The book:  Caribbean Potluck, by Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau (Kyle Books, $24.95 – here’s my complete review)

The recipe:  Red, Green, and Gold Salad with Toasted Almonds

Why I tried it: I don’t test a ton of many-ingredient salads – unless the ingredients list allows me to claim it’s a “dinner salad”.  If it’s a one-pot meal, I can justify spending most of my 1.5 hours of prep time on a salad.  Here the chickpeas were the clincher – “Protein!” I exclaimed, and promptly excused myself from rummaging in the freezer for some meat to defrost.

Why I loved it:  This one’s for everyone who eats with their eyes.  It’s a riot of color and flavor – bright and tropical in the summer, when I made it, and festive on the holiday table.  Thanks to the smooth avocado, slithery mangoes, velvety beets, crisp almonds, and crunchy onions, every bite has some kind of interesting texture effect.  You’ll probably still be experimenting and trying to decide whether you like velvety/crisp or slithery/crunchy better by the time you get to the bottom of your bowl.

Estimated preparation time: If you’ve already pickled the beets and you’re not too fussy about chopping vegetables into matchsticks, you can do this in under 45 minutes.  Otherwise, give yourself an hour and a quarter.

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Photo: Ellen Silverman

Red, Green and Gold Salad with Toasted Almonds

The only real issue you may run into making this salad at this time of year is sourcing fresh mangoes.  Don’t sweat it – you can use frozen mangoes for the vinaigrette (or just buy a mango dressing if you can’t deal with that).  You can leave out the fresh mangoes, or sub in another ripe, sweet fruit that’s more available, like pears.  It won’t be the same, but it will still be great.
Serves 6

For the Pickled Beets
1⁄2 cup fresh lime juice
1⁄4 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1⁄2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 small boiled beets, peeled and sliced
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

For the Mango Vinaigrette (makes about 1 cup)
1⁄2 cup mango puree, preferably fresh
1⁄3 cup distilled white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and ground white pepper

For the Salad:
8 ounces mixed greens
1 medium mango, sliced
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
1⁄4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1⁄2 cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1⁄2 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 medium ripe avocado, sliced
4 ounces feta, crumbled (about 1 cup)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

1. To make the marinade for the beets, in a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, sugar, oil, garlic and mustard until blended. Season with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, combine the beets and onion, pour the dressing over the beet mixture and season again with salt and pepper. Stir in the cilantro and let sit for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 1 week.

2 To make the mango vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the mango puree, vinegar, garlic and mustard. Gradually add the oil, whisking steadily until the vinaigrette thickens. Season with salt and white pepper.

3. To assemble the salad, place the greens in a large salad bowl. Add the mango, chickpeas, red onion, cucumber, bell pepper and avocado. Add half the feta and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a liberal amount of mango vinaigrette and toss. Top with the beets, toasted almonds and the rest of the feta and serve immediately.

Caribbean Potluck by Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau is published by Kyle Books, priced $24.95. Photography by Ellen Silverman.