By now you probably all know my eternal love and fascination with the beet – my most favourite of vegetables. What did Tom Robbins say in ‘Jitterbug Perfume’? “A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil. That is a risk we will have to take.” Great book, great vegetable.

What’s that other saying? “You can beat an egg, but you can’t beat a root”?? Ha-ha!

The beetroot, an amazing gem of nutrition and taste and a vegetable that should be wholly incorporated into our diets way more than it is. By the way, it’s very high in iron, guys & gals! Roast them, grate them, puree them in soup, put them in a carrot cake – the possibilities, like its colour, are endless. What on earth is more enticing, more devilishly exciting, more passionately exquisite than this vegetable? A purple burgundy that will stain the skin and pink the cheeks with greater fervour than any vino tinto.

We are well and truly in the thick of summer now, and as usual, my desire to cook lengthy meals is about as burning as a nice, cool bath. Go out to eat, at home make salads. For summer I’ve created a delicious salad for you, it’s big and hearty; it will nourish your lockdown-exhausted system, rejuvenate your soul, and quench your entire being. It’s a salad good enough on its own, and it will hold its own in a room full of blokes eating big steak, and its colour and spark are enough to put that smile back all over your face.

Enough said? Have I convinced thee to buy a beet? Have I waxed lyrically enough to stir you into a beat of urgency? Great! Let’s go.

Head to the ‘Mercado Central’ of Valencia, buy a bunch of small beets with the tops still on, the leaves are great salad leaves and there’s no need to waste them. Grab all the other fresh veggies you need whilst you’re there, the naturally essential bottles of ‘Rosé’ and get cracking. Here’s what else you’ll need;

Can’t ‘Beet’ a Summer Salad

4-6 baby beets with leaves
2 teaspoons sumac spice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Flakey sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch new asparagus
1 lemon
200gm mixed lettuce leaves
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
1 bunch mint leaves
1 bunch chives
3-4 spring onions
Small chunk green cabbage
Walnut oil and balsamic vinegar (optional)

Wash the beets and leaves and trim the leaves off the stems and set aside to drain. Cut the beets into quarters or eighths, depending on size. Preheat your oven to 180ºC and in a baking pan, put the beets, sumac, olive oil, salt and pepper, and garlic cloves. Toss all around to coat beets well, and then bake in moderate oven for 30 minutes, until soft enough to yield to a knife. Allow beets to cool, you can do this ahead of time if you like.

Heat a large frying pan and throw in a little olive oil, into this add the asparagus spears and quickly sauté them, squeezing the lemon over as you do this will cause steam and cook them nicely, remove from heat after a few minutes – you just want to quickly char them but keep them crunchy.

Quarter the cherry tomatoes and put them into a large salad bowl, add in as many mint leaves as you desire and finely chop the chives and add these too. Slice the spring onions into pieces about 1-2 cm long and add these, along with a handful of finely sliced green cabbage. Sprinkle with a little olive oil or walnut oil and add a few drops of balsamic vinegar if using, or just another squeeze of lemon.

Now add in the cooled beetroot and slice the asparagus into chunks and add these too, throw the beet leaves in and toss all to coat. Just before serving, gently toss through the mixed salad leaves. Check for seasoning and add a little extra salt and pepper if needed.

Serve immediately with seared steaks, on its own, and definitely with plenty of cold rosé.

If you want to mix it up, you can add grilled Halloumi cheese, crumbled soft goats’ cheese or even fried tofu – up to you. Delicious!

And that’s summer; fresh and bountiful, healthy and healing…

¡Buen provecho!

Erica Choate

Article copyright 24/7 Valencia

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