Grateful for the Red (beets) white (feta) and blue(berries)

Recently my hubby and I decided that we needed more appreciation of what we have in our lives. It is so easy to forget what we have and how fortunate we are, particularly when the sun doesn’t shine and the wears and tears of life seem to be abundant. In focusing on the things that we are grateful for, we have found that we have opened a door in not only appreciation for our life but seem truly happier for it!

We come home each night and share with each other one thing we are grateful for that day. Paul calls it the “gratitude for latitude” project. The only rules are that it has to be different one every night and it has to be local. (Well, ok, I’ll admit, we get to be grateful for each other every night on top of that. I mean there can never be enough of that right?)
It seems we are not alone in this practice. Gratitude is turning out to be a powerful way to improve your health and happiness and has gotten quite a lot of attention of late. There are even on-line gratitude journals and apps for your phone to help you chronicle your gratefulness for the day. Also UC Berkeley launched a 5.6 million dollar, 3 year study or gratitude called “Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude” (ESPG). (I’ll do that study for that much money, really I will.) They finish it up this year and have found some very interesting things.
One of the main tools that the ESPG used in its study with their guinea pigs, aged 8-80, is to keep a gratitude journal of just 5 things that they are grateful for in one week. In just three weeks of doing this, their participants reported significant results in increase of health and well-being.
Health wise, participants had a powerful increase in their immune system, lower blood pressure, sounder sleep, and less anxiety and depression. In the well-being department, participants experienced being more alert, happier, optimistic, joyful and involved with life. The other big bonus that was reported is those participants’ personal relationships with spouses, co-workers and otherwise, became richer and more cohesive. That is a lot of bennies for such minimal effort. Good trade.
As you can imagine with me, everything comes back to food. Every single day I am grateful for the abundant and clean food our valley produces. Walking through the farmer’s market this week, I just enjoyed oohing and awing at the bright colors and smells of all the food there. What a feast for the senses! I made a point to truly drink it all in, instead of rushing around and filling my market basket, and it changed the experience for me.
This salad is a true practice in gratitude. It is a gesture of appreciation for our freedom that was hard won by many. You can prepare the roasted beets, the puree, and the vinaigrette a couple days ahead of time which make putting the salad together a snap. Make sure and peel the beets as soon as they cool enough to handle them. (MUCH easier) I am so grateful for you dear readers. Happy Fourth of July and stay safe!

Red (beet) white (feta) and blue(berry) salad
Pancetta is an Italian bacon that is cured with spices and rolled. You can get a delicious “made in America” pancetta at Bread and Ocean. Sub regular bacon if you can’t find it. Serves 6

For the beets
2 pounds of trimmed and washed red and gold beets
1.5 cups of white wine
2 springs of fresh thyme
2 springs of rosemary
1/4 tsp of Salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette
2 TBS of champagne or white wine vinegar
2 TBS of white wine
1 TBS of lemon juice
1 TBS of Dijon mustard
1 TBS of the beet puree
2 tsp of honey
1 small garlic clove, minced fine
1 TBS of minced rosemary
1/4 tsp of both salt and pepper
1/4 cup of olive oil

For the salad
1 pint of fresh blueberries
4-6 cups of baby arugula or salad greens
6 pieces of pancetta
4 oz of feta or blue cheese

For the beets; Turn on the oven to 375 degrees and slice the beets into quarters. In a small baking dish add the wine, thyme, rosemary and about 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir it up and nestle the beets in the liquid, cover with foil, and roast in the oven till the beets are easily pierced with a fork, about an hour. Let the beets cool then set the beets on a cutting board (That you don’t mind stained red) and peel them and chop them into smallish wedges. Measure out one cup of the beets and chop those into smaller pieces. Place the 1 cup of chopped beets and 1/4 cup of the roasting liquid, a 1/4 tsp of salt and pepper in a blender and puree. Save that for a grand entrance later.

Make your vinaigrette by putting everything, but the oil, in a jar and shaking it up. (hopefully you have the lid on the jar) Add the oil, and shake some more. Done. Take out a small frying pan and fry the pancetta for a few minutes on each side over medium heat till wrinkly and crisp. (In Italy they don’t do that, FYI) Okay now onto the assembly.

Dollop a spoonful of the beet puree evenly among 6 salad plates. Arrange the beet quarters and blueberry on the plate, toss the arugula in some of the vinaigrette and arrange on top of everything. Sprinkle feta cheese in the middle, a piece of the pancetta on top of that and drizzle any remaining dressing over everything then serve with gratitude for all this abundance.