Nosh: Roasted Spiced Beet Tatin

I’m not sure why, but I woke up yesterday with a hankering for beets, and a desire to putter around in the kitchen. Sometimes, good things happen when I start to putter. Mmmm, beets. Sweet, earthy, dense, jewel-colored, beautiful. Beets!

A few days ago a friend of mine posted a link to a beet tarte tatin, which is basically beets made like an upside down cake, topped with puff pastry. Savory beets + buttery pastry? I’m in! But here’s the thing: every single recipe for a beet tarte tatin that I found online involved drowning roasted beets in butter and sugar, before baking them inside pastry that is inherently butter-gorged. It’s a delicious idea in principle, but this? Is totally unnecessary. Beets are the candy of the vegetable world. They’re grown FOR their sugar. Adding sugar to them is overkill. And how much butter do you really need to eat at dinner? Save your butter intake for the shortbreads you’re sure to encounter this holiday season.

So what’s a girl to do? We improvise.

Here’s the basic principle of a tarte tatin: arrange edibles in a pleasing design in the bottom of a cake pan, cover with puff pastry, bake, invert, eat. Got it. Now let’s get to it! REMEMBER: This is a dish made for a day you have time to putter; it will probably take about an hour and a half (maybe even closer to two hours) from start to finish, between the prep-work and the cook time. And so, with no further ado…

  • 3 good-sized beets, scrubbed, peeled, and cut into quarters, then roasted according to this recipe (so you’ll also need thyme/rosemary/cinnamon/red pepper flakes, red wine and balsamic vinegars, salt & pepper, see recipe link for specifics)
  • 1 large red onion
  •  1 smallish handful (1/4 cup, maybe?) pine nuts; walnuts (chopped) would also be nice here if you didn’t have pine nuts on hand
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 cup grated horseradish cheese or Swiss cheese (optional)
  • olive oil

Take the puff pastry out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter to defrost. Don’t leave it in the fridge to defrost; I’ve found out the hard way that it won’t defrost in there as much as you would like. Just set it on a plate on your counter top and forget about it for the next 50 minutes or so.  I’m assuming you’re using frozen puff pastry, because… No reason. Just because. Look, I make a lot of stuff from scratch. But delicate pastries like this? I’ll buy it pre-packaged, thank you very much.  Preheat the oven to 400°, because the first thing you’ll want to do is peel and roast the beets. Bear in mind that you want them to look pretty post-roast, so when you prep them for roasting, cut them into uniform-looking quarters. 

Now get to roasting, gorgeous beetses!

Now get to roasting, gorgeous beetses!

The fatter ends of the beets are pretty dense, so give these about 40-45 minutes to roast. Toss with herbs, spices, vinegars, salt and pepper, and oil, and put it in the oven. Turn once about halfway through. When they’re done, set them aside, but you’ll be using them fairly soon after they’re out of the oven so don’t worry about letting them cool completely. Drop the oven temperature to 350°.

While the beets are roasting, thinly slice the red onion into nice, big rounds, sprinkle them with some salt, toss them with oil, and get them in a pan over medium-low heat. These are going to caramelize, and that takes…oh, about 40-45 minutes. Once they start to soften and turn gold, then brown, you will need to pay a little attention to them. You don’t want them to get crisp, just soft and sweet, so stir them fairly often. If you notice them starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, you can do one of two things to loosen them. You can 1) add more oil, which I don’t favor, because I feel like it just fattens up the works, or 2) toss in a little veggie broth or water, which I do favor. It also helps steam them into softness, and is that much less oil you need to worry about. Eventually, the onions will turn rich and brown and soft and super-sweet, and you’ll remember that the world is indeed a beautiful place, that you can extract such gorgeous flavor from a sulfuric root vegetable.

Almost too good to be true.

Almost too good to be true.

Once the beets are cooked and the onions are caramelized, take an 8-inch cake pan and grease it with a little bit of olive oil (meaning: pour a little dime-sized spot of olive oil in the cake pan and rub it around the bottom and sides with a bit of paper towel). Start to arrange your beets in a pretty pattern. Pay attention to this detail because it will figure into the presentation later. When you invert the tatin to serve it, you’ll want the beets to be the stars of the show. Try and imagine how they’ll look, upside down and backwards. 🙂

It's worth it. Trust me.

It’s worth it. Trust me.

Nice, evenly-spaced circles look great and require practically no skill to arrange. That’s what I went for.

Top this with caramelized onions, and then top the onions with a sprinkling of pine nuts.

I love it when a plan starts to come together.

I love it when a plan starts to come together.

The beets and the onions are both seasoned with salt and/or pepper, so I wouldn’t opt to add any more seasoning at this stage. Just let the foods as they’ve been cooked come together. Top the beets and onions with the sheet of puff pastry. You may need to roll the puff pastry out to get it to cover the entirety of the pan, but that’s easy to do. Just lay it on a flat surface and make a few passes over it with a rolling pin. It should readily stretch. Then you just lay it out on top of your cake pan, trim off any crazy excess corners, and tuck the pastry all around the edges of the pan.

See? Easy-peasy.

See? Easy-peasy.

Note the holes. This dough is docked, which means I poked a bunch of holes in it with a fork. Now it won’t bake up to be super-puffy, just kind of puffy, yet still totally delicious. Put it in the oven for 30 minutes, turning once half-way through. When you take it out, it should be toasted and beautiful.

Golden perfection!

Golden, slightly puffy perfection!

