Saturday, March 28, 2009


I have a new best friend and her name is Dusty.

Dusty and I have been getting along splendidly during the past week and a half while I've been house-sitting for Susan and looking after her daughter. A few times a week we go on runs, always interspersed with short stops if Dusty find something particularly luscious to sniff or needs to, shall we say, mark her territory.

Otherwise, I try to make sure that we get in two walks a day.

At the beginning, I always had her on a leash, my head filled with visions of screeching tires and honking cars. I quickly noticed that Dusty had a habit of going off around town on her own, and found out that the leash was, in fact, a new thing for her. Dusty has incredibly good common sense, and is quite at ease in town, weaving in and out of traffic and looking both ways before crossing the street (I swear, I have seen her do it!).

Do I still get uneasy about it? Absolutely.

But if she was on a leash all of the time, I'd never have the chance to be taken on a walk by her. Which is what happens at least once a day.

Dusty will trot ahead of me, maybe 20 feet or so, investigating corners and doorways, periodically looking back at me to make sure I'm following her. If I ever decide to turn down a certain street or turn around to head back home, I just have to wait for her to glance back again, which she does every 45 seconds or so, motion to her with a quick nod, and head in the new direction. She will immediately join me, galloping out front so that she will again be leading the charge.

During the time when I'm working at my desk in my room, she can be found at least half the time on the floor near me, waiting for me to finish so that we can go on another walk.

Dusty always comes to the market with us, though she's probably the only dog there not on a leash. Like I said, she's quite the city dog, and people seem to know her well, and not mind too much if she slips back behind the stalls to try and find a scrap of something or other.

Myself, I've been spending my market time waiting patiently in line for my current addiction: endives.

I've seared them and topped them with an olive-oil fried egg for a light lunch on a cold and rainy day (of which there have been quite a lot this past week). But my current favorite way is sliced and tossed in a salad with roasted beets.

Did you know that until recently, you could never find raw beets at the markets here? Everyone always bought them pre-roasted to save themselves the trouble of roasting at home.

I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the roasted beet that Baptiste slipped into my bag last week. He suggested cubing it and tossing it with a simple vinaigrette, and while that sounded lovely, I took it one step further by combining it with fresh apples, cheese and nuts...oh, and one of his gorgeous endives.

This salad is ideally suited to variations. In the past three days I've had it in as many different ways: once with beets, pears and comté, another day with beet, endive and apple, and the third day using the recipe below. Note that this is a rough outline, and I encourage you to play with proportions and ingredients.

Beet and Endive Salad

1 medium to large endive
1 1/2-inch thick slice of peeled, roasted beet*
1 medium apple (I've been using Jonagold or Cox's Orange Pippin)
1 1/2-inch thick hunk of parmesan (I'd guess around 1 oz)
Handful of pumpkin seeds
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
3 tsp. good olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Remove any yellowing leaves from your endive and slice the very end of the stem off. Thinly slice the endive horizontally into slices about 1/4 inch thick.

Cube the beet and parmesan into bite-size pieces (about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch).

Peel, core and cube the apple into bite-size pieces.

Combine the endive, beet, parmesan, apple and pumpkin seeds in a bowl and toss to mix. Add the sherry vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and toss again to thoroughly combine. Don't worry if your salad starts to get a little pink--which it will, thanks to the beet--just enjoy eating pink food!

Enjoy with some good bread and maybe a glass of dry white wine like a Sancerre or Pinot Blanc.

Serves 1

*If you need to roast the beet yourself, do as follows:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Cut off your beet tops, leaving about 1/2 an inch of the stem still attached to the beet root, and reserve (they're fabulous sautéed in just a bit of olive oil). Scrub the beets and place them in a baking pan. Add enough water to come up the sides of the pan 1/4 inch. Cover the pan tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and roast until the beets are easily pierced through with a knife. This can take anywhere from 40 minutes and beyond, depending on the size of your beets. Once cooled, use your thumb to nudge off the beet skin and discard.
Oh, and wear an apron! Beet juice can stain your hands and your cutting board, but don't let it stain your shirt!!

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