On with the winter salads, then. Everything I said in the other post about shredded cabbage goes just as well with red cabbage, of course, but also with carrots, and with celeriac if you like it (I don't, very much) and even with parsnips, if they're small.
All of those are things that keep for ages, so there's no reason not to have at least one or two around. But they do spoil, eventually. Vacuum packed beets, on the other hand, are something you can count on having around when you come back from holiday, or have forgotten to go shopping, or whatever smallish crisis hits.
The problem with beets is that many people don't like beets, which may be one of the reasons why those packets are always there. My own J, who eats anything and everything and has never been known to complain, is not enthusiastic about beetroot. But he is being brought round, because It really is delicious, as long as you take a little care.
First, don't be shy with the salt. No silly stuff now. It's the ready made foods that hide the nasty salts. If you don't salt it well you won't be able to eat it, and will miss out on all those nutrients.
Likewise, vinegar is a must, and it's better be strong. Beets are usually called earthy but what people mean is that they often taste like ducking your head in a muddy puddle. And we want to avoid that.
Also, slice them thin. Mandoline or food processor thin. No grated beets, they are horrible.
Add carrots, or apple, or orange segments, or a few shreds of cabbage, for contrast of colour. They'll go bright pink, which is the whole point of eating beets, really.
Also, some herbs, parsley, or chives, or both. And a finely chopped dill pickle too.
The dressing must be vinegary and oily and have a spoonful of horseradish.
And for great effect, you should scatter something crunchy on top, like chopped nuts or toasted pumpkin seeds. It's a cooked vegetable, after all, so the interesting texture must come from somewhere else.
I love this as is, but if you add smoked mackerel, and serve it alongside rye bread, with cold sweet butter and caraway seeds, you have yourself a beauty. Vodka optional, cold beer if not.
Salad. A crunchy, sharp, fresh, enlivening plate of raw stuff. What's not to like? I feel almost sorry for myself if there's not a salad on the table at every meal. Luckily, my definition of salad is broad, and I'm happy with a few slices of salted cucumber, or a dish of chopped parsley and yogurt.
Winter presents problems, though. Lettuce and tomatoes are out, frisée is scratchy and annoying, and although I can eat endive and radicchio I'd really rather not, thank you.
Which leaves me with a few things to play around with, any day. They last for ages, so I don't have to brave the elements if I want a crisp addition to lunch or dinner. Unlike soft, summery leaves, they can be dressed way ahead of the meal, only increasing in flavour, and leftovers can even be used in a sandwich later. They are your friends. Cabbage, carrots, and those vacuum packed beets that stain your fingers the minute you go near the packet. Add to that oranges, and onions and celery, used with caution, and your salad problems are over.
I often shave a bit of cabbage with the mandoline. I do love a mandoline, and in a minute a smallish wedge of cabbage is a mountain of shreds. I salt it and leave it for a while, and then later dress it, either as a very simple ensalada de matanza, or maybe with just oil and lemon, or with caraway seeds instead of cumin, or with yogurt. Nothing fancy, and certainly nothing exciting, but a lunchtime bowl of rice and beans with this on the side is more of itself.
I haven't been posting a lot but promise to more, in a series of posts about winter salads. I will probably draw inspiration from this gorgeous book, if I can manage to tear myself away from drooling over pictures of ripe summer Sicilian tomatoes.