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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 Oct. 2

Plan to make the most of the mild weather in your garden.

* October is the best month to plant trees and shrubs.

* October also is the best time to plant perennials in our area. Add a little well-aged compost and bone meal to planting holes or beds, but hold off on other fertilizers until spring. Keep the transplants well-watered (but not wet) for the first month as they become settled.

* Now is the time to plant seeds for many flowers directly into the garden, including cornflower, nasturtium, nigella, poppy, portulaca, sweet pea and stock.

* Plant seeds for radishes, bok choy, mustard, spinach and peas.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Set out cool-weather bedding plants, including calendula, pansy, snapdragon, primrose and viola.

* Reseed and feed the lawn. Work on bare spots.

* Dig up corms and tubers of gladioluses, dahlias and tuberous begonias after the foliage dies. Clean and store in a cool, dry place.

* Treat azaleas, gardenias and camellias with chelated iron if leaves are yellowing between the veins.

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