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Beet and Avocado Salad with Feta, Mint and Urfa Chilies

So when I think about getting the most flavor out of vegetables, I usually put steaming at the bottom of the list of preferred cooking methods. But with beets, it's the optimal way to cook them. Steaming beets ensures that they cook evenly and quickly, tame some of the earthiness (which roasting can highlight... in a bad way), and still retain their delicate sweetness (which boiling can wash away).

When you are at the store, pick out beets that are uniform in shape-- lemon-size are ideal. You can use different kinds-- red, yellow, chioggas-- just try and keep the red ones as separate as possible in the steamer, or all of your beets will be stained red when they come out of the steamer. Steam them until you can easily slide a knife through one... start checking after about 25 minutes (make sure there's enough water to last the whole simmering time, but not so much that it touches the beets). Peel the beets as soon as you can-- the warmer they are, the more easily the skin slides off. If you have gloves, great-- if not, just man-up and wash your hands after peeling.

Once you have all the beets peeled, cut them all into large dice (once again, if you are using red beets, and making this salad ahead, keep them separate from other beets/ingredients until ready to serve). Season with kosher salt and some chile flake (I like dried Urfa chilies, because they add a little smokiness, but just in case you didn't drive down to Christina's yesterday like I did, you can use any chili flake you'd like. Drizzle with olive oil (flavored, if you got it...lemon would be lovely here. Or just break out some of your better extra virgin).

When you are ready to serve:

Cut an avocado or two, and dice them the same size as the beets. Crumble a little feta over the top, and add some shredded mint.

(I just did my spring plant shopping at Outdoor Pride of Rye and got some "Indian Mint" [also known as Yerba Buena] which I really love-- and apparently has healing powers! It tastes kind of like a cross between oregano and mint... very intriguing!). Regular boring mint-- even {gasp} store-bought can be substituted.

Taste the salad- it may need a splash of balsamic or lemon juice if the beets and avocado are on the sweeter side.

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