Beet and Orange Salad

I lived in Portland, OR back in the early 90’s when it was still somewhat undiscovered. What an exceedingly cool, authentically funky, artsy, eclectic town … with lots to explore, providing wonderful stomping grounds for me during my mid-20’s.  Some of my happiest years are my years in Portland, and this was due in large part to the city, itself, and its amazingness. But also to my bosses/mentors and the staff at Higgins Restaurant. And to my fantastic roommates, with whom I lived in our adorable bungalow on SE 32nd & Stark, near Laurelhurst Park. Great, GREAT neighborhood, and many a good time with that crew.

Some of my favorite memories from that time are from the potluck dinners we hosted. My roommates’ friends became my friends, and we all enjoyed cooking and experimenting with cuisines, so the “Cultural Supper Club” was born. We would choose a country, then complete our research at nearby Powell’s Books for Cooks, and then indulge in delicious foods, wines and cocktails from around the world. Participants signed-up for appetizers, entrees, beverages and desserts, and over time we expanded the roles to include researching and making a presentation about the country and its customs — especially if they influenced the ingredients and dishes. As our group grew larger, we added the role of investigating and bringing music from the region. Each gathering was a wonderfully well-rounded, cultural immersion. Convivial, scrumptious and educational!

I’m thrilled to have found a group of friends interested in starting this tradition here in Rochester! Our group originally dined out, and enjoyed getting to know each other while exploring restaurants new to us, and letting others do the cooking. Knowing that we all enjoy cooking and experimenting with new recipes, we decided to get together for a potluck dinner one evening. Our host suggested we pick a theme, which turned out to be Indian foods, so we enjoyed lassis, biryani, dahl, coconut custards, and more. At the conclusion of our meal together, I asked if they would be interested in resurrecting the “Cultural Supper Club.” They were excited about the idea!!

Our first official gathering featured foods of Spain — YUM!!! We included the spouses who could make it, and had a rip-roaringly fun meal together! Jaws and bellies ached from laughing so much! Below are the pictures of each course, and a few of the gorgeous home of our hosts — a lovely restored farmhouse out in Honeoye Falls. They served everything using beautiful china, crystal and silver … and we were greeted at the door by our friend holding a large pitcher of sangria:

Tapas for our first course: Patatas Brava (Potatoes with Aioli), Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Stuffed with Bleu Cheese, Spanish-style Shrimp with Garlic and Pan De Horno (Spanish crusty bread) to use to sop-up the sauce!

For our main courses, we devoured Pollo al Ajillo (Garlic Chicken) and Paella, accompanied by my Beet and Orange Salad (recipe below):

We concluded the meal with a Spanish cheesecake Quesada Pasiega, served with strawberry jam, enjoyed with a lovely Spanish brandy Gran Duque de Alba. How lucky that one of our group had made a recent trip to Spain and brought the bottle back for our gathering!

Stay tuned for recipes and pictures from our next get-together, featuring a proper English Sunday Lunch, followed by an afternoon stroll! If you and your friends like cooking and experimenting, I highly recommend starting your own “Cultural Supper Club” — so fun!!! And please read to the end, for mention of another activity that I recommend for cooking and learning about food called Cooking Matters.

Without further ado, the recipe I created using Spanish flavors to make a Beet and Orange Salad. True to form, I doubled this to make a huge batch since I was sure Mr. Batch and I would like it well enough to enjoy for our Veggie Snacks the following week:

Beet and Orange Salad

6 servings

 

  • 1 pound of whole beets

Preheat oven to 375-F.

Coat beets lightly with oil. Wrap beets in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until cooked through, approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, and then peel and slice into 1/4-inch thick slices.

Vinaigrette:

While beets are roasting, make vinaigrette. You want flavors to “marry” before dressing the salad.

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar

Whisk together ingredients above in a medium size bowl.

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Stream oil slowly into vinegar-spice mixture, whisking constantly to make emulsion. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Vinaigrette should be on the tart-side.

Assemble salad:

  • 1.5 pounds oranges. I used Cara Cara Oranges from Trader Joes, but I think a mixture of Valencia Oranges and Blood Oranges would be lovely, as well.

Peel oranges, removing all white pith, and slice into rounds.