Let this sit for 10 minutes to give the tatin a chance to set. Now is the time to decide what to do: do you want to serve it as-is? Or do you intend to top it with cheese and broil it for a few minutes? Because…

If you want to serve it as-is, put the serving dish you plan to present it on, on top of the cake pan. If you want to top it with cheese and put it in the broiler, put a cookie sheet on top of the cake pan. Then: FLIP!

YES!

YES!

I told you that my anal-retentive attention to detail would pay off. 

Wait, let’s get another food-porn look at this, shall we?

Well, hello, beautiful.

Well, hello, beautiful.

I did choose to top this with horseradish cheese, because I think almost everything is better with horseradish cheese. But for real, it is perfectly heavenly right now. You could go cheeseless and be fine. But me?  I cheesed it up and stuck it under the broiler for a few more minutes.

Now I'm sad I don't have any more leftovers.

Now I’m sad I don’t have any more leftovers.

We ate this with a simple tossed salad with arugula, and a roasted pear and pumpkin soup (recipe coming). It was a table full of warm, wintery comfort. It wasn’t a speedy dish to put together, it was absolutely a “Sunday in the kitchen” sort of meal, but it’s surprisingly easy and oh, so, so satisfying. Enjoy! I know I did.

Carrot Tops Are…Edible! And Make Great Pesto.

Did you know that? Did you? Did you huh?

I'm EDIBLE? --he seemed to say. Photo from rottentomatoes.com

I’m EDIBLE? –he seemed to say.
Photo from rottentomatoes.com

No. Not that kind of Carrot Top. (Not without a nice, long braise, anyway, and who has that kind of time?)

Thaaaat's more like it.

Thaaaat’s more like it.

This kind of carrot top. Yes way! I know, right? What I had always sort of considered a kind of…curious produce by-product is, in its own right, an overlooked potential addition to the dinner table. We got our CSA delivery this week, brimming with all sorts of vegetal goodness, and great fluffy frondy carrots.  Hmmm, I said to myself. It would be a shame if this went to waste. I wonder…. To the internets!

Totally edible. Not poisonous. The stems are a little woody, so they require a bit of work, but in general? Delicious. Kind of carroty and sweet and bright, with a little bit of a parsley bouquet that you almost taste in your nose. I came across a few recipes for pesto, but they served as inspiration more than an actual recipe, so I’m going to claim full ownership of this one.  🙂 Take:

  • One bunch farmer’s market/CSA carrot greens from your delicious carrot bunch, which you’ll use for dinner (if you have a smallish bunch, like mine, have some additional spinach or baby arugula on hand)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 handful (about a half a cup) walnuts, toasted
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 handful parsley
  • 3 slices cotija (or some other crumbly, salty cheese, like pecorino romano)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste. If you use cotija cheese, DO NOT USE SALT until the very end, if you need it. The cheese is very salty.
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey, for balance
  • Olive oil, as needed

First things first: Toss walnuts in a dry pan and toast them for five minutes, or until they’re fragrant and their flavors have deepened, but they’re not burnt. If you make more than you need, you’ll have extra to snack on, so don’t worry about fastidiously measuring them. Set aside to cool.

Clean the carrots and carrot tops. Chop the carrot stalks into bite-size-ish pieces.

They're so fresh they practically emanate goodness.

They’re so fresh they practically emanate goodness.

If you have mostly stalks (like I had) rather than the airy fronds, you may want to blanch the stalks for a minute or two in a pot of boiling water, just to soften them up and make them more pliable. Drain them, then assemble your goods.

Garlic, cheese, lemon, carrot greens. Sounds like a party!

Garlic, cheese, lemon, carrot greens. Sounds like a party!

A word about cotija cheese: Cotija is a dry, crumbly Mexican cow’s milk cheese used like parmesan. It’s crumbly. It doesn’t melt. It’s salty-salty. It’s DELICIOUS if you crumble it on top of things. And it’s got a brisk, clean taste. I chose it partly because I have it in my fridge, but I also have parmesan and pecorino romano. I wanted cotija for its clean, yet salty, taste. For the purposes of this recipe, if you don’t have cotija, use pecorino romano rather than parmesan. Parmesan’s a little too nutty. Moving on.

Zest the lemon, then juice it. Toss the zest, carrot tops, spinach or arugula if you need it, garlic, cheese, honey, half the toasted walnuts (to start), about half the parsley, and a couple of glugs of olive oil into a food processor, and grind in as much black pepper as you can stand. If you want, you can also put in a couple of shakes of crushed red pepper and some fresh-grated nutmeg. Because I did. And yum.

Let's get rrrrrready to rrrrrrumble!

Let’s get rrrrrready to rrrrrrumble!

Give that a whirl, then taste it for flavor and make requisite adjustments; is it tart vs. peppery vs. oily vs. texturally correct? What do you need?  Does it need a little more oomph because it’s too pasty, or not punchy enough? Toss in some lemon juice. Is it not rich enough? Toss in some oil. Is it too sharp? Add some more walnuts. Does it need to be “green”-er?  Parsley!  And so on. If you pay careful attention to what you want a pesto to taste like, and what’s in front of you, you can tinker until it becomes one harmonious mix of carrot greens and all other good things.

Pestolicious!

Pestolicious!

OK. So you’ve got your pesto. Now what?

Slice an onion into half-moons and caramelize the whole thing. You probably won’t eat all of the onions today, but you’ll thank me tomorrow when you’re looking for something to perk up your salad at lunch.

