Friday, January 18, 2013

Beet Red

My new-to-me car is beet red.

We hadn't planned to buy a new car in January, but fate? (bad) luck? something beyond my control forced our hand.

On December 27, during a routine drive to the next town for groceries, I totaled my car.

The day was gray, snowy, and blowy. As I set out, I briefly thought about how many times I had driven on roads made much worse by icy weather conditions. However as a nod to safety, I did reduce my speed (and was passed by 2 cars) and put my phone on the seat beside. About halfway through the drive, I met a vehicle that was driving down the center of the uncleared road. I pulled over to make room, and my passenger-side wheels dropped off the concrete highway onto the soft shoulder. This jolted me, and as soon as the car passed, I attempted to pull back onto the highway. In my haste, I over-corrected. My tires hit ice and sent me spinning in circles across the road into the opposite ditch.

My tracks in the snow tell us that I was sideways as I started down the very steep embankment and hit the first barbwire fence. That impact straightened my car to head nose down as I vaulted over an abandoned railroad right-of-way and through another woven wire fence. The combination of slippery, fresh, wet snow and my speed continued to propel me down another precipitous slope into a grove of trees on the banks of a narrow creek. The harrowing ride ended with my car buried about 2 car-lengths back into the broken shrubbery of the trees.

I was scared, shaken up, a little bruised by my seat belt, but fine. I totaled my car and wasn't harmed.

It happened so quickly. It almost didn't seem real as I unfastened my seat belt and sorted through the pile of mail and contents of my handbag that had ended up on the passenger seat floor to find my phone. Calls were made to 911 and my husband, assuring both that I was fine, but the car was not. I didn't cry until my husband arrived. Reports were filed. The car was moved and secured. We went on our way.

I am lucky. Fortunate. Blessed by a guardian angel. The accident could have been so much worse. There is no reason at all why my narrow-wheelbase, small SUV didn't roll as I first started the descent into that ditch.

I am taking it all as a sign. A sign to be more careful. A sign to be more aware. A sign to appreciate what I have. A sign to love more. A sign to do and be good. A sign to take care of myself and those I care about. And, of course, as a food blogger, sign to eat more things that I enjoy.

Winter salads might seem bland with unseasonal greens and tomatoes, but they don't have to be. Roasted Beet and Avocado Salad is a perfect way to get some beet red into your January (if you don't happen to buy a new car in that shade). The onion and mustard dressing provides just the right tangy balance to the earthy beets and creamy avocado.  This salad is hearty enough to stand on its own as a main dish lunch or light dinner, and would be a great side with grilled chicken or fish.

(adapted from Food and Wine)

4 medium beets, scrubbed
olive oil
1/2 cup water
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
2 avocados, sliced

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a small baking dish, rub the beets with olive oil.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the water.
Cover lightly with foil and roast for 2 to 2.5 hours, or until tender.
Allow to cool, then peel the beets and cut into 1/4-inch pieces.
Transfer to large bowl. 
Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the chopped onion with red wine vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and honey.
Season with salt and pepper and blend until smooth.
With the blender running, stream in the vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
(Salad can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated.)
Add the avocado to the roasted beets. 
Pour the mustard and onion dressing over and toss gently to combine.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Serves 6)

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