Whenever possible, our menu items are selected based on recipes that best showcase the current season's bounty. For the unusual pairings spring salon I wanted to incorporate early harvest rhubarb, and Julie had already tackled a delicious sweet rhubarb tart for last summer's event. I also had spring beets on the brain, and was inspired by the idea of combining the earthiness of the beetroot and the bright tang of the rhubarb. Luckily, my google search told me that I wasn't alone in thinking these two could pair together successfully.
Borrowing some ingredients from this post I found on The Guardian, and incorporating a few of my own flavor preferences, I mixed up this yummy salad that is vibrant both in looks and flavors.
SPRING BEETS, RHUBARB, AND KUMQUAT SALAD
2 bunches baby spring beets, any variety 3 - 4 firm rhubarb stalks 1 t granulated sugar 1 small bunch curly parsley 1 small red onion 1/2 pint kumquats 4 oz gorgonzola -- for the dressing -- 1 T sherry vinegar 1 T fresh lemon juice 1.1/2 T pomegranate molasses* 1 T pure maple syrup 3 T extra virgin olive oil zest from one lemon salt + pepper to taste
Preaheat oven to 350˚. Remove beet greens, if any, and use to make either this or this. Wrap beets tightly in foil and bake in a rimmed pan for 40 - 50 minutes, or until fork tender. Peel beets once cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
Wash rhubarb and slice very thinly on a diagonal. Sprinkle with sugar and toss to coat. Wash kumquats and slice into thin rounds, removing seeds as necessary. Slice onions into thin ribbons and soak in ice water for 10 - 15 minutes to remove bitterness. Mix beets, rhubarb, kumquats and onions together in a large bowl.
Combine sherry vinegar, lemon juice, molasses, syrup, and zest in a small bowl. Mix to incorporate. Drizzle olive oil into the bowl in a slow stream while whisking constantly. Continue whisking until desired emulsion is reached. (Alternately, put all ingredients into a jar with tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to create emulsion.) Season with salt & pepper.
Drizzle dressing over beet mixture and toss to coat. Can be served immediately or refrigerated for 1 - 2 days. Just before serving, mix in coarse-chopped parsley & crumbled gorgonzola.
* A note on pomegranate molasses: Don't skip it! Don't substitute! This simple condiment is delicious, complex, and might just become your new favorite ingredient. Look to find it in grocery stores who stock Persian/Mediterranean items.
Continuing on the Persian-esque flavor profile, we had also planned to recreate Mark Bittman's baked falafel, one of Julie's tried & true. But as the theme was unusual pairings, we thought the traditional accompaniment of tahini or hummus would be too mundane an offering. Again, my brain set to work and I wondered how the addition of chamomile, a Mediteranean staple, might play. And again, I used Google to double check that I wasn't the only person who'd tried to mix tea into their hummus. I wasn't.
2 cans chickpeas, drained & liquid preserved 3 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 c tahini (sesame paste) 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil juice from 2 - 3 lemons 2 T dried chamomile 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste smoked paprika for garnish
Steep chamomile in 1c boiling water for 5 minutes. Cover to ensure release of essential oils. Strain chamomile tea and set aside to cool.
In a food processor mix tahini & garlic until well combined. While the blade is running, slowly add chickpeas and process until smooth. Add chamomile water (& reserved chickpea liquid if needed) to keep the mixture from getting too thick. Mix in lemon juice & olive oil in a slow steady stream, ensuring even incorporation and emulsification. Season with salt, mix well, and adjust salt/lemon juice as desired. Spread onto a flat dish and top with a sprinkling of smoked paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with baked falafel (recipe here).
Note: If you must use cumin, as is typical with traditional hummus, use a light hand. The bold flavor will overpower the delicate notes of the chamomile, making its presence virtually unnoticeable.