We absolutely love living in Colorado, but every now and again we get a bout of homesickness. Technology helps us connect with our families back east, but nothing, and I mean nothing, is a substitute for a face-to-face conversation; an in-person visit. When someone buys a ticket, gets on a plane, doesn't mind sleeping on an inflatable mattress for a week and is more than happy to wake up in the morning with your early-rising kids...well, that just says love.
Aunt Barbara, my mother-in-law's sister, has visited us twice since we moved here. On her most recent trip she came with us to the petting zoo, hiked a trailhead at Red Rocks, and was more than accommodating when we did a little house-hunting. She also washed every dish I own until it sparkled like a diamond. Aunt Barbara did some babysitting too, so my husband and I were able to get a few nights off to celebrate my birthday weekend. We had some great meals at Jonsey's Eat Bar and The Kitchen...and a few drinks too. When we dropped Aunt Barbara off at the airport we asked, "When are you coming back?" And we really meant it.
Clean sheets and a comfortable bed are one way to make a guest feel welcome. But so is good food. For Aunt Barbara's first night I made Baked Ziti with homemade sauce and this salad (below). It's fresh, clean and seasonal too. This is one to make before winter citrus is no longer at its peak. Here it is...enjoy!
Grapefruit-and-Beet Salad (Adapted slightly from The New York Times)
Originally published with Eat, Memory: The Ideology of Taste by Roy Blount Jr., November 27, 2005
1/2 pound beets (2 or 3), trimmed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for beets
2 large red or pink grapefruit, peeled, white pith removed
1/2 shallot, finely diced
2 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 bunch watercress, stemmed and trimmed (about 2 cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Lay the beets on one end of a sheet of aluminum foil, sprinkle with olive oil and season with salt. Fold over the remaining foil and crimp the edges to seal. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until fork tender (this step usually takes me about 1 hr. 15 minutes.) Cool and peel, then slice into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons.
- Segment the grapefruit and set aside the membrane. Gently pat the segments dry with a paper towel. Squeeze 1* teaspoon juice from the membrane and reserve.*You can do a little more if you want a more intense grapefruit flavor.
- Combine shallot, reserved grapefruit juice, lemon juice and salt to taste in a bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in mustard, then 3 tablespoons olive oil. Adjust seasoning.
- In a large bowl, add the beets, grapefruit segments and watercress. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (Don't neglect this step. Salt and pepper are key!) Gently fold the dressing into the salad.
...and here are some photos from our hike:
I like seeing how the colors change with the seasons. At one of my favorite hiking spots near Red Rocks there's green brush in the spring, the rocks look redder in the summer (and there are wildflowers too), leaves start falling in the autumn and the grasses are dry and the color of honey-straw in the winter.
It had been quite some time since we went to Red Rocks, so when Aunt Barbara said she was game to go on a hike, we piled in the car and headed out in the direction of Morrison, Colorado. After Morrison we drove a few more miles before we got to the trailhead where I've taken the boys several times. Otis had his 'hiking bucket' and was ready for rock collecting. Theo was content picking up small twigs. My husband had the day off from work so he was happy to be getting some fresh air. And Aunt Barbara, realizing just how strong the Colorado sun can be, understood why hiking in the middle of January can be a wonderful way to spend an afternoon...