J and I celebrate our Valentine’s day a week early. We take advantage of the early celebration to avoid the Valentine’s day crowds and prices, but also to celebrate our first date, February 6th, 2003. This year, we had an amazing and romantic three course meal at a Bay Area restaurant, Viognier. All this is to say that the Heart’s Desire recipe that follows is one I decided to attempt less because of Valentine’s Day and more because it was a perfect combination of fruits and veggies we had laying around the house, so please excuse the non-emphasis on the Valentine in the remainder of the post. Yet, it would be an impressive addition to any Valentine’s dinner.
Over the last few years, I have become an avid supporter of local agriculture. I have spent a good deal of time and energy reading and learning first hand whatever I can about the agricultural system as it exists today. For that reason, I have been committed to eating locally whenever I can. However, in our move from Southern California, while we were transitioning from one house to another to another, my “buy local” groove was thrown off.
Then, when we moved into our new place in Redwood City, CA, I discovered that the local farmer’s market only runs from April to November. This surprised me because in California, there is always something growing. Granted, things slow down on the farms, and the weather can be nasty enough to stave off customers. I was disappointed, however, and ended up spending some time in the Whole Foods produce section when I normally wouldn’t.
Unfortunately, Whole Foods doesn’t quite cut it when you are hoping to support local farmers. Don’t get me wrong; Whole Foods prides itself on providing locally grown produce. What is harder for them to do is to help the customer get to know the farmer.
Because I want to have the ability to visit and get to know the farms I buy from, I subscribed to two different Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) ventures. CSAs tend to be farm operated distribution channels. In other words, the farm you order from delivers you traditionally carry produce, dairy and/or meat products which are grown on their farm. Some CSAs are expanded, and they provide the customer with options from multiple farms.
I decided to check out two separate CSAs. One, Frog Hollow Farm, is a fruit farm, while Eating with the Seasons is an expanded CSA that pulls its products from multiple farms. In our second week, I am overwhelmed with fruits and veggies!
Thankfully, the CSAs are smart to include recipes that incorporate some of the produce most people received in their bags or boxes. This week, I was happy to see that Frog Hollow Farm included a recipe in which I could use beets, blood oranges, avocados and arugula. I happened to have all ingredients on hand, so I went for it.
Beets require preparation time. I tend to throw them in the oven at 400⁰ with their heads and tails cut flat for 35-50 minutes or until I can tell they are soft when I pierce them with a fork or knife. After they are soft, I rinse them under cool water and then peel off the outer skin.
While the beets were in the oven, I prepared the dressing as described below. Pomegranate molasses sounds tough to acquire. Thankfully, Trader Joe’s sells a Pomegranate Glaze that might not quite be what the creators of this recipe had in mind, but which seemed to work just fine.
Since I often don’t begin dinner preparations very far in advance, a two hour lead time was not in my schedule. Instead of marinating the beets for an hour, I marinated them for 30 minutes or so while I prepared the rest of the meal.
We had arugula, which added a nice spiciness, though mixed greens would have been perfectly acceptable. In my excitement, I added a little more pomegranate glaze than was called for. In the end, I wished that I had used the amount they recommended in the recipe since there was a slight aftertaste that I think could have been avoided not having used as much of it.
In the end, the recipe was a success. I enjoyed it. J, who never waxes lyrical about any food unless it is astronomically good, said he liked it. I will be making it again. It’s a great California winter recipe, and one that might warm the heart of your Valentine.
Heart’s Delight Salad (from Frog Hollow Farm)
Good to eat and good for you, too! Add this to your Valentine’s Day menu. Typically imported from Lebanon, pomegranate molasses is a thick, tart syrup made from boiled-down pomegranate juice. Its fruity tang is a perfect balance to the sweet earthiness of beets. Look for it in specialty food stores or shops specializing in Middle Eastern products.
4 beets, roasted or boiled until very tender
2 blood oranges
2 handfuls of arugula or mixed greens
juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tbsp crumbled feta or soft goat cheese (optional)
Peel beets and cut into wedges or half-moons. (Or, using a small cookie cutter, cut into heart shapes.) Grate rind of 1 orange finely. Whisk together orange rind, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, salt, and pepper, adjusting amounts to taste. Let beets marinate in dressing for 1 hour.
Peel oranges, removing all white pith, and slice thinly. Mix orange slices and greens with beets, tossing to coat with dressing. Arrange on two plates. Just before serving, top with avocado slices and optional cheese. Add a little freshly ground pepper and serve.