Blistered Beets with Delicata Squash and Spring Greens / by Alexa Arnold

People have been writing about their experiences with food for a long time, and I often find myself questioning what it is about what I have to say that's unique and different and worth sharing. I've asked these questions of myself and talk about this topic often, and keep coming back to the same thought: we all eat, and finding ways to connect with one another about the pleasures involved with growing, preparing and consuming what we eat might be a tiny way to help build a more thoughtful, equitable food system. So sharing thoughts and recipes that I'm inspired by is my way of seeking connections and celebrating food as a form of artistry, a source of pleasure and a way of preserving culture, traditions and history. 

Cooking has long been a creative outlet for me, and walking through a farmers market brings me endless inspiration. Imperfectly shaped radishes sharing a bin with bright purple carrots, still covered in dirt; a box of tiny greens sprawled out on a wooden table; bright blue and brown farm eggs neatly arranged in a flimsy carton. So many different lines and textures and shapes, and the color palate of early spring is among my favorites. There's something so simple and comforting about the way that vegetables look when they're piled into a basket at market that truly makes my heart sing, and I tried to channel that feeling in the kitchen this afternoon.

Inspired by the last traces of winter and the first signs of spring, this salad is hearty yet light, comforting while still a little adventurous. The arugula and watercress have a spicy bite that's balanced by the sweetness of the beets, and the radish microgreens have a way of turning up the refreshing spring flavor. Top it off with some crumbly feta and a balsamic glaze; this salad is an airy celebration of the changing seasons. 

Blistered Beets with Delicata Squash and Spring Greens

Serves Two.

Ingredients:
> 8 small-medium sized beets, roasted, peeled and cubed
> 2 cups delicata squash, sliced thinly and roasted
> 5 ounces arugula
> 2 ounces watercress
> A handful of microgreens
> 1 ounce feta
> 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
> 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
> 1 teaspoon sugar
> 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preparation:
1. Preheat the over to 400 degrees. With the skin still on, rub the beets in a little olive oil, place them in a roasting pan and sprinkle with some flaky salt. Cover the pan with foil and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on their size, or until they're very tender. 
2. Half the squash longways and scoop out the insides with a spoon. Thinly slice the squash, toss in a little olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Add them to the oven and roast for 20 minutes, or until soft and crispy on the edges. 
3. Boil 2 cups of water in a small pot and add the quinoa. Cook until the grains have absorbed all of the water and they're light and fluffy, adding more water as needed.
4. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a small sauce pan and bring to a boil until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce to low heat and simmer until thickened and syrupy, about 10 minutes.
5. Once cooked, remove the squash and beets from the oven and let them cool. Once they're cool enough to touch, rub the skin off of the beets, using a parring knife for the tough spots. Slice them into bite sized pieces. 
6. Combine the greens, quinoa, beets, squash and feta in a large serving bowl. Toss together and serve with a drizzle of balsamic glaze. 


PS: If you were a little overzealous with the amount of beets you roasted like I was, give them a quick pickle and they'll keep in your fridge for weeks! I referenced smitten kitchen's slaw pickle recipe as a base, and added some crushed red pepper for a little spicy kick. Pickling is one of my favorite things to do with crunchy spring vegetables, so I'll be sharing more of my favorite recipes soon!