Purple, gold and green salad signals Mardi Gras

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Think festive, have fun with Mardi Gras colors, and eat well.

Salad is a natural for good health any time of year, but especially during the dour winter months. So, let the traditional purple, green and gold colors of Mardi Gras guide you to a refreshing choice of vegetables, brightening up both your table and your taste buds.

Mardi Gras is the most festive time in New Orleans' calendar, and its key colors show up everywhere in decorations and costumes. The usual explanation is that purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold represents power.

For this recipe, roasted beets lend a deep red hue, standing in for purple; fresh spinach gives the gorgeous green, and yellow bell pepper makes a shower of gold dice. Seasonings lift the taste -- a sprinkling of feta cheese, and a dressing of vinegar, green pepper sauce, garlic and olive oil.

The salad would make a fine accompaniment to jambalaya or other traditional dishes.

Purple, Gold and Green Salad

For the salad:

2 bunches fresh beets (about 2 pounds)

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced

4 cups fresh spinach leaves or salad greens

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon hot green pepper sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Trim and wash beets. Place beets in large baking dish; add 1/4 cup water. Cover tightly with foil. Roast beets 45 minutes or until cooked through. Cool beets until easy to handle.

To prepare dressing, in medium bowl combine vinegar, green pepper sauce, garlic and salt. Beat in olive oil gradually until well blended.

Peel and cut beets into 1/2-inch chunks. Toss with red and yellow peppers and dressing.

Arrange spinach on platter; top with beet mixture. Garnish with feta cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

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