Cut the carrots into thin slices. We also had a small handful of baby beets from our CSA; I took the stems and leaves and separated them to cook with some kale (recipe coming soon) for a lovely side dish. As for the beautifully sweet baby beet globes, I washed and peeled them and cut them thinly, roughly as thick as the carrots.

And the little stripey chiogga beets are so pretty!

And the little stripey chiogga beets are so pretty!

Then toss them in a pan with some oil, ground fennel, and salt and pepper. Saute them for…oh…however long it takes. Fifteen minutes?  They’re both hard root vegetables, so they do take a while to saute, but they’re also tender baby versions, so exercise judgment. Taste as you see fit. Let them go for at least ten minutes, giving the pan an occasional shake. When they’re almost cooked and ready to eat, take some white balsamic vinegar and pour it in a slow drizzle once or twice around the pan. Let that cook down for another two or three minutes to create a light glaze.

Yeah! That's what I'm talking about!

Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!

Toast some bread. Put down a layer of pesto, add some beets and carrots, and top with caramelized onions, a dash more fresh parsley and another grind or two of cracked pepper and voila! You’ve got a great, summery, no-oven, open-faced sandwich that is as close to nose-to-tail cooking with vegetables as you can get.

I liked it so much, I had it again for lunch.

I liked it so much, I had it again for lunch. Note the beet greens and kale in the background. Don’t worry, I’ll get that recipe out to you.

Served with a green salad and the braised kale and beet greens, this dinner was insanely satisfying. Each bite of the open-faced sandwich ran a wonderful gamut of flavors, from peppery and savory to sweet and brisk and cheesy-rich. Served with a side dish of bitter greens laced with an obscene amount of garlic, this is the sort of dinner that covers all the bases. Relatively easy to make, no oven, barely any refuse to clean up, delicious. What are you waiting for?

Nosh: Roasted Spiced Beets and Sauteed Beet Greens

What do you do when you have a beautiful batch of beetses?

Are they tasty, Precious?

Are they tasty, Precious?

We got these from our CSA and they were totally gorgeous.  Plus, somewhere along the line (and I really don’t remember how) we ended up with extra beet greens.  So.  Beautiful beets, and a ton of beet greens; this sounds like the beginnings of a feast to me.

I love…LOVE…LOVE roasted beets (as I’m sure you may have noticed from previous posts) but the thing about them is, they’re so distinct in their flavor I often find that recipes don’t do much other than emphasize their beety goodness.  Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you.  But, you know.  Beets is beets.

However.

My restless search for beet diversity paid off handsomely when I came across this recipe, which plays on different nuances of the flavor of the noble beet.  Of course, because I am me, I had to change it a little, largely because who has fresh lemon thyme laying around?  (OK, I know some people do, but I don’t.)  And I wanted a peppery bite because I totally dig the interplay between cinnamon and black pepper.  Here’s what I used.

For the beets:

  • 2 cups of beets (-ish, that’s hard to measure, it may have been more like 2.5 cups, but ultimately, use what you’ve got), trimmed and peeled and cut into thick wedges
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper (admittedly this can be a little intense, so if you’re not ready for that much black pepper, be kind to yourself)
  • 1/4 tsp (or more, to taste) Aleppo pepper/crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp each Balsamic and red wine vinegar
  • salt to taste

For the greens:

  • One large bunch beet greens, with leaves separated from thicker stalks (this saute would also work nicely with Swiss chard, FYI)
  • Half a medium yellow onion
  • As much garlic as you’d like (I generally use 3-4 cloves)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 c veggie broth/water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and drain your beet greens and stalks, and then set them off to the side because you won’t need them for a while.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Scrub, peel, and trim the beets, then cut them into nice thick chunks.  Be forewarned…beets have…you know…THAT quality, wherein the beet juice will get all over your hands and the cutting board if you don’t coat yourself in rubber and…oh, GOD, the stains, the stains…

Really, I’ve discovered that beet juice stains are not so tragic.  It washes out.  If you don’t have a plastic cutting board and rubber gloves to protect against stains, then do yourself a favor: Don’t panic.

Toss your chopped beets into a baking dish.

Ooh, chunky.

Ooh, chunky.

Aren’t they pretty?  I think they’re kind of bad-ass.  Anyway.  Once your beets are in the roasting pan, add in everything else.  Yes, everything else that is beet (not greens) specific, and toss it with a nice glug of oil.

Yup. That's it.

Yup. That’s it.

And into the oven wit’ ye!

Not bad.

Let these cook for 25-30 minutes, turning once halfway through the cooking time.

While they’re in the oven, turn your attention to your beet greens.  I love beet greens!  The sweet flavor of the beets is somewhat preserved in the greens (primarily in the red stalks) but there’s also the peppery bitterness that you find in all good greens.  They’re an awesome flavor package.  Beet greens are nutritional powerhouses (as opposed to rhubarb greens, which can kill you), packed with Vitamins A, C, and K, and are also a good source of calcium for those looking for non-dairy calcium sources.

Yes, you can get calcium from something other than milk. No, you don’t need a supplement if you eat right.  Moving on.

Cut the onion into a small-ish dice and chop your garlic.  Get them off the cutting board if you don’t have a spacious one; chopping large amounts of greens can take up a lot of room, so you’ll need as much choppable workspace as possible.  Take your rinsed and drained greens and separate the stalks from the leaves–both are perfectly edible, but the stalks are thicker so you need to start their cooking earlier and give them a few extra minutes.

Just hack away, where the leaf meets the stem. Done!

