Saturday, August 23, 2014

a simple perfect salad.

This week has been a hard week for me. I've been out of work with a neck injury, and I haven't been handling it so hot. Not being able to work leaves me feeling pretty useless, especially when I'm limited to what I can even do around the house. Of course, I probably pushed it a little more than I should have, cleaning and cooking. Leaving plenty of time to float around, pity parties sprinkled here and there. 

One thing that always seems to lift my spirits is a simple, balanced, light salad. One that feels like it could come from a restaurant. Taking the time to make myself something that not only nourishes my body, but my mind, and soul. Not like this salad was very time consuming, or labor intensive.... Actually quite the opposite. It just felt like a fancy schmancy treat. 

I had roasted a couple organic local beets a couple nights before, so this was stupid quick and easy to throw together. If you've never tried beets, or you have some traumatic childhood experience of canned beets, or beets prepared by a grandparent that was perhaps encased in gelatin, or perhaps in combination with something equally as awful.... say.... canned asparagus.... Pleaseeeeee give them another chance. The first time I had beets in a way that made my heart sing, I was at East Side King, here in Austin. If you know anything about Paul Qui, anything he touches is gold. Well his beet fries are no less golden. I remember taking the first bite and going "Holy ish. I like beets." It was a profound moment. I've had a nerdalicious addiction to food porn via foodgawker going on about 5 or 6 years now. I've seen so many beautiful photos of beets... in combination with goat cheese, balsamic vinegar (my crack), done in dessert with mint.... The color was so beautiful, but I just had a false reality in my head of what beets are, and taste like. I grew up mentally allergic to vegetables in general, and have come a LONG way in my adulthood overcoming my fear of vegetables, and beginning a life long love affair with delicious dirt dwellers. 

Okay okay.... the salad. 

First, I'm going to have a mini rant on balsamic vinegar. I've turned into a little bit of an oil and vinegar snob, and it's all thanks to an amazing little shop here in town called Conolios. This place is a wonderland of sorts. You walk in, and 3 out of 4 walls are occupied by the most phenomenal infused olive oils and dark and white balsamic vinegars I've ever seen/tasted. The best part? You can sample each and every one. Talk about epic salad dressing people! 90% of my salad dressings are home made, using their exquisite products. For anyone who is interested, and doesn't live in Austin, they have a website you can order most, if not all, of their oils and vinegars. Check em out --->

So for this particular dressing, I used their Cinnamon Pear Dark Balsamic, with their Basil olive oil. Any good quality balsamic and oil will work for this salad. I do not believe in drowning my greens in dressing. The way I dress is a drizzle of vinegar, and a drizzle of oil, + salt and pepper. I toss it, and add more if needed. Soggy greens make my eyes soggy with tears. Don't drown your salad. Use salt and pepper to bring out flavors. 

Here's my vague but excellent and hard to screw up recipe:

Arugula Beet Salad with Candied Nuts & Goat Cheese
Serves 2

4 fat handfuls of arugula, divided (6 if you have tiny hands)
1 roasted beet, chopped (to roast-wrap in foil, drizzle with olive oil, bake at 400 for an hour, or until fork tender)
4-6 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese, divided
4 tablespoons chopped candied nuts, divided (choose your fave from the bulk section, or make your own!)
drizzle o' balsamic vinegar (I used Conolio's Cinnamon Pear)
drizzle o' olive oil (I used Conolio's Basil Olive Oil)

Divide greens between your salad bowls/plates. Drizzle your nizzle....errr I mean oil and vinegar (less is more!), season with salt and pepper. Toss with salad hands, or get intimate with your food and use your hands! Taste, add more as needed. Top with chopped beets, goat cheese, candied nuts, and DEVOUR! 

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