Yes, it’s autumn (nearly winter) here in South Africa and some people may feel that salad is only for summer. I completely disagree – salad is delicious and nutritious any time of year! I will say though that varying what you put in your salad at different times of the year makes sense. As soon as the starchy veggies, like beetroot and butternut, start to make an appearance, it’s officially classified as an autumn/winter salad (according to me).
In this very simple and delicious recipe, beetroot and avocado are the stars, complimented by a few other ingredients that add pizzazz.
These days you can buy beetroot ready-cooked at many supermarkets, and that’s certainly the easiest way to do it. If you prefer to cook your own, as I do, be warned that it can be a bit messy and you need to take precautions that you don’t stain your hands, kitchen surfaces and clothing pink. Sadly I didn’t take pictures of that part of the process, but it’s really quite simple – I give instructions below.
Of course if you don’t like or can’t find beetroot, you can substitute just about any other starchy vegetables instead, especially if they’re slightly sweet. Options like roast butternut or roast carrot work really well, and you can also play with a mix of any of them.
For the greens, use whatever you can get your hands on. When I make salad, I like to use a variety of different types of lettuce and herbs, preferably from my garden if possible e.g. butter, frilly and/or oak leaf lettuce, baby spinach, basil, rocket, mint, Italian parsley, nasturtium leaves (and flowers if I have), fennel, etc. In a pinch I have resorted to a pack of herb salad though, which works equally well although it’s somehow less satisfying.
Oh, and the quantities of everything are vague since it’s all about what you have on hand and your personal taste. Feel free to experiment to your heart’s content.
- A variety of fresh greens e.g. lettuce, spinach and herbs
- Cooked beetroot (about 1 small or ½ a large one per person)
- Onion – red, white or brown (or even spring onions), sliced into rings
- Celery (about a stalk per person), washed and sliced – you can also add their tops if you like the taste of them
- Ripe avocado (about a ¼ to a ½ per person), peeled and sliced
- Feta cheese (maybe about 1T per person), chopped
- Toasted seeds e.g. sunflower, pumpkin and/or sesame (optional)
- Dressing of your choice – plain olive oil and balsamic vinegar/lemon juice work really well
If you’re using ready-cooked beetroots, skip the next four paragraphs.
Cooking the beetroot
Give your beetroots a good but gentle scrub to get rid of the loose soil and small roots – you don’t need to peel them at this stage. Then cut off the leaves, leaving a couple of centimetres of stalk. I prefer to leave the roots on for cooking as they lose less of their colour that way (although you’ll still end up with deep pink/red cooking liquid).
At this point, you can choose to steam, boil or bake the beets. To bake, simply place on a greased baking tray in the oven at about 160°C. To steam, place them in the top section of a steamer. If you’re boiling them, put the scrubbed beetroot into a biggish pot (to reduce the pink splash factor) with plenty of water and a teaspoon of sea salt. While they’re steaming or boiling, keep an eye on the water level and top up if necessary. Beets are high in sugar so burn easily, and it’s a mission to scrape the charred bits off the bottom of the pot.
Whichever way you choose to cook them, if the beets are small and young, they may only take about 45 minutes to an hour, but if they’re large and older, they could take as long as 2 – 3 hours. They’re done when you can easily stick a fork into them.
Remove from the cooking water carefully (if applicable) and let them cool a little. Then, on a plate and using a fork and a knife (or your hands – use kitchen gloves if you don’t want to have to scrub the pink off your skin afterwards), peel away the skin, which should come off quite easily. Just be careful not to flick pink juice everywhere in the process. Your beetroots are now ready to use in your salad or whatever other dish you choose to make (if you’re making salad, let the beets cool completely or they’ll wilt your lettuce).
Making the salad
Wash your greens and tear them up into bite-sized pieces.
Using a knife and fork again to preserve your hands, cut up the beets into bite-sized pieces too.
Arrange the onion rings and beets on top of the lettuce.
Now layer on your celery, avo and feta.
Finally top with toasted seeds.
Dress and toss just before serving so everyone has a chance to admire the pretty layers before everything goes pink from the beetroot juice. 🙂
© Alexandra Lawrence and Inspired Nourishment, 2015