Just hack away, where the leaf meets the stem. Done!

Start the onions and garlic sauteing with some salt and pepper, and after a minute or two add thyme.  Chop the stalks into delicious bite-sized morsels and then?  Once the onions are nice and soft and translucent?

You know what fate awaits these beet stalks.  NO MERCY!

You know what fate awaits these beet stalks. NO MERCY!

Oh, yeah.  Don’t forget to use a nice, roomy pan that you can cover, because there’s a lot of stuff you’re going to try and cook and later you need a lid.  So.  Beet green stalks are in the pan, getting chummy with the onions and garlic.  Start on your leaves.

The easiest way to chop leaves like this is to stack them and cut them into ribbons.  If you want smaller greens after that then have at it with your kitchen knife.  What can I say?  It’s not rocket surgery.

Give the stalks a few minutes to cook in with the onions, and by a few I mean a few.  No more than five minutes, really.  Then toss in your greens, and sprinkle nutmeg (or freshly grate it if you have the whole nut and a handy microplane) and a shot of salt and pepper on the greens.  Give it a stir and let them saute.

Almost home, my brothers and sisters.

Almost home, my brothers and sisters.

They’ll probably start to sound kind of loud and angry pretty quickly as the water cooks out of them, which is fine, but don’t let that go on for more than a minute or two, because you want to make use of their moisture (plus some).  Give another stir to make sure nothing’s stuck to the bottom of the pan, then add the 1/4 cup broth, put the lid on the pan, and remove it from heat.  The objective is to let the greens finish cooking in their own steam.  If the rest of the dinner is still cooking and you aren’t ready to eat the greens after a few minutes of steaming, knock the lid back so the steam can escape.

Put it all together.  If you can put it on polenta, it’s a happy day!  When corn (polenta is corn, after all) and beets get together, they pull out each other’s green grassiness.  When that’s combined with the sweet and the cinnamon and the pepper and the bitter-ish crunch?  OMG yes.

THAT is what I'm talking about!

THAT is what I’m talking about!

We ate this with Baked Pumpkin with Yogurt Sauce, roasted parsnips (recipe coming soon) and George’s extraordinarily delicious polenta, which is his specialty so you may have to ask him how to make it.  I’ve never done it.  He’s good at it.  Win!

Do you have a favorite way to eat beets?  And do you always eat the greens?

Enjoy!

XOXO —  Terri

Nosh: Broiled Beets with Horseradish Cheese

Beeeeeeeeeeeeets.

Spring is here, and that means my CSA is about to go beet-crazy.  Huzzah!  In anticipation of needing to have beet-ready recipes, I decided to take one for the team and do some early tinkering with nuggets of beety goodness.  This recipe was inspired by the good people at Putney Farm, though I wanted something less brightly citrus and more heartily savory-umami.  Besides, I have horseradish cheese in my fridge that I don’t want to go to waste.  Of course I thought to pair horseradish, even in cheese form,w ith beets.

p.s. I wasn’t really taking one for the team; I just said that because I wanted you to think I was doing you a tremendous favor.  Fact is, I liked it.  A lot.

So.  Here is what I used:

  • Beets (I used three medium-sized beets)
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil to drizzle on said beets for roasting
  • 2-3 slices of horseradish cheese from the deli counter at your local supermarket
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chives (or other herb you have on hand) for garnish

Annnnnd…that’s it.  Entirely.

Really.  This is easy.  It just takes a little time.

So.  Wash off your beets.

Beets!

Beets!

I’ve seen varying opinions of what to do with beets when you roast them (and yes, sure, I know boiling is an option…I guessbut honestly, people, why? It doesn’t take any less time and roasting is so much more yummy.  But to each their own.) and I kind of can’t believe there’s so much debate.  Cut off the greens.  Cut off the roots.  Some people peel them and trim them entirely beforehand, but whatever.  Yes, beet juice will run into the roasting pan if you peel or cut them open while they’re raw.  And?

Anyway.  Drizzle some oil on them, then toss with thyme, salt and pepper.

My fancified technique is: drizzle and toss in yummy things.

My fancified technique is: drizzle and toss in yummy things.

And then cover your beets.  Either use a pan with a lid or cover your pan with foil (that’s what I did).  Put them in a preheated 400° oven and leave them alone for at least 40 minutes, maybe an hour depending on size and such.  Mine cooked for about fifty minutes.  In that meantime you could…read a book, maybe, or prepare the rest of your food.  Take a nap.  Whatever.  The point is, you can’t rush beets.  Nor should you want to.  Because they are nutritional powerhouses, and good things take time.  Patience, people.

You’ve reached the end of your beet roasting when a knife sinks into them like butter.  Check the beets after forty minutes and if the knife meets resistance when you try to pierce them, put the foil back on and put said beets back in the oven.  Give them another ten or fifteen minutes or so after that depending on how almost-done they felt.  Once they have fully cooked, take them out of the oven to let them cool for a few minutes.

While they cool, get a baking sheet and lightly coat it with oil (rub it on or spray it, whatever works), turn on your broiler and boost the heat.  My broiler tops out at 500° so that’s how high I hiked up the temperature.  When you peel your beets you can choose to wear rubber gloves OR, of course, you can choose to not, which will dye your fingers red.  That’s no big deal.  A day later, my hands have returned to their normal flesh tone and I am none the worse for the experience.  So.  Peel, and cut into nice flat slices of beet about half an inch thick.

So close! Just a little bit longer.

Just a little bit longer before nommy time.

