A different person might have taken the first Beet and Mandarin Orange Salad recipe offered by Madame “Ok, Google”. Had I done that, I would have used 1, 10-ounce can of Mandarin Oranges with juice; a jar of “good” pickled beets; a red onion, thinly sliced; and equal measures of quality olive oil and a vinegar of my choice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
But I could not take such a mundane dish to Sharon Alberts’ Easter Sunday brunch so I kept looking, and eventually, came across a recipe which I could cobble together along with a modified version of quick-pickling instructions to make something fresh.
I feel good about that. I have no complaints, even though I’ll be attending said brunch with red stains on my hand. The pleasant afternoon of cooking faded into an evening which ended on a perfect note — with visitors. The Karaoke Diva, Jeanne Oxley; her husband Danny Johnson; and the lovely Louan Lee came over to my side of the park to look at my new screen door and assess what it will take to install it. They sashayed around the inside of Angel’s Haven, cracking wise and generally inducing a feeling that they might actually like the place. Just as quickly as they arrived, they piled back into Jeanne’s car and returned to the south side of Park Delta Bay. I’m still smiling.
It’s late in the evening on Holy Saturday. at the tag end of the fifty-first month of My Year Without Complaining. A tolerable fatigue has settled over me. I’m not worried about eggs, or Reese’s bunnies, or even the fact that all my Easter Bonnets must be in the storage unit 1800 miles from me. It’s all good. Life continues.
BEET AND MANDARIN ORANGE SALAD, Mugwump Style
This recipe is a cobbled-together blend of several found on the internet, and hence, original. The secret is fresh quick-pickled beets. Yum.
For this recipe, which made 9 cups, I used two whole LARGE fresh beets. Cut off the ragged ends and peel with a good, sharp peeler. I use one with a firm grip because — well, lily-white spastic hands and all. Clumsy! Peel clean and rinse.
Chop the peeled beets into one-inch cubes. Approximate, don’t obsess.
Using about two inches of water, steam the peeled and cubed beets fork- tender. I steamed for about 12 minutes on a medium-high gas flame. Then I set it aside and of course, as we learned on the Food Network, the beets continued cooking and thus were absolutely perfect.
Don’t forget to use white vinegar to clean the cutting board! Especially if, like me, you find plastic boards slippery and stone boards too heavy so you insist on using the wood board your father made which is the right size and easy to use but porous.
Thinly slice a large red onion. As far as I can tell, this is one of the few times that even Scott Conant would approve of using red onions and he despises them.
You’re going to use 2/3 of a cup of red wine vinegar, three tablespoons of sugar, a few good rounds of fresh ground black pepper, a couple of dashes of cinnamon, and of course, pink Himalyan salt, as your pickling liquid. The salt was sitting elsewhere and thus not pictured. Quantities not exact. This is a Rachel-Ray sort of recipe.
Dump out the steaming liquid (which will be beet-red, so watch out for your clothing especially if your lovely apron is still in Kansas City). Put the onion and the pickling ingredients into the pan which previously held the water with which you steamed the beets. (Notice the beets still sitting covered in the steamer portion of the two-tiered pan.) Turn the burner on medium, and let the pickling liquid get nice and warm, stirring with a heat-safe spoon like this bright-orange one that somebody brought to my house and forgot to reclaim.
Then throw the beets into the pan with the onions. Turn the heat off. Mix like crazy!
Put the beet/onion mixture in a nice stainless steel bowl. I have a set of these that I traded for the stand mixer when I got divorced the second time. My ex threw in the cast iron pans as a bonus. I have always felt that I got the best of the bargain.
Now things got really lovely. You’re going to peel and section six mandarin oranges. As far as I am concerned, Halos are better than Cuties but pick whichever one you can get. Zest each one before you peel it, letting the zest fall into the beet mixture. Don’t zest down to the palest part as that is nasty and bitter. You want to stay sweet. Always.
Zest, peel, section.
Once you have all your nice little orange sections in the beets, dress with about three tablespoons each of olive oil and red wine vinegar, and of course, add a bit more pink Himalyan salt. If you don’t have pink Himalyan salt, use a good coarse sea salt or even just kosher salt. If you have neither of those, use Morton’s or even Best Value but don’t let on that I said it was okay. Once you have it dressed, refrigerate in a covered container. Serve chilled.
Please let me know if you like it!
As you can see, my hands got a little red when I peeled the beets.
Dedicated to Sharon Alberts, who asked me for my recipe.