“Shingle” alternating slices of beets and oranges on serving platter, and drizzle 1/4 of the vinaigrette over. Eyeball this measurement — you want a fair amount of dressing glistening on the slices of beets and oranges:

 

  • 1/2  bulb fennel, shaved on a mandolin or sliced very thinly
  • 1/2 small red onion, shaved on a mandolin or sliced very thinly
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves (from approximately 1/2 a bunch)
  • 12 Spanish green olives stuffed with pimentos, sliced

Combine ingredients in a small bowl, and add 1/3 of the remaining vinaigrette. Taste a spoonful that includes all components, and add salt and pepper, if needed. Add more vinaigrette, if desired.**

Mound salad in center of beets and oranges, and sprinkle a few more cilantro leaves, as garnish:

*For a less glamorous presentation, you can combine ingredients in small tupperware containers, and shake to distribute all flavors. Enjoy as a Veggie/Fruit Snack.

**Leftover vinaigrette keeps in the refrigerator for two weeks. I had it over shredded carrots, cubed avocado and thinly sliced red onion … and licked the bowl clean! 🙂

As the tagline says: Make a lot. Freeze some. Now go play!

Well, this isn’t really a freezable dish, but here is what I’ve been up to for play! This week marked the last class in a 6-week program I volunteered with called Cooking Matters, created by Share Our Strength and sponsored by our regional food hub Foodlink, to teach kids about healthy meals on a budget, and to impart skills that will make them self-sufficient in the kitchen. Some of our kids had never opened a can — some had never even peeled a banana. It was humbling and heart-warming to help empower these children to eat more healthfully. If you like to cook and have the time to volunteer, I highly recommend signing up for the Cooking Matters course wherever you live:

And Mr. Batch and I have been out in our garden! Still hard for this Southerner to embrace a Spring that never really starts till late April! I’ve decided to join Mr. Batch this year, to help plant and weed. Here is some of what is blooming in our neighborhood and just a couple of shots from our yard:

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Cabbage Salad with Mint and Avocado

How many of you remember the TV Show “Sesame Street” being “sponsored” by a letter and a number?  The show would conclude with, “Sesame Street has been brought to you by the letter P and the number 5.” Remember?!?!  Childhood memories flooding back to you?  🙂

In that spirit, today’s blog post is brought to you today by the letter “W” and the number “1.”  “W” is for “willingness.” I was inspired to write about willingness by a question/comment I received recently about prepping several days’ worth of food in advance — wondering how the pre-portioned containers of food stay fresh?

I gave that a lot of thought, and the word that came up for me was “willingness.” Food cooked daily … and fruits and veggies peeled and cut daily … are fantastically fresh, natch. In an ideal world, I would have that much time, energy … and probably most importantly interest … in cooking daily. But a good “Plan B” for me is to cook and prep in quantity — sacrificing optimal freshness, yet *still* preparing deliciously tasty food (in my husband’s and my opinion … grin!)

The compromise for optimal freshness I’m willing to make is to have food “at the ready” for me to grab and go. Otherwise, I am likely to make less healthy choices. And more expensive ones. If I can easily grab a peeled tangerine — even one peeled a few days ago and put into a sealed container, which is still plenty juicy and tasty — I am more likely to do so when faced with the choice between that and a free cookie at work.  But if the tangerine needs to be peeled and then I have to wash my hands, I’ll choose the cookie every time.

Likewise with cooking after work. I get up at 5am almost daily. This routine is leftover from my days as a professional pastry chef when my workday started at 5am, which meant my alarm went off at 4am! I take care of several tasks and “to do’s” prior to departing for work, and then, like all of us, work a full day. By the time 5:30/6pm rolls around, all I want to do is eat. So if I have to chop, stir-fry, bake and steam foods in order to do so, I bet I’ll choose to stop at Chipotle and let them handle it.

Thus, I cook about 5 days’ worth of different types of veggies on a Sunday and mix and match them into lunches and dinners. I cook between 5-10 portions of various meat and vegetarian proteins, but only leave 2 or 3 portions in the refrigerator and freeze the rest. I find it just as easy to cook 10 chicken thighs as it is 3 or 4.  My engineering father reminds me that this is “economy of scale cooking.”