Next, take a few slices of that beautiful, tangy, slightly spicy horseradish cheese and just break them up to fit on top of your sliced beets.

Cheesy goodness!

Cheesy goodness!

And put those tasty veggies right in the broiler.  Do not wander too far afield.  Your oven is super-hot and it won’t take very long for the cheese to melt and bubble on top of your beets, and it won’t be too much longer until it blackens and burns and then all this?  For naught.  Ever vigilant!  Stay in your kitchen, guard your beets.  Chop your teaspoon of chives and keep them at the ready.  When the cheese is browned and melted and gooey, take the beets out of the oven and hit them with the chives and another shot of fresh-ground pepper.  Within a very few minutes you’ll have a dish that looks like this:

Sup sup sup sup suppertime!

Sup sup sup sup suppertime!

When we started to eat these, George started chuckling.  “I feel like I’m eating a steak,” he said, as he cut into a beet that was dense and pungent and almost chewy.  He wasn’t off base–those beets had some heft!

Serve this with some garlic and herb mashed potatoes and a nice fresh salad, because it’s all so good for you I can’t even stand it.  Some people get ready for bikini season.  I get ready for beet season.  And you know?  I’m just fine with that.

Roasted Beet Galette

On a recent trip to the Boston area, we stopped at Russo’s in Watertown, a farmstand-turned-HOLY MOTHER OF GOD WHAT DON’T THEY HAVE that I try to make a point of visiting whenever possible.  I like that they’ve got a lot of interesting things in non-perishable containers, like vinegars and jellies and groovy crackers.  But they also have a huge selection of vegetables, some of which aren’t immediately perishable, and it was there that I first feasted my eyes upon a box of beautiful golden beets.

Oh hell yes.

Oh hell yes.

It makes no sense to me why golden beets are significantly less common than your basic red beet; they pretty much taste the same (they’re actually a little milder) and have almost the same nutritional value, they cook exactly the same, and they don’t stain your hands…and your cutting board…and your countertops.  But!  Despite the fact that I live in the middle of farm country, belong to a CSA and have been a foodie for a long time, it’s been years for me between golden beet sightings.

I have a hard time believing it’s because they’re reclusive creatures adept at hiding in the wild.

Anyway.  So I got my reclusive beets from the One of Everything Store annnnnd…then what?  Because they’re kind of special, hard-to-get beets I wanted to make something beautiful, and because my spring CSA is going to start up again fairly soon, I have a gigantic pile of pickled beets looming in my very near future.  So.  I thought and I thought, and ended up borrowing heavily from one recipe and substituting what I wanted instead of what the recipe called for and in the process, I made an amazing beet galette.

A galette is, basically, a tart with a pastry crust that isn’t molded into a pan.  The term is broad and can be interpreted in many ways, from a particular kind of large buckwheat crepe to a fruit-and-pastry dessert to a savory dinner tart.  Most of the recipes I found online used a CA-RAZY amount of butter in the crust and frankly, I don’t really like to cook like that if I can avoid it.   Or, they would chop the beets into a dice and I wanted to make pretty flat rounds.  Then I remembered this recipe and thought…wait a second…why don’t I use this as my template?  I’ll make this crust, put in my own fillings?

This?  Is what we call a plan, and here’s a reconstruction of the cobbled-together recipe and how I put it all together.  So.  Onward!  But forewarned is forearmed: this is not a dinner that you can just toss together in 20 minutes.  Save this for a cold, snug Sunday when you want to be productive but don’t feel like leaving the house.

Bear in mind: you can certainly make this recipe using the readily available red beets, if you can’t find golden like I almost always can’t.

First, make the crust.

Pulse your walnuts in a food processor until they’re ground fine.  If you don’t have a food processor, then try a blender, maybe.  Or put them in a bag and crush the daylights out of them with the bottom of a heavy frying pan.  Or go out to the store and buy a food processor, I’ll wait.  Mix the ground walnuts with the flours, salt and pepper, and chopped fresh herbs.  Use whatever herbs you prefer; in this batch I used parsley and thyme because I had them handy.  If you don’t have fresh herbs you can use dried, but use about half the amount as the recipe calls for because their flavor is concentrated and therefore a little stronger.  When your dry ingredients are mixed make a well so you can add the wet ingredients.  What does that mean?

What's that, Lassie?  Billy fell in the well?

What’s that, Lassie? Billy fell in the well?

It means you dig a hole in your dry ingredients and put your wet ingredients in said hole.  It helps you incorporate the ingredients quickly and thoroughly.  That’s important for this crust because it’s really hearty and you don’t want to overwork it and develop the glutens; that will just make it tough.  Who needs a tough crust?  Not this girl.

So knead the dough just until it comes together, then wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes or until you’re ready to roll it out.  Preheat your oven to  425° and get going on your beets and onions.  Thinly slice them both, toss with some oil, salt and pepper and put them on baking sheets and into the oven.  You’ll get nicely wilted beets and onions that are ready for the next stage of usefulness.  Drop the oven temp to 375°.

All hail the discs f golden deliciousness!

All hail the discs of golden deliciousness!

While these are cooking, toss your goat cheese and feta (if you’re using it) in the freezer (I’ll get to this in a moment, hang on) and chop your garlic.  Since you’re not going to cook the garlic any other way than baking it in with the galette, make sure you chop it fairly small or slice it super-thin.  I went for super-thin.

See?  Thin.

See? Thin.

