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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

Ingredients:

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

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.

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 Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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