I always think it’s wise to carry a small patch and repair kit when you’re out bike riding. It comes in very handy if your bike gets a flat tire. Quinoa (say it with me: KEEN-wah) is the food equivalent, an amazing little grain that rebuilds the body when it needs repair, like after a workout. It can do that because it contains all of the essential amino acids (those we must get from dietary sources), allowing the body to build protein. It’s also full of magnesium, which is great for relaxing muscles and preventing cramps.
One of my favorite gatherings is the Food as Medicine conference, which brings together hundreds of nutritionally minded physicians, nurses, and other wellness professionals. I cook for the attendees, and while they often kindly tell me how much they learn from me, it definitely goes both ways. In fact, this recipe was inspired by Dr. Joel Evans, who is attracted to nutrition from both a scientific and an aesthetic viewpoint and loves to speak about the colors of food having a tangible relation to their healing qualities. There is a school of thought—and increasing scientific evidence—that the more vibrant the color, the more nutrition there is to be found in a food. As an ode to Joel, I set out to create the most colorful salad I could, using purple beets, orange carrots, and fresh mint. If I’d had a vegetable crisper instead of a box of crayons as a kid, this salad would have been the result. You can substitute lemon or lime juice for the orange juice.
You can learn a lot sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck. That’s where my buddy Chris, from Zuckerman’s Farm, used to sit me down and teach me about all things asparagus. Chris worked hard—awfully hard—as a farmer. He was true salt of the earth, and as generous as they come. Normally, there’s an invisible line: farmers behind their wares and buyers on the other side, but Chris always insisted I “step into his parlor.” Both of us were always so excited when the first asparagus of the season showed up. He’d put aside a bunch for me, and then we’d both hop up on that tailgate and talk—about recipes, how amazingly nutritious asparagus is, and, a lot of the time, about life and family. Chris passed away not long ago, and I felt the best way I could honor him was to create a recipe featuring his favorite veggie. I think he would have enjoyed this, and I hope you will too.
This beautiful salad represents a harmonic convergence of tastes. The spiciness of some of the greens in a spring mix is balanced by the avocado’s creamy, healthy fat, while the sweetness of the roasted beets cuts the acidic nature of the citrus dressing.If the beets vary in size, wrap them accordingly so you can remove the package of smaller ones when tender, leaving the larger ones in the oven until they are tender.