pieces (about an inch wide). Assemble the salad by layering spinach, blood orange pieces and golden beet pieces. Top with blood orange vinaigrette and a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.
Blood Orange Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
Juice from one blood orange (about 1/8 cup)
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley
A pinch salt
A few grinds of fresh pepper
Combine all ingredients in a half-pint jar. Cover with a tightly screwed-on lid and give a vigorous shake or two.