Inspiration can leap out at you from anywhere. Literally, anywhere. And in any form. Sometimes I spot something curious and it motivates me to write a children's stories. Other times I see items and envision how I can transform them into something useful. Then, there is of course, the spying of food that inspires me. And that's how it went down this past week while shopping in our local Italian specialty market, where I happened upon the most stunning lettuces. I had never before seen pink lettuce. Or white lettuce with magenta flecks.
I was intrigued. I was compelled. I just had to have them. In my basket they went. I figured I would make a big lunch salad for myself. But as I waited, patiently, on the line of inefficiency, (remember, this is the same Italian market where we picked up the rack of pork the week before. Slow and slower is their mantra.) I spotted burrata. The lettuces seemed delicate and a good potential partner for burrata. A few dishes down in the same case I eyed imported figs. My dad simply adores figs, so those were a must buy whether for the salad or just for him to eat. But I pondered this combo more as I noticed a nearby plate of roasted beets. And there is was, laid out before me, one piece of this salad puzzle fitting together with every step I took. Inspiration leaped out in front of me with an exact plan for how I would showcase these lettuces. Lettuces that seemed more like flowers than vegetables. This would be a dainty palette blend of soft pinks and magentas.
Baby lettuces (if you can find these pink hued ones, great. If not, go with softer ones like Butter lettuce)
3-4 beets, roasted
2 pints of fresh figs, halved
1 stalk of celery, sliced
1 Burrata cheese
The Big 3 (olive oil, salt, pepper)
2 t Champagne vinegar
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 t lemon zest
1 small garlic clove
1.5 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/2 c olive oil
Start with the beets because they will take the longest. You can even do this part the morning of or the day before. Cut off the long leaves and scrub the beets. Place them in tin foil on a baking sheet, then season with the Big 3. Close up the tin foil to create a package. Roast at 375 for 1-1.5 hrs, depending on the size of the beets. They should be fork tender.
While those are roasting, you can prepare your salad platter. With such strong and gorgeous colors, it would be a shame to mix them all together. These need to stand on the own to showcase their beauty. Color blocking was the way to go. Arrange how you like but here is how I played it. I let the shape of the leaves help dictate the form, which naturally mimicked flowers.
Since burrata is an extremely fresh cheese, it's best to place this in a separate small bowl, then nestle it in between the lettuces. Once your guests cut into it, the creamy center will gush all over.
Make the dressing in a mini blender by placing the figs, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice and zest and buzz together. Add salt, pepper and oil for the final buzz. Set aside until ready to dress the salad.
After the beets are done, let them cool so you can peel their outer skin off and slice them. Arrange in a fan like fashion, and then tuck them into the salad, around the bowl of burrata. Then place the figs around.
Once you have the salad arranged as you like, pour the dressing over top. Then drizzle with an aged balsamic.
Of course, you could just cut up all the lettuce, beets and figs and toss them all together. I think it would be lovely that way too. I just felt like having each color burst off the plate, spring-ing to life with joy.
With all the different hues, it was pink and pretty...and good. Pretty good.