Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Beet, apple & pear stack with spinach & blood oranges

I have been confused and see-sawing between calling my recipes autumn and winter seasonal over the past few months. I realize now that this is because the season was officially winter but the weather was still pretty fall-like. Last week we finally felt the true chill of winter. With this chill the selection of vegetables at the farmers market has dropped. And with that, the list of in-season produce on has dwindled.

Cooking seasonally now means you are cooking with apples, beets, pears and potatoes. And squash. If you are okay with sourcing some seasonal food from California then you can add a delicious array of citrus to that list. You would be crazy not to take advantage of the dazzling multitude of orange, red, green and yellow citruses that only make an appearance for a short time each year.

Today, I stayed home to prepare for a virology class I have to teach tomorrow and to do some online pre-training courses for a deep-sequencing (what is that?! even I barely know but I hope to find out) training session I have to attend tomorrow. I spent way more time in the kitchen then I should have, playing with food, instead of working like I ought to have been. I seem to have accomplished all my tasks at this moment though, so, good for me. 

I wanted to make a very wintery salad with beets, apples and pears. I had planned to cube everything up and toss it with some spinach and goat cheese but could not resist slicing everything up with the mandoline my mom bought me for christmas. I have been using it regularly since I brought it home to slice everything from avocado and fennel to oranges, beets and parmesan.

Thus, I thinly sliced a pear (which was perfectly ripe I might add), a cute red apple (I forget which kind) and a couple pre-roasted beets all from the winter farmers market. I stacked the ultra-thin slices and served them with a mix of spinach and could not help but throw a blood orange in there as well.

Biting into a thick stack of thinly sliced apple, beet and pear, tossed in meyer lemon juice was divine. Unfortunately my salad was ruined by a not so good goat cheese. Also I used freshly ground pepper which I regretted post-consumption (luckily I took pictures before I added those things so you don't have to imagine it without them). If you do try this recipe add some goat cheese only if you have the tangy, fresh, soft kind of goat cheese. If you have a drier, salty feta on hand, skip it. And honestly, the beets, apple and pears would have sufficed on their own, maybe with some soup or a biscuit. With the spinach and blood orange I felt like I was eating a salad with a salad. 

Also, I did not invent this stacking idea, as beautiful as it is. One of the first images I ever saw that both inspired and intimidated my food documenting and experimenting was this legendary post from Canelle et Vanille which clearly influenced the fun I had with my mandoline today.

Beet, apple & pear stack with spinach & blood oranges
Winter seasonal: beet, pears, apples, meyer lemon and blood oranges
Beets can be roasted in a covered clay pot, with an inch of water, for 45 minutes at 350F.

Ingredients (for 2 large salads)
1 firm but ripe pear
1 small apple
2 small beets, pre-roasted
2 blood oranges
2 cups fresh spinach
1 meyer lemon, squeezed and zested
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
1 tsp honey (agave or maple syrup for vegans)

1 - Thinly slice beets, pear and apples using a mandoline slicer on the thinnest setting.
2 - Brush apple and pear slices in meyer lemon juice to keep from browning.
3 - Roughly chop spinach and segment blood oranges, reserve any extra juice for dressing.
4 - Whisk together 1 tbsp of meyer lemon juice, honey, olive oil, sea salt and any blood orange juice released during segmenting.
5 - Toss spinach in dressing, place on a plate with blood oranges.
6 - Arrange/stack in alternating fashion: beets, apples and pears next to spinach and blood oranges. Garnish with lemon zest.

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