Saturday, July 11, 2009

Salad Days: New Beets and Onions


While we are waiting for the real summer produce to arrive, we are blessed, at least, with the earliest of earthly delights: the lettuce, of course, and beautiful tiny beets and onions. Not to belabor the weather—it is, after all, sunny today, although it still feels like fall, and I am still sleeping with a blanket—but the damage to the crops has been officially confirmed by the local newspaper.

It appears that just about every crop has been seriously affected, in many cases destroyed, by the flood of rain, and in some cases hail: from tomatoes to peppers and corn, even the apples. At our local major potato grower, Ferolbink Farm, they’ve plowed under 8 acres, and anticipate the loss of more. A fungus called “late blight,” which is related to the one that caused the Irish potato famine in 1849, has hit our local farms; a combination of the rain and resistance is making it impossible to keep it at bay. It is exacerbated by cross-over from residential gardens, and invades everything. The farmers are going out of their minds.

We share their pain. We need to buy what we can from them. Most things are more expensive than usual, but that seems reasonable given that yields are much lower than the growers ever could have anticipated, given that we have never, ever, in recorded history, have had a spring and early summer like this one. Choices are limited, but slowly expanding. Lettuce is doing all right. Cabbage, too. Beets appear to be squeaking by. There are quite nice tiny leeks and small onions. Everything is young and new—salad days.

Rainy Summer Salad

This will perk up a gray day. Season this well with salt and pepper to taste to balance the sweetness. You could serve this alongside a piece of grilled chicken, without the lettuce base, if you like. Serves 2. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

3 small new onions
5 or 6 very small beets, roasted and peeled
2 ears corn
1 T butter
1 tea olive oil
¼ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed if possible
2 T maple syrup
¼ tea salt
½ tea grated orange rind (optional)

6 or 7 Boston lettuce leaves
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 tea maple syrup
2 tea freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper

Thinly slice the onions and the roasted beets (see here for instructions), and cut the corn off the cob.

Melt the butter with the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When sizzling, add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften, about 1 minute, then reduce the heat somewhat and add the corn; sauté an additional minute or so, until the onion just starts to brown. Add the orange juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the juice has been reduced and there is only a little liquid left; add the 2 T syrup, salt, and pepper, zest if using, and cook for another minute. Add the beets and toss for a few seconds. Taste for seasoning. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

Make a dressing by whisking the oil, syrup, lemon juice and some salt and pepper in a bowl. Add the lettuce leaves and turn around in the dressing until they are thoroughly but lightly coated. Arrange the leaves on a plate and place the beet salad in the center.



racheld said...

Oh, Jane, I feel for the farmers and all of you who are missing the good vegetables!!

We used to have a year like that, back in the good old Mississippi gumbo-farming days, and it was common to get a tractor stuck, then the bigger one that went in to retrieve it, and then have to hire the county equipment to "mire us out."

I'm so sorry about your weather and your crops. The salad is a wonderful way to enjoy what's IN now, and the rest will come in time.

Anonymous said...

HI Jane, Help...can't find instructions about how to roast beets???

Jane said...

Tractors in the mud are clearly something that Mississippi and Rhode Island have in common.Thank you for your reassurance that the rest will come. We are seeing a little hope as I write this.

Jane said...

Whoops, sorry; forgot to put the link to a 2007 post about beets, which has the instructions. It's there now.

Perky said...

where is the link to roast the beets?

Jane said...

The link is in the recipe; click "here" where it says "see here for instructions" in the directions.