|Photo by Sergio Salvador www.salvadorphoto.com|
Beets are at their best this month - planted in the cool of spring, they grow to full size in June or July. Roasting them intensifies their sweetness, but it usually takes so long... if you cut them smaller, it's actually pretty quick. Or, if you don't want to heat up the oven, try grilling them! Preserved lemons and harissa can be found at Middle Eastern markets or at The Spanish Table in Santa Fe, but they're super-easy to make (see these earlier posts for harissa and preserved lemon recipes). Local lamb chops are a great pairing with this hearty salad. At the Santa Fe Farmers' Market, Shepherd's Lamb sells organic lamb raised on the range in northern New Mexico. Keller's Farm Store sells lamb raised in Colorado.
4 lamb chops
2 T. harissa
1 C. lentils (preferably French black lentils, but regular green lentils will do)
2 C. water
1 large beet
1/4 C. olive oil
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 green onions, chopped
1 C. chopped cilantro leaves and/or 1 C. purslane
One quarter of a preserved lemon
Salt and pepper
Rub lamb chops with about 1 T. harissa, about half an hour before you are ready to cook them. Bring lentils and water to a boil in a medium saucepan, simmer about 20 minutes or until tender, then drain well.
Chop the beets into cubes, about 1/2 inch, and toss them with a little olive oil and salt. To grill, cook them in a grill pan over medium to high heat until tender. Otherwise, preheat oven to 400°F, spread the beets in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast about 20 minutes.
Grill the chops (or just fry them in a skillet) over medium heat, turning frequently to keep the spices from burning, until they reach an internal temperature of 145° (medium rare) to 170°F (well done). If the chops are thick enough to stand on edge, cook on each side.
Whisk remaining olive oil with lemon juice, remaining harissa, green onions and cilantro in a medium bowl, reserving a few cilantro leaves for garnish. If you'd like to try the purslane, you can either rub the whole plant with oil and set it on the grill for a few minutes until it wilts, or just leave it raw. Chop it coarsely or snip it into the bowl with kitchen scissors. Chop the preserved lemon coarsely, and toss with beets and lentils in the bowl with the dressing. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Place each chop atop a mound of salad and garnish with cilantro leaves. Serves 4.