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This chopped salad features a little treasure

Recipe: Grapefruit, roasted beet and avocado chopped salad with vanilla vinaigrette

Salad plate with grapefruit beets and feta
This chopped salad features Cocktail grapefruit, roasted
beets, avocado and feta cheese. Toss with a
vanilla vinaigrette. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

We have a little grapefruit tree. It's the tree that's small, not the fruit.

Barely 5 feet tall, this dwarf citrus carries emotional ties, too. It came from Capital Nursery's going-out-of-business sale; specifically, the Capital Nursery on Freeport Boulevard that closed in 2012. The tree is a constant reminder of that now-long-gone landmark.

The variety -- Cocktail -- is outstanding in flavor: sweet and tangy with that distinctive grapefruit scent. And very, very seedy.
Cocktail is not a true grapefruit, but a cross between a pummelo and a mandarin. Some growers refer to it as a "Mandelo."
This hybrid was developed by citrus researchers in Riverside and, according to some sources, was never intended for commercial release due to too many seeds. Home gardeners discovered Cocktail's great flavor and have helped this unusual variety persist.

I treat every Cocktail I get from my little tree as a treasure -- mostly because the dwarf tree bears only a few full-size fruit at a time. This winter's crop -- four! -- each weighed more than 20 ounces. And each grapefruit starred in its own dish -- including this salad.
Cocktail grapefruit cut open
The Cocktail grapefruit are precious and delicious.
Because of the many seeds, segments of Cocktail tend to end up chopped after peeling. That makes them ideal for a chopped salad, combined with roasted beets, avocado and iceberg lettuce, dressed with a vanilla vinaigrette and topped by feta cheese.

Unless you want the whole salad to turn pink while tossing, add the beets last.

Grapefruit, roasted beet and avocado chopped salad with vanilla vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
Vanilla vinaigrette (recipe below)
""
Roasted beets are skinned and ready
to add to the salad.
 
2 large beets, roasted, peeled and chopped
1 grapefruit, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 large avocado, seeded and chopped
2 cups iceberg lettuce, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, chopped or crumbled

Instructions:

In a small bowl, combine chopped beets with 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette. Set aside.

In a large salad bowl, combine grapefruit, avocado, lettuce and celery. Add remaining vinaigrette and toss gently.
""
Grapefruit segments, seeded and chopped
To serve, divide grapefruit-lettuce mixture into bowls or onto plates. Top with beets and feta cheese. Serve.

Vanilla vinaigrette:
1/4 cup grapefruit or orange juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 dash Tabasco
Salt and pepper to taste

In a jar, combine all ingredients. Cover and shake. Use immediately or store covered in refrigerator.

To roast beets: Trim tops to 1-inch and snip off long root. Wrap beets individually in foil and roast at 350 degrees F. until easily pieced with a thin knife, about 45 to 60 minutes depending on size. After roasting, beets can be easily peeled.

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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