I love this time of year. Spring is simply awesome. When I lived in California, I would market-hop from one small-town parking lot to another looking for the best that season had to offer. There, the asparagus was perfectly green, the butter lettuce was making a grand entrance, and sweet smell of strawberries was just starting to emerge.
The Oregon Coast was a bit different during the Spring. The sunshine was not yet warm, but worked hard to penetrate through the rainy clouds and bitter wind. Berry brambles were furiously flowering, and the sturdy greens – chard, pak choy, and kale – were a daily staple. March, and sometimes April, was always a hard time in Oregon – weeks of bone-chilling rain. But May was always welcomed with open, vitamin D depraved arms.
This is our first spring in Northern Florida, and I have been more than excited about the abundance of spring fruit and veg coming our way. Everywhere I’ve lived has had a very distinctive seasonal produce drought – either it’s too hot, too cold, too wet, or too many wildfires to illicit a productive growing season. Summertime in Northern Florida definitely falls into the too hot category. But right now, the mid 80 degree weather, with only a kiss of humidity, is producing a bounty of fresh fruits and veg.
Like we did in Oregon, Rob and I joined a CSA program out here called Black Hog Farm. Not only does it have great Florida produce (some local, some sourced), but also has amazing meats and dairy. Every week we get a full chicken – perfect for roasting and having left-overs on hand for salads and the impromptu taco night.
But this past week we received some beautiful springtime jewels – the root vegetable that signifies the growing season to me: beets. I’m obsessed, and for good reason. Beets have the rich creaminess you’d expect in wintertime, and a bright freshness foreshadowing the warm months ahead. They stain your hands a gorgeous, deep magenta, and add so much depth and flavor to a meal.
Rob has had many night-flights recently, leaving me to resist the temptation of eating popcorn for dinner and actually cook something of substance. So, with beets at hand, and a few more simple ingredients, I whipped up a quick and easy salad with a little more culinary clout than just chopping some veg into a bowl (not that there’s anything wrong with chopping veg into a bowl! I found like Seinfeld…).
Beets are finicky raw, so by mincing them in the food processor – not enough to be pureed! – is the best way to get them cooked super fast. Seeing how beets are a root veg, they happen to pair wonderfully with very earthy flavors (amazing how that works, eh?). So, truffle oil on the peppery arugula is a go-to for a smack-your-lips umami experience. With hints from the tangy goat cheese in the Beet Relish, you’ve got yourself a gourmet meal with no fuss. Except your hands will be red. Hope that’s ok. It kind of an occupational hazard with beets.
Beet Relish with Lemon-Truffle Arugula
- 2 medium beets, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 small yellow squash, pre-cooked (either grilled, roasted, or sautéed), and roughly chopped
- Mint leaves off 2 fresh sprigs
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 5 oz goat cheese
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Put all ingredients, including a seasoning of s&p in a food processor, and run until almost smooth. The mixture will turn bright pink/red (from the beets), and show have the consistency of pesto.
In a sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the beet relish and sauté consistently until the beets have softened. They will also change to a darker red color. This will only take about 3-5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and set aside to cool.
- 16 oz. baby arugula leaves
- Juice 1 fresh lemon
- 1 ½ tsp white truffle oil
- a few pieces of parmesan shavings (I use a wide veg peeler to make the ribbons of parmesean)
Put all of the arugula in a bowl, squeeze over the lemon juice, and drizzle over the truffle oil. Season with a pinch of s&p, and toss to coat the leaves.
NOTE: I actually do not emulsify the lemon and truffle oil separately – like most vinaigrettes – because I like the separation of flavors. With the peppery leaves, the bold lemon, and the fragrant oil, each ingredient does a fine job holding its own.
Shave some parmesan ribbons on top before serving.
Spread some of the beet relish on the bottom of a dinner plate. Generously top with the arugula salad. Add a few more shavings of parmesan if you’re feeling sassy.