ROASTED BEET, PICKLED WATERMELON RADISH, SNAP PEA SALAD WITH GREEN FETA DRESSING

By David Leftwich

This is a great salad for winter and early spring in Houston when gardens and farmers markets are full of beets, radishes, greens, and herbs — and snap peas are starting to appear. The beets are the backbone of this salad and the peas provide a sweet snap to contrast the vinegary richness of the beets, while the mint and dill add herbal focus. However, you could make a version of this salad without the peas or with other herbs. That’s the great thing about this recipe, there is lots of room to improvise based on what fresh herbs and vegetables you have available. Heck, you could even substitute yogurt for the cheese in the dressing.

Ingredients For Quick-Pickled Watermelon Radish

· 2–3 Watermelon radishes (or other favorite radish), thinly sliced
· 1 cup apple cider vinegar
· 1 cup water
· 1 tablespoon of salt
· 1 teaspoon of honey
· 1 16oz (pint) Mason jar

Ingredients For Roasted Beets

· 10–12 medium beets (I used a mix of red and golden beets)
· 2 cups apple cider vinegar
· 2 cups of water
· Kosher salt
· Honey

Ingredients For Green Feta Dressing

· 6 ounces of Blue Heron Goat Feta (or other favorite feta)
· 1 ounce (or to taste) gorgonzola dolce (or other favorite blue cheese)
· 1 handful of mint
· 1 handful of dill
· 1 wild onion (or scallion)
· Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
· A splash of sherry vinegar
· ¼ cup of Texas olive oil (or other favorite olive oil)
· A pinch of chile powder (I used homemade lemon drop chile powder, but cayenne would work as well.)
· A few sprigs of dehydrated pea shoots (or substitute a few fresh snap peas)
· A couple of pinches of Galveston County salt (or other favorite salt)

Ingredients For The Salad

· 2–3 quick-pickled Watermelon radishes (or other favorite radish), leave a few slices whole for garnish, dice the rest
· 10–12 roasted medium beets, cut into bite-sized chunks
· 30–40 sugar snap peas, chopped into bite size pieces
· 2–3 big handfuls of baby spinach (or other tender salad green)
· 1 big handful of cress (or other spicy green/herb like arugula)
· 1 bunch of mint, roughly chopped
· A few sprigs of dill, finely chopped
· A few sprigs of parsley, roughly chopped
· Two wild onions, finely chopped (you can substitute scallions)
· Edible flowers and/or additional herbs for garnish

To Make The Quick-Pickled Watermelon Radishes

For this salad, you could use other homemade or store-bought pickled vegetables, you could use raw radishes or carrots, or you could leave them out. However, I like the crisp, sharp, vinegary flavor of pickled radishes and the beautiful colors of watermelon radishes. If you want to include them, just follow these easy steps the night before or a few hours before you plan on making the salad.

1. Wash the Mason jar and scrub the radishes.
2. Thinly slice the radishes and stack the slices in a Mason jar.
3. Put the apple cider vinegar, water, salt, and honey in a small pot and bring to a boil on high heat.
4. Carefully poor the hot liquid over the radishes (use a canning funnel, if you have one) until the jar is full and the radishes are covered.
5. Screw on the lid and set aside.

Please note: these pickles are not shelf-stable, so refrigerate within 24 hours or after opening.

To Make The Roasted Beets

Over the years, I’ve roasted a lot of beets, usually using just olive oil and salt. However, the method below has become my favorite. It combines roasting, braising, and steaming to produce flavorful, tender beets. This method also works well with other root vegetables like turnips and rutabagas. If you are using red and golden beets, prep the golden beets separately and roast them in a separate pan.

1. Preheat your oven to 450°F.
2. If your beets came with the tops, remove the stems and greens and reserve for future use.
3. Soak, scrub, and rinse the beets.
4. Trim beets so they are flat on the top and bottom.
5. Put the beets in a large mixing bowl and coat them with honey and salt.
6. Put the coated beets, flat side down, in small roasting pans.
7. In the mixing bowl you used in step 5, which hopefully you didn’t clean
yet, mix the apple cider vinegar and water, incorporating the salt and honey still in the bowl.
8. Pour the vinegar and water mixture into the roasting pans, covering the beets halfway.
9. Cover the roasting pans with foil.
10. Roast for 30 minutes.
11. Uncover the beets and turn them over.
12. Recover and roast for another 30 minutes, until the beets can be easily pierced with a fork.
13. At this point, you could peel and serve the beets warm with fish, chicken, or other protein, or with other roasted vegetables. However, since this salad will be served room temperature, remove the beets from the roasting pan and let them cool.
14. Once the beets are cool, peel them by rubbing the skin off with your hands or a towel. (If you used small to medium beets, you don’t have to peel them. But peeling them does create a more elegant presentation.)
15. Cut the beets into bite-size cubes and put them in a large mixing bowl.

Note: you can make the dressing and prep the other vegetables and herbs while the beets are roasting.

To Make The Green Feta Dressing

1. Put all the ingredients in a blender.
2. Begin blending at a slow speed and gradually increase the speed as the ingredients begin to liquefy, blend, and become creamy.
3. Blend until the dressing is rich, creamy, and resembles yogurt. If the mix is a little too watery, blend in some additional cheese. If it’s a little too thick, blend in some additional oil or a little water.
4. Taste and adjust. At this point, you can add a little salt if it needs it, a splash of vinegar if it needs a little more tang, or blend in more of one of the herbs if it needs a little more hint of mint or dill. Basically, make sure it taste good to you.
5. Pour into a Mason jar and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. You could make this the night before or a few hours before you make the salad.

To Make The Salad

  1. Prep, chop, dice, and slice the vegetables and herbs as described above.
    2. Add them to the large mixing with the cubed roasted beets.
    3. Start by pouring about ¼ of the dressing over the vegetables.
    4. Using spoons, tongs, or your (clean) hands, mix the vegetables and dressing until the beets and other vegetables are lightly coated with the dressing.
    5. Add more dressing if needed and mix again.
    6. Taste and adjust, adding whatever you think the salad needs: more mint, more chopped onion, more dressing, etc.
    7. Serve: if at home with family and you don’t want to dirty another dish, serve family style in the mixing bowl. For a dinner party, use individual bowls and garnish with a couple of slices of pickled watermelon radish and some herbs and/or edible flowers. If you’re taking it to a potluck, transfer the salad to a nice serving bowl and garnish with a few overlapping slices of pickled watermelon radish and some edible flowers and/or herbs
    8. Enjoy!

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