wilted beet salad

One summer, when I was much younger, my family stayed on a farm way out in the country for a couple of months. We had been living in an expansive trailer park that was more like a factory farm of metal boxes lined up on cement. Going from that broiler oven to being surrounded by luxurious fields, a huge yard filled with trees and secret places to hide away in and visit with fairies and other imaginary friends was nothing short of miraculous. I was enchanted – there were raspberry bushes and strawberry patches and mulberry trees, swings and chickens and a *gigantic* woodpile that was reborn into a magnificent fortress that my brothers and I defended form the wrath of the two angry geese who patrolled the back yard.

One day I remember Jan (for that is the woman of the place’s name) telling me that men don’t often notice cobwebs behind doors, but most women do and that’s why you must be careful to always dust behind the doors. We were preparing for a Tea that she was hosting at the farm and she and my mother were busy cleaning and cooking and getting things ready for the afternoon. I was so excited, being under the age of ten and longing desperately for the prestige and privilege of a grown up woman, I had been included in the Tea. Mom and Jan were always willing to involve me in their womanly activities, letting me sit up with them at night and talk about the deep things in life over tea while the lightning bugs filled the fields like fallen stars and crickets serenaded us from under the porch windows. I felt grown up in all the ways that mattered to me at the time and it satisfied me tremendously.

I don’t really remember how the Tea that we were preparing for came off, my young mind fixed on one dish in particular that was being mixed together in the big, old kitchen and everything else remains a happy blur.  This was the first time I had a Wilted Salad. I haunted the kitchen even then, feeling that room contained all the important business of the house. Jan mixed together a warm salad of greens, bacon, vinegar and sweetening and it tasted like heaven to me.

Over the years we have repeated her recipe, adjusting it and adapting it to different greens and not always saving it for special occasions! This is an excellent side dish to throw together for any summer dinner. It tastes like that sweet and tart time in life when I was so young and yearning to be so much older.

Wilted Spinach and Beet Salad

3 red beets (with or without their greens)

1 lb  raw spinach

1/4- 1/2 lb bacon (depending on how much you like)

1 medium onion, sliced

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1-2 tablespoons of honey, brown sugar or maple syrup

Firstly, cook the beets and their greens if you have decided to use them. I like to boil mine in their jackets. Once they are cooked, slip them out of their coats and chop them into bite-sized pieces. If you are using the greens (which should be boiled with the beets until tender) chop them up too.

In a *big* skillet, fry up your bacon until it is crisp, drain most of the fat away then add the onions and let them cook until they get slightly clear. Add the vinegar and sweetener and let it all simmer together for several minutes before dumping in your chopped beets and their greens. It’s really starting to smell good now!

Wash your spinach and drain it,  then pile it on top of the dressing in the skillet and cover for about five minutes. The heat will start to wilt your spinach and then you can begin to mix everything together. Turn off the heat and stir until the dressing has completely covered the spinach. The spinach shouldn’t be soggy and cooked, just wilted.

Serve immediately and Enjoy!

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strawberry rhubarb massacre

Hello, my name is Andrea and I habitually burn baked goods.

This is my story.

Once upon a time last week I baked a pie – a strawberry rhubarb pie.  I carefully chopped up my fruit and dumped it in a mixing bowl. I measured in the required amounts of lemon juice, instant tapioca, spices and vanilla. My boldest venture was to substitute the white sugar with half the amount of pure maple syrup, making this dessert something truly Vermont-like and wonderful.

I stirred my pie filling thoroughly and let my shiny **new** oven preheat. My favorite pie plate with the deep dish and charming crimped edges was lined with pastry dough and then filled with the pretty mess. All was ready. My timer stood at attention on top of the stove and the red preheat light clicked off.  I quickly sprinkled some sugar over the delicately slit top crust and then slid the beauty in to bake.

Fifteen minutes later when the first timer buzzed its warning, I dutifully came to the kitchen and turned the heat down before resetting the time. Forty-five minutes after that, I returned to the fragrance of glorious pie scenting the entire front half of the apartment. Crimson juices oozed from the crimped edges and bubbled up between the top crust slits. It was obviously ready to be taken out, but the crust looked slightly pale to me – it was *almost* perfect, but not quite. I envisioned a pie on the glossy front cover of a cooking magazine, golden and crisp and my pie just wasn’t there yet.

There I stumbled and there I fell, gentle reader. When will I learn that sometimes ‘almost perfect’ is as close as I should dare get to a magazine cover? Fools rush in, or so they say, and so I did.

“Let’s stick this bad boy under the broiler for a minute or two – that oughtta brown ’em up!!”

Oh, the pain of stupidity. Temporary insanity set in and it seemed like a good idea, I switched the control over to Broiler with a clever smile and put the timer on for another five minutes.

Five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, does it? A five minute shower is hardly worth taking, the snooze button on my alarm that doles out extra sleep in five minute increments is a joke and I wouldn’t dream of only giving myself five minutes to EAT pie – but let me tell you, five minutes under the broiler of a brand new oven is something to be reckoned with. In fact, the poor pie didn’t even last the entire five minutes. I came running to the kitchen when I smelled smoke and the blessed timer still had a good minute on it.

Broilers kill, ladies and gents. Should have left well enough alone and not messed with something that was good and nearly perfect. My pie needed to be taken to some sort of pastry burn unit but unfortunately, they don’t exist – yet. We’ll see what happens if I keep on baking, they may open one and name it after me and I will leave something to it in my will.

My pie – oh, my pie. It was blackened and acrid smelling. The lovely juice that once oozed from its crust resembled a tarry black river of cooled lava. The sugar that so delightfully decorated the top had bubbled up into angry, swollen worts of Burnt. It was awful.

Thank God for the men in my life, who scraped away the charcoal top layer and enjoyed the goop that remained, saying that it gave the pie a “brûléed-type flavor”. They were actually quite impressed and honestly, so was I -that is by far the most damage I have ever done to a baked good, I have taken my dessert destruction to a whole new level.

Next time I will be content with almost perfect, unless, of course, I get a better idea.