Beets make for a satisfying salad

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Since I now have a job with normal hours, it’s a lot easier to plan meals ahead of time.

It wasn’t until I started cooking with beets about a year ago that I really started to enjoy them. I usually use them in either salads or cook them in my dutch oven with a roast.

This salad is all about texture. It has hearty beets, a nutty crunch, creamy goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar that really sets off the flavor. It’s one of the Barefoot Contessa’s recipes. Her version called for almonds and arugula, but I only had pistachios and romaine lettuce, so I went with it. Arugula probably would have been better, but it was good just the same.

This is a great meal on a warmer day. As we head into summer, I’ll be looking for more great salads to make at home.

Ingredients
3 medium-size beets, tops removed and peeled
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoons Dijon mustard, such as Grey Poupon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces baby arugula or romaine
1/4 cup raw pistachios
4 ounces soft goat cheese crumbled

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wrap the beets individually in aluminum foil and place them on a sheet pan. Roast them for 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on their size, until a small sharp knife inserted in the middle indicates that they are tender. Unwrap each beet and set aside for 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Peel the beets with a small, sharp knife over a piece of parchment paper to prevent staining your cutting board.

Meanwhile, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and set aside. While the beets are still warm, cut each one in half and then each half into 4 to 6 wedges and place them in a large mixing bowl. As you’re cutting the beets, toss them with half of the vinaigrette (warm beets absorb more vinaigrette), 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Taste for seasonings.

Place the arugula in a separate bowl and toss it with enough vinaigrette to moisten. Put the arugula on a serving platter and then arrange the beets, almonds, and goat cheese on top. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette, if desired, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Start your week with simple, flavorful salmon

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Most weeknights I turn to easy-to-make meals because, by the time I get home, I’m already hungry and don’t want to wait for something more elaborate.

On a recent trip to Raley’s, I picked up a copy of the store’s free “something extra” magazine for fall 2013. It contains a bunch of recipes, one of which was Maple Balsamic Baked Salmon.

While the original recipe used parchment bags, I just made my own. To do so, take a large piece of parchment paper and fold the longer sides toward the middle. Fold the other ends about an inch toward the center, so the flaps are on top. Fold each flap over once more.

I first thought the recipe might be too sweet, but it was just right. I added pieces of fresh basil on top, which nicely complemented the flavor of the fish. The best part is that the whole thing took less than 20 minutes. I’ll definitely be making this again.

Ingredients
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 cloves roasted garlic, minced
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper

Season salmon with salt and pepper to taste. Place skin side down in parchment bag and place on a baking sheet. Stir together vinegar, syrup and garlic and pour over salmon in bag. Fold over to enclose. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Top with snipped fresh basil.