But really, it’s whatever you think is easiest, so long as you remember that your objective here is to not bite into a hunk of par-baked garlic, because no.

Now, this thing about the frozen cheese.  If you’ve ever tried to cut goat cheese you surely know that it crumbles and sticks to the knife and doesn’t cut evenly and is generally a pain in the ass to manhandle.  Much the same can be said for feta.  But if you put the cheeses in the freezer for a little while–it doesn’t have to be long, fifteen minutes or so should to the trick–they become easier to cut in even, non-sticky slices.  Or grate like Parmesan.  So. Before you start slicing and dicing your cheese, take your  dough out of the fridge, unwrap it and place it on baker’s parchment or a non-stick baking mat that has been lightly dusted with flour.  Roll out the dough into a rustic, 15-inch or so circle, then take the cheese out of the freezer and cut the goat cheese into even, easy-to-disperse slices.

Goat cheese is so much easier to manage this way.

Goat cheese is so much easier to manage this way.

Starting about two inches in from the outer edge, put half the goat cheese on your rolled out dough.  Sprinkle on the garlic and grate some feta over it on a nice, fine grater.  Like it was Parmesan.  (I know I’ve said this before but I do believe it’s the best analogy I can think of.)

See, it's all about building a solid base.

See, it’s all about building a solid base.

Then start layering in the veggies.  Put in a layer of beets, then onions, then beets again.

I don't know if I want to eat this or put it in a vase.Who am I kidding?  I want to eat this.

I don’t know if I want to eat this or put it in a vase.
Who am I kidding? I want to eat this.

Add the rest of the goat cheese, and another shredding or two of feta if you’d like.  Remember, feta is salty, so if you intend to use it in this dish watch your salt content elsewhere and plan accordingly!  Carefully fold the edges inward and remember–they won’t reach the middle of the galette.  If the crust breaks at all where you fold it, just crimp it back together and move on.  It’s supposed to be rustic.

It's not "perfect" by any stretch of the imagination.  And that's just fine.

It’s not “perfect” by any stretch of the imagination. And that’s just fine.

Take hold of the parchment or baking mat and slide it, galette and all, onto a baking sheet.  Put it in the oven and let it cook for 50 minutes, and then let it sit for ten.  I served it with a gorgeous salad with lemon vinaigrette and some roasted potatoes.  And it was as good as I’d hoped.

Voila!  Dinner, is served.

Voila! Dinner, it is served.

Nosh: Beet and Corn Salsa

A fellow blogger who lives on a small farm talks about one of the admittedly few perils of eating seasonally.  According to the good people of Putney Farm, “There is a slight tyranny to the seasons. If you have cherries, you are cooking with cherries, period.” In my case, it’s what comes to me not from my back yard but from the CSA I joined, and the produce that keeps on giving is beets.  And I’ve already got my second batch of pickled beets happily being worked through in my fridge, I’ve made pasta with them, we’ve cooked them and put them in enormous, hearty salads.

So what’s a girl to do?

Salsa!

Ummmm…no. Not that kind. Though movie geeks, is the lady in this video wearing the same shoes Fran wears the first time she dances with Scott in Strictly Ballroom?

Maybe not quite, but pretty close.
Image from archettos.rssing.com

And I digress.

So yeah, salsa.  I haven’t made any in a while which, in retrospect, is shameful of me because at one point in my life I was like the Bubba from Forrest Gump of salsa. You got’cher beet salsa, your tomato salsa, your orange salsa, your cucumber-seaweed salsa…  Now, I suppose, that’s how I must behave in reference to the noble beet. I know I’ve talked about beets in the past so I’ll forego the history lesson today, but remember! There may be a pop quiz before class is dismissed.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. beets
  • 1 ear corn
  • 1 big fat jalapeno, or two smallish ones
  • 2 scallions
  • garlic to taste (I think I used four cloves, but what? They were small!)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar (or other mild vinegar)
  • Juice from one lime
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • *possible “if necessary” ingredient which will be revealed later

Beets are misunderstood in American society. People think they’re difficult to prepare but the reality is, they’re not. They just require time. While they’re fantastic roasted, during the summer that’s not an option I would choose impetuously and so we go with the second and only slightly less preferred preparation for beets, which is boiling.

Kinda looks like what the witches are standing over in MacBeth. Only, there’s no eye of newt here. *pinkyswear*

This? Is the most tedious part of massaging your beets into deliciousness.  Boil them for about a half an hour, until they’re nice and tender, and then take them off the heat and let them cool. While they’re doing that, you can start prepping your other goodies.

The first thing to do is chop your jalapeno. The heat lives in the seeds and membranes, so if you don’t want your salsa very spicy, de-seed the jalapeno.  The easiest way to do this is by taking a teaspoon and running it along the insides of your pepper.  It pulls out everything in one smooth movement, and you don’t have to worry about having crazy good knife skills.  Once it’s seeded, chop it fairly small and put it in a bowl with the cider vinegar.  I’m not sure what it is about cider vinegar, but it seems to love jalapenos and does magical things to their flavor, and it softens them up a little bit so you’re not biting into an aggressive piece of hot pepper. Set that aside.

I was going to have my big griddle out anyway to make quesadillas, so I cooked the corn for about fifteen minutes on a nice, hot griddle.  Then set it aside until it’s cool enough to handle.  When it is, peel it and slice the kernels off the cob. Put the corn in a large mixing bowl so it is ready for the rest of the salsa.

No, your eyes do not deceive you, there are two ears grilling. One was for the salsa, the other went in the quesadillas.

