Beet, arugula and French feta salad with pine nut, lemon, rosemary sauce

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

Most years we just grow a few tomato plants and a few herbs, basil mostly. We have a small yard and rambunctious boys and a berserker dog and it never seemed wise to pin our hopes on healthy intact produce. Last year we didn’t grow anything at all. The ground lay fallow. This year we have the best garden ever, entirely thanks to David. He built raised boxes and we have a summer’s worth of beautiful things growing in our yard.
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It feels so hopeful, to look out at it and imagine the days unfolding and the vegetables ripening. Herbs to eat now, in large quantities, tomatoes and eggplant to ripen with the full roundness of the summer days, salsify and scorzonera to eat in the fall. I love our garden! And because I’m a lunatic, I think of the vegetables almost as people, with separate personalities of their own. We planted fava beans, and David made a trellis of twine for them to wind around. We don’t know how tall they’ll get, and we wanted to give them plenty of distance to travel, plenty of encouragement, our full faith that they’ll reach all the way to the top, but we didn’t want to set up unrealistic expectations for them. The salsify and scorzonera seem very social, standing together in long graceful lines, sharing the light that glows through them. The cilantro started sad and timid, but now it’s just taken off, it’s bolted into tall, feathery, beautiful flowers, and maybe in the fall we’ll figure out what to do with the coriander seeds. The pepper plants seem like underachievers; they haven’t grown much since we’ve gotten them, but they’re working so hard on making beautiful vivid little peppers. They’re concentrating on their art. The eggplants generously share they broad leaves with some little bug that repays the favor by turning them into lace. The tomatoes are full and frank and happy standing together in the sun.

Tarragon

Tarragon


And then there’s the tarragon. I love the way tarragon grows. It spreads along the ground in a pretty fragrant sprawl. If you weigh down a sprig so that it touches the earth, it will take root and form a new plant attached to the original. It moves and travels, it has an unruly wildness to it, but it sets down roots everywhere it goes, it makes a new place to start from, and it stays connected to its roots as well.

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

Beet, arugula and French feta salad

We got some more beautiful beets from our CSA. I thought I’d make them into a pretty salad, with their best friend arugula, and some mildly delicious French feta I splurged on at a local market. I also added half an avocado, because I’m putting avocado in everything this summer, and a scattering of pine nuts. I made a tarator sauce to drizzle over the top, with lemon and rosemary, a bit of dijon, a few capers. You could use any herbs you like in this. Tarragon would be nice!!

Here’s Jimmy Smith with Root Down (and get it)

4 smallish beets, different colors are nice. I had one golden, two bullseye and one red.
olive oil to coat
a few large handfuls of arugula, cleaned and ripped in small pieces if large
olive oil and balsamic
a few ounces of french feta (or goat cheese or regular feta) crumbled
1/2 a firm avocado, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
a handful of pine nuts
salt and freshly ground pepper

Peel and trim the beets and slice them in half lengthwise. Then slice them into 1/8th inch slices. Toss these lightly with olive oil and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place under a hot broiler and broil for ten or so minutes, until the edges are browned and crispy. Keep an eye on them, because they burn quickly. Shake the pan and stir the beets around every once in a while so they cook evenly.

Let cool slightly.

In a large flat bowl toss the arugula with a dash of olive oil and a dash of balsamic.

Add the feta and avocado and toss to combine everything. Spread the beets on the top and then scatter pine nuts over everything.

Season with salt and pepper.

THE SAUCE

1/3 cup pine nuts
small piece of french bread or ciabatta, crusts removed (maybe 1/2 inch thick)
1 clove garlic, roasted (I use my toaster oven!)
juice of half a lemon
1 t dijon mustard
2 t fresh rosemary
1 t capers
2 T olive oil

salt and black pepper

Combine the pine nuts, garlic, and bread in a food processor and process until coarse and crumbly. Add the lemon juice, mustard., rosemary and capers, scrape down the sides and process again. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Process until smooth. Add enough water to make the sauce completely smooth and about as thick as heavy cream. I think I added about 1/3 cup, maybe more. Season well with salt and pepper and taste for rosemary, lemon, pepper.

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