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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 that 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.

Cocktail grapefruit cut open
These Cocktail grapefruit are precious and delicious.

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.

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.

Roasted beets are skinned and ready
to add to the salad.
Grapefruit, roasted beet and avocado chopped salad with vanilla vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings


Vanilla vinaigrette (recipe below)
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


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.

The 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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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