I don’t want to be the one to say it, but Labor Day is coming. Too soon too soon! I know. I feel your pain. School has started, signaling the best weather of the summer. That is just so wrong. And that linen you barely got a chance to wear? It’s days away from being banished to plastic bins (if you pay attention to the fashion police that is.)
But here’s the bright side, and the bright side always wins. We’ve got a whole long weekend to pretend it’s still summer, and that homework doesn’t really matter and that we really don’t have to respond right away to every work email. Instead, we will play. And then we will eat, and drink, and we will not worry about what to bring to any gathering because we have so many fabulous dishes to choose from (scroll all the way down for a list of no-fail ideas).
At the top of the list, I propose beets. My friends Ron and Lisa have the Vermont garden everyone dreams about, minus the weeds and deer. On a recent evening they served these beets along with homegrown bounty like purple and blood red tomatoes, and even home grown pork.
The original recipe serves this salad deconstructed into its various elements: greens, beets, cheese, nuts. I took Lisa’s cue and put it all together for ease and deliciousness. Feel free to sub feta for goat cheese. I’ve had both and they are both fantastic. Now, go find a good friend with a garden and beet it!
4 medium beets – scrubbed, trimmed and cut in half
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 (10 ounce) package mixed baby salad greens
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces goat cheese
Place beets into a saucepan, and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. (Or, as I prefer, wrap in foil, spatter with olive oil ans salt and roast in hot oven until tender). Drain and cool, then cut in to cubes.
While the beets are cooking, place the walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat. Heat until warm and starting to toast, then stir in the maple syrup. Cook and stir until evenly coated, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice concentrate, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to make the dressing.
Place a large helping of baby greens onto each of four salad plates, divide candied walnuts equally and sprinkle over the greens. Place equal amounts of beets over the greens, and top with dabs of goat cheese. Drizzle each plate with some of the dressing. (Or, throw it all together, toss and enjoy!)
An All Star Summer Revue and Review:
Beets not your bag, baby? Here are some other fabulous brings. Of course, there is THE SLAW, aka Hero Slaw, which is welcome any season at any gathering but is especially excellent as a barbecue co-star…and the lovely Funitella Bruschetta, so brilliant in its simplicity, ease of preparation and universally appreciated tastiness. Never underestimate the power of Bruschetta Deconstructed when you make your toasts from Easiest French Bread Ever. (It’s not even fair how many points you get for making your own toasts with homemade bread, and it’s soooo easy. Top them with fresh tomatoes and burrata and your point total quadruples.)
Keeping it simple you can never go wrong with an armful of fresh farmers market corn, or really anything from the holy trinity of late summer produce (corn, tomatoes and zucchini). It doesn’t get much fresher or easier than zucchini, corn summer swansong salad. Oh, and don’t forget the drinks. A pitcher of Freezer daquiris or watermelon sangria will help you and your friends achieve Hakuna Matata Nirvana one more time.