First up: this simple yet stunning salad. It came together on a whim while I was searching my fridge for items to make into a pretty plated salad.
It's extremely simple to make, but the flavors and textures come together to create something far greater than the sum of its parts (which I actually find to be a silly phrase...how can something be greater than the sum of its parts?).
Chioggia beets, also known as candy stripe beets, are not quite as earthy as their blood red counterparts, and, as a result, work well when raw and thinly sliced. Not to mention that they're just gorgeous. The yellow plums, also from my CSA share, are a little tart, definitely sweet, and plump and juicy - a perfect contrast in texture to the snappy beet slices. Rounding out the mix are slivers of basil (grown on my windowsill) for an herbaceous note, crumbles of ricotta salata for some saltiness and richness, and toasted hazelnuts for a mild, mellow, crunch. A little drizzle of good-quality extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, along with a few pinches of salt and pepper, bring everything together.
It's easy to make, but looks like something you'd find at a really nice restaurant (this one comes to mind) - and tastes like it, too.
Chioggia Beet and Yellow Plum Salad
vegan if not using cheese; gluten-free
2 medium chioggia beets (about 4 ounces total)
2 small yellow plums (about 3 ounces total)
1 ounce ricotta salata cheese (optional)
4 medium basil leaves
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Wash and dry the plums, then cut them in half and cut each half into chunks a little smaller than 1/2". Divide the plums between the two plates.
Toast the hazelnuts - you can do this one of two ways. 1) Place the hazelnuts on a microwave-safe plate and heat on high power for 1 minute, stopping halfway through for a few seconds. 2) Put the hazelnuts in a small pan set over medium-low heat and toast until lightly golden brown. Let the hazelnuts cool, then rub them with a dish towel to remove the skins. Roughly chop the hazelnuts, or, alternately, put them in a resealable plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin. I find this method far more enjoyable and easier, too. Distribute the chopped hazelnuts between the two plates.
Crumble the ricotta salata and divide it between the two plates.
Stack the basil leaves, then roll them up the short way. Use a sharp knife to slice the leaves into a chiffonade. Divide the strips between the two plates.
Drizzle each plate with half of the balsamic vinegar and olive oil and finish each with a sprinkle of sea salt and a grind or two of black pepper.