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Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day is a Perfect Time to Make Beet Salad & Potato Salad

The summer season of travel, picnics, and barbecues traditionally begins on Memorial Day. Given the high price of gas, there may be less travel and more eating close to home this year. With good weather comes spontaneity. The kids are home or friends stop by, nothing is easier than turning on the barbecue and grilling some hamburgers, sausages, chicken, or a nice steak. Pull together a couple of easy-to-make salads and the meal is complete.

I've already talked about egg salad with bacon and shrimp, carrot salad, spinach salad, and arugula salad. I want to add to those favorites two more: beet salad and potato salad.

Roasted Beet Salad
Serves 4
Time 1 hour

The beets my mom served when I was a kid were either boiled or canned. For some reason she never roasted beets. That's such a simple way to prepare them. They steam inside their skins. Because they take very little effort to prepare, they are a great addition to a meal when you feel pressed for time.

1 bunch of large beets
Olive oil

Cut off the leaves and stems, reserving them to use later (a quick side note: after you wash them, if you chop up the leaves and stems, sauté them with olive oil, garlic and shallots; they'll caramelize and you can serve them as a side dish or tossed with pasta; they're delicious). Thoroughly wash the beets to get rid of any grit. Do not remove the skin or cut off the root. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking pan. Place the beets in the pan, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Turn the beets every 20 minutes so they cook evenly. Use a wooden skewer to test if they're done.

Let cool, then peel off the skins, cut off the root and the top part. Serve them up the way you like--julienne, rounds, or roughly cut--put them in a bowl and dress with olive oil, reduced balsamic vinegar, sea salt and black pepper.

Variations

Use a vinagrette dressing, add feta, sliced scallions, and chopped Italian parsley.

Top with roasted walnuts.

Add roasted carrots.

Add green grapes sliced in half.

Potato Salad
Serves 4-6
Time 45 minutes

As a side dish potato salad goes with any grilled meat or fish, perfect for a dinner party or a picnic.

2 pounds potatoes (Yukon Gold or King Edward), washed
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons grated carrots
1 tablespoon corn kernels
1 scallion, end trimmed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably Best Foods/Hellman's)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Put the potatoes in a pot, fill with water to cover, add the Kosher salt, cover with a lid or piece of aluminum foil, and boil on high heat for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked but still firm. Remove the pot from the heat, pour off the hot water, refill the pot with cold water and let the potatoes cool.

Sauté the corn with a little olive oil for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool. In a large bowl, mix together the corn, carrots, scallion, and parsley. Peel the skin off the potatoes--save the skin for a breakfast sauté with eggs--chop the potatoes into dime-sized pieces, and add to the bowl. Toss all the ingredients together and season with sea salt and pepper. Stir in the mayonnaise and mix well. Taste and adjust the flavors with more mayonnaise, salt, and pepper.

Variations

Use cilantro instead of Italian parsley.

Add celery or capers.

Add crispy bacon.

Add grilled shrimp.

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