WARNING! This will smoke like crazy, so if you do this make sure you have ample ventilation. Or, you could put it on your outside grill.  Or, you know, steam or boil it if you don’t plan to get grill happy.

For the record, this reversible grill/griddle thing that stretches across two burners of  my stove?  ~~~Adore~~~

Once you’ve finished with the corn, if you want to wipe down the griddle because there’s husk hair on it that you don’t want on the rest of your food, toss a little oil on the griddle and wipe it down with a paper towel grasped firmly between your tongs. DO NOT TOUCH IT WITH YOUR FINGERS. You will get a burn.

Anyway, back to the goodies.  Red onions! I had one huge one that I portioned out (again, partly used for the quesadillas).  For the salsa, I cut the onions fairly thick–I wanted them to stay together on the griddle, and thicker slices are easier to manage that way. For those not using a griddle, just put them in a really hot pan.

This won’t take long on a hot cooking surface. Just try to keep them together-ish so they’re easier to chop.

Are your beets cooked and cooled?  If so, they’re ready for the next step. First, peel them, which is super-easy now that they’re boiled.  You can peel them with your fingers, but if you don’t want to, slit the skin with a knife and slide a teaspoon in under the skin.  It will pull the skin right up, AND (bonus!) it’s less messy, though that’s kind of relative when working with beets.

Like it was meant to be.

Here’s where you have to make a decision, because you want to put some kind of char on the beet to create a little bit of contrast in flavor and texture. If you plan to use a griddle or frying pan, then you can dice them right now, toss them on the heat and let them brown for a few minutes. If you want to put the beets on the grill, cut them into rounds to make grilling possible and then dice them afterwards.  Again, I had a griddle, so…

Just a few minutes on a hot griddle is just the thing.

So, chop whatever still needs to be chopped–the onions, the scallions, the garlic, the cilantro, beets if you haven’t done so already. Put everything into the big mixing bowl with the corn.  Add the jalapenos in vinegar, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

It should look something like this. And you should be very happy.

Caveat: be careful with the salt!  Here’s the “if necessary” ingredient: soy sauce. These are all sweet vegetables we’re cooking, and there’s a fairly high acid component in the recipe thanks to the juice and the vinegar. Taste your salsa; if the flavors are too ‘bright” or only seem to have one note, and you don’t want to add more smoky cumin or pepper for fear of overwhelming the balance of the salsa, toss in some soy sauce.  I think I used maybe–maybe–eight or ten shakes of reduced-sodium sauce, so it was enough to boost the missing savory umami quality of the salsa without fundamentally altering the flavor profile and morphing it into something else.  But as soy sauce is salty, watch how much salt you put in your salsa until you determine if you need soy sauce or not.

And that’s it.  Give it a stir, stick it in the fridge while you make the rest of your dinner, and then?

Thank you, CSA people!

Beet and corn salsa (that’s hearty enough to serve as a side dish), nasturtium quesadillas (blog coming soon) and parsleyed sweet and new potatoes.  Seasonal eating can become a little bit of a challenge but with some imagination, it can produce tremendous results.

Enjoy!

Nosh: Pasta with Baby Beets and Carrots

I recently joined a CSA and got my first installment of fresh, organic goodies this past Thursday.  Among the bounty was a beautiful portion of baby beets.  Beets have been a source of food forever and ever, and were even historically documented as being present in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  This is a huge text file so if you do click this link, use your browser’s “find” feature and type in the word “beet”, it’s much easier than reading through hundreds of pages of info.

More fun facts about the noble beet:

  • Ancient Romans considered beet juice to be an aphrodisiac.
  • They have been prepared in borscht, by astronauts for astronauts, in zero gravity.
  • Australians add slices of pickled beets to their hamburgers (which sounds fantastic).
  • They’re a major plot device in Tom Robbins’s book Jitterbug Perfume.
Could. Not.  Wait.  To eat them.  And the fun thing about the beet is, the entire thing is edible.  Leaf, stem and root, all perfectly edible.  And all delicious in slightly different ways.  So I cruised the interwebs looking for some kind of recipe and found this one, for beets and pasta.  Which was a great idea and a good starting point, but it’s a recipe for one person and here?  There are two, and we dig leftovers.  Don’t worry.  I’ll tell you what I did.
Before I go one step further, do you have some feta hanging around the house?  If you do…before you do anything else…stick it in the freezer.  Yes, that’s right, the freezer, and all will be revealed in due time.  If not, a hard, shreddy cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano (the undisputed king of cheeses) or asiago will work just fine and doesn’t need to be frozen.  Put it down!  It can stay in your cheese drawer in the fridge.  Anyway.  Back to the cooking.
First, clean and prep your beets.  Rinse them off and sort them by beetylicious component, as they will go into the pan at different times.  It’s just easier this way.

Leaf, stem and root, cleaned and ready for action.

Tackle the roots first, and by roots I mean, the round, knobby thing most of us consider to be the entirety of the item “beet”, without regard for stems and leaves.  Cut off the taproot (the long thing coming off the bottom of the beet) while you peel your beets.  Here are a few things to remember:

Beets leak their juice and can leave a significant stain.  If you don’t want your hands to get covered in beet juice, wear rubber gloves.  If you don’t mind, don’t worry, it won’t hurt you.  When the beets are older–and especially if I roast them before peeling–I always wear gloves, and I usually cut them on a plastic board I won’t mind throwing away if it gets too gnarly.  Beet juice was used as a hair dye for a reason.  But in this instance?  Meh.  It wasn’t too bad.  Also, I was worried that a vegetable peeler would take too much of the beet with it, and I thought about just leaving the skins on (which I’m sure would be fine) but here’s a tip: baby beet skins are so tender, you can peel them with a spoon, like you do with ginger.

