Mache Bistro Salad with Beets & Walnuts

When mache is ready to pick in January it is a cause for celebration. This little plant is tender, with a smooth texture and has a long season to harvest. We like the tender young plants and use them as we thin. Later we pick the larger leaves until mid spring. The first salad we make is this traditional salad of mache, beets and lightly toasted walnuts. FullSizeRender

Fresh mache, 2 cups, rinsed
Beets, roasted and sliced (4)
Walnuts, lightly toasted (10)
1/2 teaspoon sugar, optional
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Butter lettuce or radicchio
olive oil

Serves 4

Build your salad on a small platter or individual plates. Layer with lettuce, radicchio or other tender greens. Slip skins from beets before slicing. I like to slice my beets in half and then cut vertically but if you are using a cylindra beet slice in rounds. Roast beets or cook in a pressure cooker. See below:
Toast walnut halves in a small skillet set low or in a 375 degree oven for five minutes. Sprinkle with a little sugar when they are toasted. As the nuts cool break these halves not 2-3 pieces. Place mache leaves over your beets and then
sprinkle with nuts. I sometimes toss a few green onion slices or chives over the
top, some people like to add a few pieces of goat cheese or feta. Drizzle with a
touch  of olive oil and a bit of salt. It is a classic French salad and I urge you to try this, it’s like the first bite of spring.

Pressure cooking beets. Add a perforated steamer and enough water to just come to the edge. This is fast but inconsistent and I’ve needed to cook these beets anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on size and maturity. So far they come out like roasted beets with their juices retained and tender. I usually cook enough for another salad as cooked beets last several days when refrigerated.




GMO Beet Roots Busted

The presence of viable GMO sugarbeet roots in recycled potting soil is the lead article  in today’s Corvallis Gazette Times/Albany Democrat Herald. The beets were identified because they bore numbered tags. I’m not going to repeat or paraphrase this article which is an excellent example of hometown journalism and why we need our newspapers. When such a shocking and distressing development occurs a bright light needs to be shone with careful reporting. Here’s the link to this illuminating article: your comments and discussion are welcome.

Salad of Swiss Chard, Beets and Fruit

Swiss Chard and Beet SaladCooked greens make a delicious salad base. This was an evening to find a purpose for accumulated ingredients. We had leftover multi-colored Swiss Chard which was braised in a little olive oil and garlic. The stems and garlic were cooked for three minutes before coarsely chopped leaves were added.

Our other ingredients were also ready:
2 medium baked beets
1 orange, peeled
1 mango, peeled
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1/4 cup crumbled goat or feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt to taste

Slice beets, orange and mango into a dish. Dress with vinegar and oil. Layer over greens, sprinkle first with parsley and then cheese. A few added walnuts would be good. Another version for  beet and salad would be sliced pears and a sprinkling of dried cranberries.   Fresh tarragon would be a good herb along with parsley.

Our Neon chard is large leaved and quite beautiful in mid spring. This is from last year’s planting and chard makes great regrowth once spring arrives. Chard belongs in every garden and is pretty enough to add to a flower bed. Leaf miner can be a problem in some areas and now is safely controlled by using organically approved spinosad applied as a light spray.  We use and offer it as Monterey Garden Insect Garden Spray.

Miner’s Lettuce Salad

Miners Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata grows wild up and down the west coast. It’s a lovely little plant for spring salads and is easy to grow. Rich in vitamins A and C, it was an important food for Native Americans, early settlers andminers-lettuce gold rush miners. A few seeds sown in bare spots will show up as clusters of rounded leaves with tiny white flowers in the center. Stems as well as leaves are edible. Best picked when budded or blooming and before seeds form. The flavor is freshly green and grassy and melds beautifully with other ingredients.
A few years ago I was talking with Pam Peirce, author of Golden Gate Gardening, a year-round guide to food gardening in the Bay area. I asked if she liked mache/corn salad and she said “it’s ok, but I much prefer Miner’s lettuce”, so I began paying more attention to this garden green. Both now have an important space in my garden. With only a little encouragement both these plants will obligingly self sow.

Serves 3-6 depending upon appetites. miners-lettuce-saladA generous serving is a light main course.

4-5 cups Miners lettuce with stems, rinsed & trimmed
2-3 tablespoons fresh spearmint, finely chopped
6 small baked beets, peeled & sliced
2 tablespoons red onion finely sliced
4 teaspoons walnut oil
1 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
1/3 to 1/2 cup cup walnut pieces or halves (toasted)
1 teaspoon salad oil
½ teaspoon sugar
2 to 4 oz. crumbled feta or goat cheese

To avoid tossing the delicate miner’s lettuce make this a layered salad. Spread out the greens on a serving dish and sprinkle with fresh spearmint. Combine beets, red onion, walnut oil, vinegar, salt & pepper. Spread beet mixture over the greens. Toast walnuts in a small skillet set on medium heat with oil and sugar. They’ll become fragrant and ready to use in 3-4 minutes, watch carefully as they can quickly go from perfect to scorched. Sprinkle cooled nuts over beets and last drizzle with cheese.

Roasted Beets

Roasting beets is pretty simple. I trim off the foliage, and leave an inch of root. Rinse and set the greens aside for later use. Give the roots a rinse, no need to scrub. Then wrap the beets in foil, depending on the size, wrap up to three together and place on a baking sheet. You will see recipes with roasting temperatures ranging from 475F downward to 325F. My suggestion is cook them when you are otherwise using the oven and still have extra space. Depending on temperature and size they will take one to two hours. A light squeeze using a hot pad indicates when they are cooked to a tender stage. Let cool in foil wrapper, trim tops, and slip off the skins. Leave any unused beets wrapped, and refrigerated for up to ten days. Since juices may leak, store them together in a plastic bag.
The flavor of home roasted beets is rich and intense. Salads can be sublimely simple with only a touch of olive oil, wine vinegar and salt. Add chunks on top of a tossed green salad for flavor and color, or garnish with a sprinkle of toasted walnuts and blue cheese. Beets are high in folic acid and betaine, a natural anti-inflammatory. Also despite their natural sweet taste they have only 74 calories per cup.

Tarragon Beet Salad

Today I made “essence of tarragon”. To do this, cut the Tarragon vinegarplants back, carefully rinse the foliage, spin or shake away excess moisture and strip leaves from the stem. Pack the leaves into a jar and cover with hot white wine vinegar or rice vinegar. I store this in a cool pantry and that’s it. After it sits for a few days the vinegar becomes a richly flavored and aromatic concentrate of tarragon. Add small amounts to salad dressings, tartar sauce or use for any of your favorite tarragon recipes. I like to mix a teaspoon into two tablespoons of Dijon mustard and coat a chicken inside and out before roasting.

Tarragon Beet Salad
Balsamic vinegar, fresh Beets with Tarragon Saladchopped tarragon and minced onion combine complimentary flavors in an easy winter salad. When roasting beets leave 2” of stem so they don’t bleed. When they have cooled trim and remove skins. In England, I’ve seen ready to go plastic pouches of whole roasted beets which seems like a great convenience.

Our garden beets are left in the ground during winter and gathered as we need them. We usually stirfry the greens as a separate dish.

6 sliced roasted beets
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon minced sweet or green onion
Salt to taste, I use a light sprinkle

Combine beets and vinegar and sprinkle with remaining ingredients