Sometimes I just pull everything out of my Farm-to-Table box and stare at it. I imagine the journey each carrot, each tender green, the parsnips, the potatoes, the vacuum-packed shrimp, the yogurt, all of it has taken to end up on my counter. It’s really incredible when you think about it, something I often take for granted. It’s amazing to have such easy and simple access to such good food.

I wanted to do something this week in line with my new attitude of eating simply. I wanted to include some local and seasonal vegetables and dress them minimally, leaving their natural flavor and nutritional value intact. What I came up with, after a few tries, was really a simple basis for a variety of great salad. In the last few days I’ve made this salad a few different ways, but I give to you here my best variation and you can take it from there.

It’s base is thinly sliced beets, carrots, greens and onions – I made it with both red and white onions and I tended to like the stronger flavor of the red, though either will do. It’s dressed with salt and pepper, vinegar and olive oil. The only other seasonings I tried where cumin seeds, fennel seeds and finally settled on just a dash of ground cumin. I wanted something that was reminiscent of the pickled veggies that grace the counters of taco trucks and Mexican food stands, but retained a fresher, crunchier texture and a brighter flavor.

After making a couple batches I chanced upon a wonderful addition. Something that not only complemented the carrots, but brought the subtle flavor of the beets to a bright and distinct taste. I used chopped up pieces of fresh mandarins, though oranges, tangerines or other citrus would work just as well.

What I ended up with was a delightfully bright and tasty salad made from winter fare in spring colors. Although my final plating didn’t have any green cabbage, I’m including it in the recipe because its addition gives a nice body and crunch to the salad, even after it sits in the vinegar overnight or for a day or so. This green addition could easily be substituted with other greens, like a chiffonade of kale or chard or a handful of chopped endive. The vinegar will slightly cook and wilt the greens and remove their more bitter qualities.

2 baby beets, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 green cabbage, julienned
3 carrots, peeled, and thinly sliced on the bias
1/4 large red onion, julienned
2 mandarins, sliced into small chunks, de-seeded
3 T cilantro, roughly chopped
1 t ground cumin
1/4 red wine vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Start by thinly slicing the red onion. Take the sliced onion and place it in a bowl of ice water while you prep the rest. This will remove some of the onions bite and soften its flavor so it won’t overpower the others. When your peeling and slicing the beets rub a little olive oil on your fingers, this will keep them from becoming stained with the beet juice. Place the beets in a medium bowl and sprinkle with vinegar. Let sit for 10-20 minutes. Add carrots, onion cabbage and season with salt, pepper and cumin. Prior to serving mix in cilantro and mandarins. Plate and sprinkle with olive oil to serve.

That’s it, a simple and delicious salad just bursting with nutritious vegetables and fruit. Enjoy.