When I cook this way, I stack the odds in my favor that I’ll eat *these* foods, versus indulgent treats at work and/or frequent meals out. But trust me, by the weekend, I’m more than ready for someone else to cook — and clean-up! So … I get a break, and we eat out.  And we feel very fortunate to be able to do so!

Which brings me to our sponsored number of “1.”  You guessed it.  One time I am willing to cook … in big batches … per week.  With the intent of having leftovers to pull from the freezer on weeks when I am uninspired, which has been the case this week!  Some people say they can taste when food has been frozen, even if it is for a brief period of time. We’re lucky that we don’t fall in that camp, so this week I’ve been mixing and matching previously-frozen veggie burgers for Mr. Batch’s lunches, and mixing and matching previously-frozen Juiciest Baked Chicken Breasts and baked pork chops with various starches, veggies and sauces. As the tagline says, I made a lot. Froze some. And this week I’m just playing!

Would love to hear areas where you’re willing to compromise!

I created this Cabbage Salad with Mint and Avocado to use-up some odds and ends of veggies and herbs I had in our veggie drawer. And I really like how it turned out!  We’ve eaten this as our Veggie Snack each day, but you could make one recipe of this and take it to a potluck or picnic.

Yield: 10 servings

  • 1/2 head of cabbage (mine was originally a large green head of cabbage), sliced thin
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced thin
  • 12 colorful mini bell peppers, seeded and sliced thin (alternatively, 1 thinly sliced red or orange bell pepper)
  • 1/2 of a red onion, small diced
  • 20 leaves of mint, chopped
  • 20 leaves of parsley, chopped

Toss all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, to combine.

Make ahead: pre-portion into 10 containers with covers. Each day, add 1/8 of an avocado to each container and a splash of apple cider vinegar or white balsamic vinegar (or coconut vinegar, or lemon or lime juice … whatever you like), as well as a little salt and pepper.  Stir to combine. We find that just the vinegar is flavorful enough for us, but if you prefer a vinaigrette with oil, by all means add that, instead.

Make and serve immediately: add 2 avocados, cubed, to the cabbage-mixture and stir to combine. Add a few splashes of apple cider or white balsamic vinegar (or coconut vinegar, or the juice of a lemon or lime … whatever you like), and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and several grinds of freshly cracked pepper.  Stir to combine, and taste and adjust seasoning as you like.

In case you’ve been missing seeing what else I’ve been cooking in big batches, here are some shots from this week. Hover over the images to reveal the captions:

I leave you with a sign I saw recently and loved. Addresses another area of willingness! SMOOCH!

 

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Baked Salmon, Herbed Quinoa & Beans, Rosemary-Lemon Chicken, Crispy Baked Tofu, Lemony-Ginger Vinaigrette

This week’s batch cooking included:

 

I started on Saturday by marinating a batch of Rosemary-Lemon Chicken:

 

And then put a batch of sliced tofu into the freezer to make Crispy Baked Tofu:

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Prepping the tofu, to make Crispy Baked Tofu

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Mahi Mahi with Parsley Pesto; Red Wine Vinaigrette with Fresh Herbs; Lemony Thumbprint Cookies with Blackberry Jam

Mr. Batch and I have an unusually busy week coming up with socializing over dinners, so I only needed food for 3 dinners for us and decided to make them pescatarian, a style of eating which we both embrace. This week’s cooking included batches of:

I started this week’s cooking by wilting 2 bags of Trader Joe’s “Power to the Greens,” a mixture of kale, chard & spinach:

I did this by putting both bags into my big wok along with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and several grinds of fresh cracked pepper and 1/4 cup water. I put the lid on; turned the heat to high, stirred the contents after about 1 minute, to bring the leaves on the bottom to the top and distribute the moisture and salt & pepper; put the lid back on and cooked for about 1 minute more. Once cool, I squeezed the excess water from the greens.

Simultaneously, I baked this week’s “Frittata,” which was made with leftover, previously frozen, chopped chicken from my recent batch of Roasted Chicken Over Vegetables and some frozen chopped spinach that I had thawed and squeezed of the excess water. I will eat this over the cooked broccolini (below).

After a quick rinse of my big wok, I filled it with salted water and first cooked a bag of haricot vert (very thin French green beans). While those cooked, I prepped some broccolini to be cooked in the same water once the green beans were finished:

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