Table for One, Please
Reading Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, which is where today’s recipe comes from, has gotten me to thinking about putting up a few ideas for a nice dinner for a solo diner. I want these ideas to be fairly easy but also a bit fancy and definitely healthy. A long-time solo diner myself, I’m prone to falling back on my old stand-by instead of trying something new that will give me a more balanced menu. As tasty as a can of heated baked beans piled over two slices of whole wheat toast is, no one can pretend such a dish makes a well-balanced meal (although beans and toast does make a “complete” protein).
I was pleased to find a beet at the bottom of my crisper drawer…proof that getting produce straight from the farm often means it’ll keep a lot longer in the fridge. This beet had been in there for more than a month, but it was still in perfect condition and just what I needed to make an interesting salad that made me feel kinda cool and – dare I say – sexy to be eating it by myself, wine glass in hand, out on my stoop in a cool summer twilight. Of course the moment was quickly broken by a swarm of mosquitoes but who cares…this salad was divine and beautiful. If you are indeed what you eat, this is something you’ll want to be consuming.
Best of all, this is a salad that stretches across that lovely time between summer and fall harvests since beets and radishes are available now and for another six weeks or so. The cucumbers will be around for a few more weeks so embrace the last of summer’s glory while you can.
Oh, an about those radishes, I found one to be disturbingly mouse-like in shape. I was tempted to give it some chopped olive for eyes and some chives for whiskers but figured you’d get the idea without the corny additions.
Roasted Beet and Cucumber Salad with Asiago Cheese Shavings
Adapted from Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
1 small cucumber
1/3 red onion
4 or 5 radishes
a few leaves of fresh mint
a stem of fresh dill
fresh ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil
orange muscat champagne vinegar*
asiago or similar firm salty cheese that shaves easily
*The original recipe calls for red wine vinegar but I had this bottle of vinegar I’d gotten at Trader Joe’s a while back and thought I’d finally put it to good use. It was a superb compliment to the salad flavors. I’m sure red wine vinegar would be quite nice too.
To begin: Roast the beet by removing any stems and placing it whole in a small baking pan with a 1/2 inch of water in the bottom. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the beet and sprinkle with coarse salt. Place pan in 350 F oven for about an hour, or until the beet is fork tender. Let cool before peeling off skin and slicing into 1/4 inch rounds. Set aside.
While the beet is roasting: Peel the cucumber in alternating strips to make it a little fancier. Slice in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Slice into 1/4 slices and place in a medium bowl. Slice the radishes into very thin rounds. Place in the bowl with the cucumber. Cut the red onion into very thin slices and place in the bowl. Chop the fresh herbs and scatter on top of sliced vegetables.
In a small bowl begin to make a dressing by whisking together olive oil and vinegar in a 2:1 ratio (i.e., 4 T. olive oil and 2 T. vinegar). If you like lots of dressing, make lots. If not, the example amount should work well. Add salt and pepper and whisk for another minute to be sure the dressing is emulsified.
Toss half the dressing with the sliced cucumber, radish, onion mixture and set in the fridge until beet is ready.
When beet has been prepared as directed above, toss beet slices with the remaining dressing. Plate up by laying out beets on a nice large plate. Give the cucumber salad a quick toss again before piling up on top of the beets. Using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, shave off several generous bits of cheese to crown the salad.
Serve immediately with a sprig of fresh mint. Salad can be prepared a few hours ahead of time – just keep the beets seperate from the cucumber until ready to serve.