Something Different
Week of: February 7, 2011
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For Your Valentine, a Super Salad

By Dana Jacobi
for the American Institute for Cancer Research

Valentine’s Day treats frequently call for strawberries or raspberries. This year, rather than a sweet, I have created an elegant, savory dish instead. It is a decorative salad combining baby spinach and endive, graced with slim French green beans and drizzled with a rich, red dressing.

If you are prejudiced against beets, think again…this salad, its mustard-sharp dressing a perfect complement to the greens, proves how delicious naturally sweet, nutrition-packed beets can be. Perfect to serve your Valentine, too, because the pigments that give beets their deep, intense color are powerhouse antioxidants. What better way is there to say “I care” than by nurturing the health of the one you care for most?

Even enthusiasts may not enjoy beets as often as they would like because preparing them at home takes time and is messy. For those who are willing, boiling or baking takes an hour or two (depending on the size of your beets). Baking, which brings out their sweetness even more, is usually my choice. Peeling them with plastic sandwich bags slipped over your hands eliminates staining your fingers.

Europeans eat beets regularly because markets there offer peeled, cooked beets vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag that taste quite good. Finally, an increasing number of U.S. stores now carry them, too, in the produce department.

If you want to make this salad and can find only canned beets, they will work. In fact, home-cooked beets, which are fabulous in the salad, are not good for the dressing. Containing less moisture than commercially cooked beets, they do not purée smoothly, making the dressing grainy and too thick.

Leftover dressing lets you make another super salad: simply mix it with shredded raw beets and let marinate for 30 minutes.


Spinach Salad with Creamy Beet Dressing

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped, drained canned beets, or vacuum-packed cooked beets (see note)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp. fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 ounces French green beans
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 2 medium endives, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices, about 1 cup
  • 2 tablespoons sweet onion, cut in very thin crescents
  • 1 small roasted or cooked beet

For dressing, place beets, mustard, vinegar and 2 tablespoons of broth in blender and whirl until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of blender as needed. With the motor running, pour in remaining broth, then oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 3/4 cup thick dressing. Dressing can be made ahead and refrigerated, tightly covered, for 24 hours. If necessary, before using, thin chilled dressing with additional broth and adjust the seasoning.

Cook green beans in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and plunge immediately into bowl of cold water. When beans are cool, drain well and set aside.

In mixing bowl, combine spinach and endive, then divide between 2 salad plates or wide, shallow bowls. Sprinkle onions over greens, then add green beans.

Cut beet crosswise into thin slices. Cut each slice into matchsticks and sprinkle over salad. Drizzle on 3 tablespoons of the dressing. Serve immediately.

Note: When buying beets in a can or jar, be sure they are not pickled.

Makes 2 servings.

Per serving: 86 calories, 4 g total fat (< 1 g saturated fat), 11 g carbohydrate,
3 g protein, 4 g dietary fiber, 119 mg sodium.

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

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