I’m constantly amazed by my ever-evolving taste buds. They seem to be more active than ever before and for that I’m grateful. Having grown up eating Korean cuisine (which relies heavily on soy sauce and various fermented pastes for flavoring) and outrageous amounts of junk food, I knew of and craved only one taste – salty…numbing your tongue to all other flavors kind of salty. I could eat ketchup by the spoonful as if it was rice. A whole bag of Chex Mix in one sitting? No problem. It is no surprise that fresh foods tasted flavorless and undifferentiable.
It hasn’t been long since I began craving straight-from-nature kind of freshness. Four years to be exact. I don’t know how I did it back then, but I cut my junk food addiction cold turkey (in the beginning that is. Over the years I’ve learned to eat more mindfully. I can now have my Chex Mix w/o feeling the need to finish the whole bag. Everything in moderation!). One of the rare moments my all-or-nothing personality proved beneficial. This is when I began to spend every waking moment in the kitchen learning how to cook so I wouldn’t starve. Time spent in the kitchen has taught me many things. I learned patience and how to let go of perfectionism, as foods rarely turned out the way I anticipated, and gained confidence and a desire to keep improving. I made every conscious effort to refrain from over-seasoning, allowing for all the various flavors in the dish to mix and mingle. Gradually, my taste buds began to awaken and detect the subtle flavors that were hidden by the unsparing saltiness. Now, I’m the exact opposite of my old self as a resounding “it’s too salty” can be expected out of my mouth every time I dine out. At this rate, I will have no problem meeting the expected daily sodium intake of <1500 mg, in the upcoming 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If you are addicted to salt like I once was, I want to breathe in hope that your taste buds are capable of change. Cook more often. Dine out less. Ditch anything that comes in a package. Just eat Real Food! There’s a whole different world to explore. What better time than now to make the conversion when fresh produce is so bountiful and flavorful!
Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t season your food. That would be insane. Rather, use salt sparingly; just enough to add depth and enhance the natural flavors of the ingredients. When I saw the recipe for this salad that I’m about to unveil in the cookbook, Salad for Dinner (this is an affiliate link), which I’m currently cooking my way through, I knew it was going to deliver that “party in your mouth” effect.
I’ve never eaten raw beets, and I’m not going to lie…I was afraid. Up until now, roasting them was the ONLY viable option. However, I was intrigued. The recipe instructs grating the beets, adding in some lemon juice and salt, and letting it stand for at least an hour to allow the beets to soften a bit. While the beets were an irreplaceable addition to the salad for their sweetness and crunchiness (not to mention their gorgeous hue), I did not enjoy them by themselves. Neither did the Hungryman who’s still trying to appreciate beets. I tip my hat to him for his relentless effort.
The other components came together rather quickly, contrary to what it appears, as I worked methodically. Don’t be overwhelmed by the wide array of ingredients. The only thing you have to do is wash, slice, whisk, and shred. The hardest part was grating the beets.
And yes, it tasted as divine as it looks. Peppery arugula paired with licorishy fennel (now I know…I should never EVER throw away the fronds!), tangy goat cheese, and sweet and earthy beets all tossed in a citrusy-dressing… What did I tell you? Party in your mouth! I did not feel compelled to season to taste with salt as the rotisserie chicken and goat cheese were enough. I don’t need to dish out $15 at a restaurant for a salad when I have this one in my arsenal.
- 5 ounces beets (2 small), peeled and grated
- 2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
- 3 Tbs toasted walnut oil
- ½ tsp kosher salt, divided
- 3 Tbs walnut oil
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- ½ tsp finely grated orange peel
- 2 large navel oranges, cut into supremes
- ½ large fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into very thin slices (about 1 cup) - save the fronds!
- 8 oz (2 cups) shredded rotisserie chicken
- 3 oz crumbled goat cheese (I used the herbed kind)
- ⅓ cup toasted walnut pieces
- Grate beets and add to a bowl. Stir in 1 Tbs lemon juice and ¼ tsp salt. Let stand at least 1 hour to soften beets slightly.
- In a small bowl, combine oil, shallot, vinegar, honey, orange peel, 1 Tbs remaining lemon juice, and ¼ tsp salt. Whisk to blend.
- Cut oranges into supremes. Combine greens, fennel, chicken. Top with oranges and beets with their juices. Add cheese, walnuts, and fennel fronds over salad. Pour over dressing. Toss salad gently. Serve cold.
Recipe from Salad for Dinner.
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