Roxette once sang, in a tune of theirs that I’m really not that fond of but which illustrates my point nicely: “Listen to your heart, there’s nothing else that you can do”. On Monday my heart realised I hadn’t really eaten any vegetables all weekend. My heart’s voice was muffled, as it was coming at me through a thick mantle of sodium build-up. Which, you know, whatever: I eat what I like, when I feel like it. And over the weekend, while working at an event in Auckland for about nine hours on Friday and fifteen hours on Saturday, never sitting, lifting huge boxes, et cetera, my body craved twisties and lollies shaped like snakes with real fruit flavour in order to keep going. And funnel cakes with strawberry sauce. And fruit-dense otai. All of which worked. But once returned to my usual slow-moving non-lifting pace, I noticed a leafy green voice whispering “Spinach. You want it.“
I then had this idea that salad dressing made with melted butter instead of oil would taste impressive, and decided to act on it. After all, melted butter and oil are pretty much the same thing structurally. Except melted butter has that salty, nutty, rush-of-blood-to-the-head flavour which can only serve to embiggen a bowl of leaves.
Also able to embiggen leaves are roasted beetroot, croutons, feta, and sweet, round New Zealand grapes. While the Simpsons may have said, nay, conga’d that you don’t win friends with salad, well I at least won myself over with this.
I even swooped in on Tim’s plate and cried “haha! You abandoned this crouton, it’s mine”. To which he replied, “it fell on the floor”. Said crouton was already in my mouth. “Erm…okay. I guess I’ll be fine. Hey, you left this bit of feta, it’s mine!” was my reply. That piece of feta had also fallen on the floor. Was there anything left on his plate that hadn’t fallen on the floor? That wasn’t now being eaten by me? Sadly no. The lesson here is, people generally don’t leave croutons and feta behind, so if they do, be suspicious, or be prepared for some extra germs. Just pretend like you’re eating that yoghurt that’s full of “good bacteria” and you’ll be alright, psychologically anyway.
Roast Beetroot and Spinach Salad with Croutons, Feta, Grapes, and Melted Butter Dressing.
A recipe by me. It’s simpler than my talkative instructions would have you believe.
3 medium beetroot
1 large bunch of spinach
2 large slices of fresh bread from a loaf, or three bits of regular bread from a packet
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup green grapes (the round, beautiful NZ ones if possible)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon wasabi
Set your oven to 180 C. Trim the tops and tails off the beetroots, wrap each firmly in tinfoil, and roast on an oven tray for about an hour to an hour and a half – or until a cake tester or skewer will plunge into them unyieldingly. Once they’re done, remove them from the oven and allow to cool slightly. While the beetroot is doing that, spread a sheet of tinfoil across an oven tray – the same one as the beetroot were on, perhaps – and roughly slice the bread into 2cm cubes. Place the bread on the tinfoil, sprinkle over the oil, mix with your hands to make sure everything’s good and oily, then place in the oven for about 5 minutes. At this point you can just turn the oven off and let the residual heat continue to toast the croutons.
Tear up your spinach leaves and rinse them if they look gritty. Throw into your serving bowl. Remove the tinfoil from the beetroot and carefully push/rub the skin off – it should come away easily, revealing smooth, shiny beetroot underneath. Do this for all three then chop them roughly and add to the spinach.
Finely chop the garlic cloves. Melt the butter in a pan with the garlic and wasabi, stirring it all together as it melts. It’s fine if the butter bubbles a little or starts to brown, this will add to the flavour. Remove from the heat and squeeze in the juice of the lemon (plus its zest if you’re feeling it) and tip over the spinach and beetroot, stirring well. Finally, roughly slice the feta and add 3/4 of it to the salad, along with the grapes and the croutons. Carefully mix so everything’s dispersed, and top with the remaining feta.
My photos get steadily worse by the way – darkness had fully set in by the time we got round to eating this, and as we creep further into Autumn it’s only going to get darker earlier. Hence why I positioned the good one first to hook you in! Sorry. But a girl’s gotta eat.
Croutons and feta are unsurprisingly exactly the sort of thing you want to find on your fork, but both of them work well with the more austere ingredients. There’s a lot of natural sweetness – from the grapes and the beetroot, and strangely enough the wasabi, and also a lot of delicious nutty flavours from the butter and the beetroot again and even the fresh spinach – reminded me how good fresh spinach actually tastes. Everything works together fantastically. Melted butter as a salad dressing is downright amazing – especially with the mustard-hot wasabi (indeed, use mustard if you don’t have wasabi) and the sweet, sharp lemon stopping it from becoming too throat-cloggingly rich. There’s not even that much there – it was tempting to double the quantities – but this amount neatly coats the salad and lets you know it’s there, without dominating anything else or pooling in the base of the bowl. Although, when I put it like that…
Sunday got off to a non-advantageous start – on the way back from the airport to our place I txt Tim to ask him to come meet me on the streets to help carry my bags home or I might cry from exhaustion. I get a txt from him saying he can’t because our ute has been towed. Oh dear. Seriously, unless you’re rich enough to light your $200 scented candles with $100 notes, don’t go getting your car towed. However things started to look up from there – car achievement unlocked, we squired my in-town-for-the-weekend mum and two of her best friends to brunch and had many laughs and cakes. Went back to our place and had people over for a dual activity day of Drawing Club and the Game of Thrones Board Game. I was still tired and the fresh sting of the towing bill was like lemon juice to a papercut, but nothing like niche activities and plentiful snacks to improve things! There was sangria and cider and pink lemonade and homemade bread rolls and pretzels and mini-donuts (going stale so $3 a dozen! That’s not false economy!) and Polish cookies and chips and onion dip. And friends, dear dear friends.
But no vegetables. Everything else was glorious while it was there, but if I felt like spinach all of a sudden who was I to argue with myself?
It’s impossible to avoid getting pink beetroot stains on the feta, so just go with it. Anyone who tells you they can is a bounder and a cad.
I meant it about the music video suggestions by the way, I’m all ears. Or all face or whatever the internet equivalent of that saying is. Seriously, next time you’re the slightest bit grumpy or uninspired or burdened down by a giant “MEH”, try learning a dance from a music video.
Title via: the always-amazing and inspirational and beautiful but not afraid to get ugly and generally reliably liable to make me drop all pretense of dignity person that is Idina Menzel with her opening song from Wicked: The Wizard and I.
Somehow the whole 90s passed me by without my ever hearing a song from Jan Hellreigel. I knew she existed, her albums were always in those weird catalogues which would get mailed out occasionally and try to rope you into buying CDs monthly for triple the price or something. Discovered her music properly on the 5000 Ways blog the other day, and well, colour me obsessed. Pure Pleasure is pure pleasure.
Lloyd feat Andre 3000, Dedication To My Ex (I Miss That). This has to be the catchiest thing I’ve heard since ever. I don’t know how you describe that kind of stairstep, upwards leaning sound that the chorus has, but I am a sucker for that kind of thing. Regardless of whether I know what it was I’m trying to talk about, this is one snappy tune.
Next time: I really want to try recreating the funnel cakes I had up in Auckland – they seem easy enough, it’s just getting over the fear of hanging out with burning hot oil – but in the meantime I’m going to be hanging out with my friend Kate tomorrow and will likely bake something dreamy to take with…with the sneaky ultierior motive of getting to photograph it for the blog at her sweet house. I do want to hang out with you just as you are though Kate, baking or not!