Peel and trim, easy-peasy.

Slice your trimmed beets into rounds (or half-moons, if needed).  The objective is to have roughly, sort of, uniform pieces of beet so they cook evenly.  Make them so.

I admittedly am a cook by “feel”, so here, my directions can get a little dicey, but I’ll be happy to estimate sizes if you want them.  I used half a medium-sized Vidalia onion, three garlic cloves (because I can’t help myself) and a really good handful of baby carrots.  No, I didn’t use baby carrots because these are baby beets and I thought it would be cute to eat “baby” food.  Baby carrots, FYI, are not young carrots at all but rather, mature carrots that are too unattractive to sell to the buying public and so are whittled down to create the illusion of young carrothood.  And I used them because I had about a quarter of a bag that was in my fridge for a really long time.  I snacked on some as I chopped.  There’s probably about a cup’s worth of carrots here, use whatever you have handy.

Yes, they’re arranged in order from light to dark. What of it?

Next?  Into a nice, big pan.  One with lots of room.  You’ll see.  Give them a few minutes to get their saute on in some olive oil and then toss in some herbs.   Salt and pepper, of course (but watch the salt!  You’ve still got cheese to add), and some fennel seed, rosemary (probably about a teaspoon each, but don’t get too crazy because these herbs are pungent and can easily take over a dish), maybe a half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, a dash of nutmeg (if I used a quarter teaspoon I’ll fall over in shock) and bay leaf.

Can you feel the anticipation build?

While this sautes, chop the beet stems.  Don’t chop them larger than an inch; just cut them into nice, bite-sized portions.

Stems. Ready for the pan.

While you’re chopping, take care of the leaves, too.  They will wilt to a fraction of their uncooked size, like spinach, so you don’t have to sweat how small they’re chopped.  Just stack the leaves and cut across their width.

Ahhh, beautiful beet leaf ribbons.  Both festive and nommy.

Yes, astute readers, those are indeed a small handful of chopped snow peas on the left-hand side of the cutting board.  Because why not?  They were a fun addition, but not integral to the overall flavor of the dish.  Don’t knock yourself out getting some, but by all means chop ’em if you’ve got ’em.

Once the stems have cooked for about five minutes, add your greens and a touch more salt and pepper.

Things will start happening pretty quickly once these go in the pan, so be ready.

What sort of pasta are you using?  When you put the leaves in to cook, the pasta should be about five minutes away from doneness.  If you’re using packaged pasta, it should already be cooking.  If you’re using fresh, the water should be boiling and you should put your pasta in pretty much any minute now.  I had fresh whole-wheat fettuccine, which took maybe three or four minutes to cook.  The best way to test your pasta is to just taste a strand.  Having a mouth is like having your very own built-in timer.

Homemade whole-wheat fettuccine. Life is gooooood.

I gave him the pasta maker for Christmas, but I get to reap the benefits.  Win!  And I digress.

Pasta is boiling?  Check!  Give the beets a minute to cook and then put in a little bit of water or stock–enough to give the veggies something to hang out in, not enough to make it even a little bit soupy.  A quarter-cup is probably sufficient, don’t use more than a half.  (Me?  I “measure” by passing a box of stock around the edge of the pan.  Twice.)  Give that a good stir, make sure anything that’s started to brown to the bottom of the pan has scraped up, and let it simmer together for the aforementioned five minutes.

Before you drain the pasta (which is now, of course, perfectly cooked al dente), save about a half-cup of the pasta water and toss it in with the beets as necessary.  You might not need the whole thing, and that’s fine.  You just want your veggie saute to come together as a sauce, and the starchy water facilitates that.  Also, throw a tablespoon of butter in with the beets; it really “finishes” your sauce and gives it an added boost of homey, sweet warmth.  I added the butter as an almost-afterthought (“Hey, this might be a good idea…”), and was so glad I did.

Now that you’ve starchy-watered your pan, and the butter has melted, add your drained pasta to the pan and pull all the goodies through so the pasta is evenly coated with sauce.  Put it in your serving bowl.

Almost perfect. Almost.

adore how the beets dominated the color profile of the sauce and dyed the pasta pink.  Looks good, yeah?  But we’re not done yet.  Remember when I told you to freeze your feta?  Crumbly cheeses such as feta (or bleu, though I don’t care for bleu cheese and I know you’re all horrified and I swear I have tried to enjoy it but when I eat bleu cheese it only results in tears) don’t shred well…because they crumble, see?…but if they’re frozen, they can be grated on a traditional grater and it looks like you have a beautiful soft topping of snow.

Now THAT is what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

If you don’t have a hunk of frozen feta at your disposal, now is when you top this with one of the other cheeses I mentioned earlier.  It’s all good.

This was fresh, delicious, about as local as I can make something without becoming a subsistence farmer (which, God no, see my previous statements about my black thumb, I would starve and thank you CSA people!), pretty, and jammed with veggies so generally, quite nutritionally sound.  Serve it with a side salad just so you can kick your recommended daily vegetable intake in the butt as you blow past it.  George said, “I just…feeeeeel like I’m eating something good for me, you know?”  Local, groovy, tasty, AND good for you?  Win, win, and extra double-win.  Enjoy.

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