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Beets brighten early spring meals

Recipe: Roasted beet and citrus salad is healthy comfort food

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Cara Cara oranges and roasted beets combine in a colorful, healthy spring salad. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Beets are good for what ails you.

I got that advice often from my grandmother, who swore by beets as a universal tonic. (Borscht, anyone?)

Beets are packed with vitamins and antioxidants, making them a healthy comfort food. This early spring salad makes the most of their naturally sweet flavor, brought out by roasting.

Wedges of roasted beet are lightly tossed with citrus supremes (sections trimmed of any membrane) and a citrus vinaigrette. For this version, I used Cara Cara oranges, which have a pink hue to their sweet flesh. Red grapefruit or navel oranges work well, too.

The beets and citrus top a bed of baby spinach; baby arugula, lettuce or other greens may be substituted, also.

A word of warning: Beets turn everything pink. That includes your hands, clothes and cutting surfaces. Wear gloves and an apron while handling these vegetables.

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After roasting, the beets should be cooled and peeled.
Easy roasted beets: Wash beets well, scrubbing off any dirt. Trim off tops, leaving about a half inch attached to the beet. (Save the greens; they’re great slow-cooked.) Trim off tap root.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Wrap beets in foil individually or, if small, in pairs. Place wrapped beets on a rimmed cookie sheet and put in oven. Roast for 45 to 60 minutes, or until beets are easily pierced with a skewer or thin blade.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Peel beets; the skins will slip right off.

Another tip: To avoid getting pink beet stains everywhere, hold the beet with a paper towel and rub the skin off with a corner of the paper towel.

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Beets are two vegetables in one: Save the
tops for another recipe.
Roasted beets and citrus salad
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
1 pound beets (about 4)
2 Cara Cara oranges or 1 red grapefruit, cut into sections or supremes
4 cups baby spinach or salad greens

Vinaigrette:
¼ cup orange or grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 dash Tabasco
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Roast beets, as directed above. (This can be done the night before.) After beets are peeled, chill until ready to assemble salad.

Cut beets into wedges. Place beets in bowl with citrus sections or supremes.

Make vinaigrette. In a jar, put all ingredients. Cover jar and shake until blended.

Add vinaigrette to beets and citrus; lightly toss.

Put spinach or greens on salad plates. Top with beet-citrus mixture.

Serve immediately.

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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