Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Beetroot and purslane salad with orange dressing

Beetroot and purslane salad with orange dressing

Unfortunately at this time of the year it is quite difficult to find fresh beetroots to cook from scratch.
In fact they are harvested between the end of summer and the beginning of autumn and then kept for the rest of the year (somehow like potatoes). Yesterday for example I found some fresh beets at the supermarket, but they do not have the greens on and are not as juicy as the fresh ones.
And, in any case, if you are craving beetroots when the season is over, you can always use the pre-cooked ones (sold in vacuum-sealed packages): not the same taste and versatility of the fresh ones, but still palatable.

I can't deny that I love beetroots really much; in fact at the moment it is probably one of the vegetables with more recipes on the blog  (check this link for viewing them).

But besides the taste beetroots are also good for our health and are universally considered a sort of super-food. I just mention some of their benefits, but more detailed information can be easily found on the web.
Their peculiar purple color comes from the betacyanin pigment, a powerful agent, thought to suppress the development of some types of cancer.
They are high in immune-boosting vitamin C, fiber, and essential minerals like potassium (important for healthy nerve and muscle function) and manganese (which is good for bones, liver, kidneys, and pancreas).
Beets also contain the B vitamin folate, which helps reduce the risk of birth defects.
Also they have long been used for medicinal purposes, primarily for disorders of the liver as they help to stimulate the liver's detoxification processes.
Beet juice may help to lower blood pressure very quickly.
They are also known to help fight inflammation, protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors, enhance performance, and likely help prevent numerous chronic disease.

In conclusion, there are many reasons to include beets in our daily diet. And they are not even expensive: really good value for money!

Beetroot and purslane salad with orange dressing

If you like beets as much as I do this recipe should be in  your repertoire.
It's is a very simple salad, made with few ingredients, all perfectly matching together; the dressing in particular, where orange is the main character, gives a strong personality to the dish and enhances the sweet flavor of beetroots.  
The recipe is not mine though; it comes from a cookbook I particularly love, that is "When Suzanne cooks" by Suzanne Husseini, from which  I like to take inspiration when I want to make a Middle Eastern recipe. And in fact this recipe calls for purslane, an ingredient that is grown and widely available all across the Middle East (in Dubai I used to buy it at the Farmers Market on the Terrace but it is sold in all supermarket in the greens and herbs section),  while in Italy - unfortunately - can be found only as a spontaneous herb (it might be a good excuse to have a walk in the countryside).
Purslane (whose scientific name is Portulaca oleracea) is delicious on its own and goes well in many salads but if you are not able to find it you can replace it with another herb whit a "fatty" leaf and a mild, delicate taste.
In particular I find that lamb's lettuce (also known as corn salad, lamb's tongue, fetticus, field salad, mâche, feldsalat, nut lettuce, rapunzel) is a very good substitute for purslane.

In Suzanne's book this salad is featured among mezze (the Middle Eastern set of appetizers) but it works well also as a main course in a light lunch, served with good bread, or as a side dish.

Beetroot and purslane salad with orange dressing

Beetroot and purslane salad with orange dressing
adapted from "When Suzanne cooks" by Suzanne Husseini
serves 4
3 medium beetroot
2 tbsp red vinegar
1/2 garlic clove, crushed
1/2  tbs sugar
sea salt
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1/2 a small orange
2 handful of purslane leaves, washed
orange peel, finely sliced to garnish
NOTE If you are not able to find purslane you can use  lamb's lettuce (also called corn salad, lamb's tongue, fetticus, field salad, mâche, feldsalat, nut lettuce, rapunzel)

Preheat the oven to 200°C. 
Trim the beetroots stalks. Wash well the beetroot then wrap them individually in aluminum foil and bake for about 1 hour or until tender when pierced with a skewer or a sharp knife(baking time strongly depends on beetroot size and variety). When ready remove from the oven and let cool, then unwrap and peel with a small knife (gloves are recommended).
Prepare the dressing: place the vinegar, orange juice and zest, crushed garlic, sugar, a small pinch of salt, extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl and whisk until well combined. Set aside.
When ready to serve, slice the beetroot into wedges and place onto a shallow serving plate, scatter on top the purslane leaves and mix gently.
Drizzle the dressing all over the vegetables, garnish whit the chopped orange skin and serve immediately.

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