Summer Food – Cool Fresh – Right This Very Minute

Photo courtesy of Sydney, The Charming Tyrants

Summer Series – Day Four

Summer Food

Today I’d like to welcome Jennifer from Mama’s Minutia.  She is the most creative cook I know.  She and her family share a zeal for life that cannot be matched.  The antics of her children are always entertaining, and after reading her blog, I cannot help but have a desire to ramp up my foodie groovie.  Unfortunately, I cook on cycles and have more kitchen mishaps to confess than I care to admit on this fine, very hot Thursday.  Even my family has crazy recipes.

Last year I hosted a  Summer Recipe Carnival and we all shared some good recipes, but this year I decided to pull out all the stops and call a real cook.

So enjoy a salad right out of Jennifer’s garden!

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Right This Very Minute

Cooking can become a rather pressurized activity in the summer months when it’s a race to eat (or can or freeze) all the food that’s tumbling in from the garden. When it rains, it pours (corn! corn! corn! or, tomatoes! tomatoes! tomatoes! or, zucchini! zucchini! zucchini!), and while it’s wonderful, fun, and crazy-busy, sometimes I just want to throw up my hands and call it quits.

Beets are where it’s at right now. I pulled up my patch last week and Sunday morning I set two big pans of the bulbous beauties in the oven to roast while we headed into town to go to church. There are many things to do with juicy, sweet beets (put them in a cake! pickle them! saute them in butter and salt! make a soup!), but each year, the first ones get put into this salad. It’s a real doozy.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Run out to the garden and pick two or three medium-sized red beets and two enormous onions (or, if you’re like me and you already ripped yours out by their hair, then go to the barn where they are curing on newspapers and grab a couple dandies).

Back in the shade of the kitchen, gulp a glass of cold water, sloshing some down the front of your shirt in the process. Continue.

Cook the beets—boiling, roasting, whatever, just get them cooked. When they’re done, peel and cube them. (If, by chance, you are using canned beets—do not allow yourself to feel like a loser, everything will be just fine—pick two 15 oz cans from the pantry shelf and drain and quarter the beets. You’ll need 4 cups of prepared beets.)

Wipe the sweat from your brow but don’t forget to first wash your hands or you’ll have bloody beet smears all over your forehead.

Take a couple handfuls of pine nuts and stir them around in a hot skillet until they are toasty-brown. Chop them and set them aside.

Peel the dandy onions, cut them into thin slices, and then quarter the stack of slices. Put some olive oil in the skillet that’s still hot from toasting the nuts, toss in the onions, sprinkle with salt, and stir them around on medium high heat until they start to blacken. Turn the heat to low and continue cooking till charred and crispy. About 30-45 minutes total. You have just made caramelized onions! You are a culinary whiz.

Do not be side-tracked by your wizardry or daunted by the stack of dirty dishes in the sink. Keep going!

Now for the dressing. In a small bowl, mix together the apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and some S & P. While whisking continuously, add a bit of olive oil in a steady stream.

Don’t stop now! You’re nearly done! It’s almost party time!

Toss the chopped beets with the dressing. Sprinkle on the caramelized onions, the feta, and the pine nuts, and…YOU DID IT!

Eat the whole entire salad all by yourself, right out of the mixing bowl, grinning like a fool, making loud yum-yum noises, and sighing loudly.

Feed the rest of the family cereal.

Red Beet Salad With Caramelized Onions and Feta
Adapted from Epicurious

4 cups beets (or 2 15-ounce cans, drained), cooked and quartered/chopped/sliced
1 pound (2 medium) onions, sliced into rings and then quartered
3 ounces (½ cup) feta cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

To make the dressing: whisk together the vinegar, mustard, black pepper, and ½ teaspoon salt. Whisking steadily, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a steady stream. Set aside.

Saute the onions with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt until they are soft, golden brown, and crispy black in places.

Toss the beets with the dressing. Sprinkle the caramelized onions, feta, and pine nuts over top. Serve immediately.


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photo courtesy of author's 5 year-old son

Jennifer lives with her husband John and their four children on five acres near Harrisonburg, Virginia, where she (kinda-sorta-maybe) homeschools the kids, gardens, bakes, and reads. You can find more of her musings and lots of recipes at her blog Mama’s Minutia.

Thank you Jennifer for a wonderfully refreshing recipe.  I had no idea what to do with beets until today!  I’m inspired to get some healthy dinner on the table tonight.  Thank you so much for joining us.  🙂

In the comments, please tell us about your favorite summer meal.

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