Wednesday, July 16, 2008

tasting color

In the height of summer there is a performance in the wild. The cicadas have arrived, their drone the sound of summer to my ears. Fireflies illuminate the dusk in pin-prick blinks and there is a mysterious peppery scent in the cool green canopy of river bank trees.
And color has come to the garden. Golden beets, purple beans, crimson tomatoes (almost here!), yellow cucumber, deep green zucchini, lime green tomatillos, snow white fennel, and a palette of carrots in purple, yellow and orange. Each trip brings back a little edible rainbow and a basket full of inspiration:
Warm Summer Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette


3/4 Lb. golden beets (other beet varieties are suitable substitutes), trimmed, peeled and cut into quarters or eighths depending on size (pieces should be about 1 - 1 1/2 inches)
1/2 Lb. any combination of purple, yellow, and/or orange carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into chunks roughly the size of the beet pieces
1 Tb. fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1/2 - 3/4 Lb. purple beans (green are fine also as the purple will turn green upon cooking, anyway), trimmed

For the Shallot Vinaigrette:

1/3 C. minced shallots (about 2)
2 Tb. fresh lemon juice
2 Tb. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 C. olive oil
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small roasting pan combine the beets and carrots. Drizzle with olive oil, add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes (stirring once) or until vegetables are tender.

While beets and carrots are roasting, prepare the purple beans and the vinaigrette.

Fill a sink or a large bowl with very cold water (add a handful of ice, if necessary). Set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the beans. Cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove beans from boiling water with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the cold water to stop cooking. Remove the beans to a clean towl and pat dry. Set aside.

Make the vinaigrette:

Combine the first 6 ingredients (shallots through olive oil) in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously to combine, then add the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Give another shake to combine. Set aside.

When beets and carrots are done, transfer them to a large bowl or platter. Add the cooled beans and drizzle with shallot vinaigrette to suit your tastes (I used about 2 tablespoons*). Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 4 small servings or 2 large servings.

*The remaining vinaigrette can be refrigerated in the jar for 1 week (shake to combine before using).

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