The Whole Beet
July 31, 2008
This article from the NY Times "The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating
" contains a list of vegetables that are uncommon on American dinner plates today. But, aside from the obvious benefit of eating leafy greens and pumpkin anything, I was horrified to see the cooking suggestions. "Chop and saute in olive oil" is a little too plain for the humble Swiss Chard. But eating beets "Fresh, raw and grated to make a salad" is simply sinful. Beets are not just the bulbs. They have amazing leafy greens that are also edible and delicious. The attitude that leaving out the greens in beet recipes is normal, is not confined to the NY Times. When I went to Mexico, I went with my "concunada
" to the market. I had to rescue the beet greens from the vendor. He was about to chop off the greens when I stopped him. He was confused why I'd want the "weed" growing on top of the bulb. I guess after searching for recipes using the greens, I can agree that it doesn't make much sense to eat the greens too, but be assured, it is edible and delicious. And before I forget - raw beet bulbs can be extremely bitter. Jaime Oliver does have an interesting recipe for raw beets in horseradish
dressing, but I can't say I've tried it.
At any rate, I've cooked a soup with the beet greens
before following a recipe from Mario Batali
. Based on the success (at least personally) of that dish, I decided to create a recipe using the Whole Beet. For this dish, I whipped up some delicious garlicky potatoes, and served wilted beet greens on top, and finished it off with baked slices of beets (the golden variety). I added a little red wine vinaigrette
on top for extra flavor. I have to admit - it tasted delicious. So fooey
with the NY Times - the beet greens and bulbs are edible, and I think best served cooked.
For the mashed potatoes:
- 3 Russet potatoes, scrubbed and boiled
- handful of Italian Parsley, chopped
- 3 bulbs of garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp milk (or more depending on your preference)
- salt & pepper to taste
Whip the potatoes with a mixer or a potato masher until frothy.
For the Beets:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- 1 bunch of beets, golden
- beet greens washed, and chopped
- 1/4 onion, sliced (I used a white onion, but a red one would be better)
- 1/4 c white wine
- optional sesame seeds
Step One: Separate the beets from the greens. Pick through the greens and throw out any unsavory characters. Wash both greens and beet bulbs thoroughly to remove dirt.
Step Two: Peel the beet bulbs, and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread around a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Test for softness and turn beet slices over. Finish baking for about 5 minutes or until beets are thoroughly cooked and tender. Remove from the oven to cool.
Step Three: Saute the onions in a pan over medium heat with a good plug of olive oil until they sweat. If you have sesame seeds, toss them in as well. Add beet greens and saute with salt and pepper. Pour in white wine (this tends to temper the bitterness of beet greens). Cook until beets are wilted and wine has cooked off a bit (about 5 minutes).
Step Four. Place a pile of mashed potatoes down on plate as base. Place beet greens on top, and finish off with cooked beet rounds. I also poured on a tablespoon of red wine vinaigrette for flavor. You can do the same, or be creative and make a butter sauce or just plain old olive oil.
This vegetarian dish has it all: carbs, greens, and booze. Now isn't that a tad bit better that "eat raw as a salad?"
Labels: beets, potato, vegetarian
Polenta Cakes (i.e. fritters)
July 14, 2008
Despite my many attempts at creating a flavorful polenta dish like Polenta and Pesto
, and other failed experiments at home that I dare not publish here, I haven't quite mastered a polenta recipe that I can truly say I love. However, Mario Batali gave me some inspiration for my premade loaf of garlic and basil polenta sitting my refrigerator. I didn't have the exact ingredients for his anchiove polenta fritters, but the gist of the recipe -- dredging the fritters in flour and egg wash -- won me over. I altered his recipe by creating a vegetarian version, and if you are a vegan, than the Polenta and Pesto
recipe is for you (no eggs). Otherwise, this fritter recipe was golden. I may also attempt different versions of the dish, including prosciutto and gorgonzola, or mushroom, gorgonzola, and sour cherries. At any rate, this "fritter" dish is my starter plate.
You will need:
- 1 premade "loaf" of polenta (found in the pasta aisle of the grocery store), sliced into rounds
- olive oil for frying
- 1 egg, whisked (set aside in a bowl)
- 1/2 c flour mixed with salt and pepper (set aside on a plate)
For the relish:
- 4 cloves of minced garlic
- 2 roasted bellpeppers, finely chopped (I found these premade in a jar)
- handful of parsley and basil, chopped
- 3 tbsp capers, chopped
- salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 grated Parmesan cheese (or any Italian cheese)
Step One: Preheat the olive oil (about 1 inch deep in a cast iron pan works best) over medium heat.
Step Two: Slice the polenta loaf in small rounds. Take one piece and spread the relish and cheese on top. Create a "sandwich" with the other polenta round.
Step Three: Dust the polenta "sandwich" in flour on all sides, and then dredge in the egg wash. Fry each side until golden brown. Place on a papertowel lined cookie sheet in the oven set, heated to 170 degrees to keep warm while frying.
Step Four: Serve over any simple greens (i.e. arugula, spring mix, etc). Add more relish on top of finished polenta sandwiches, or add pesto as well.
This dish reminds me of crab cakes
, but vegetarian. You can dress them up as dinner, or down as a first course/appetizer, and they are still great. I think a lot more can be done with this recipe so I will continue to experiment and post the results if they are worthy.
Labels: pesto, polenta
Gnocchi with Arugula Pesto
July 02, 2008
Getting home late from work doesn't inspire me to cook some elaborate meal for dinner. Sometimes, even I look for shortcuts: frozen vegetables, frozen stuffed pastas, canned beans (aghast
!). This penchant for cutting corners turned into a new gnocchi experiment. I've noticed that with my traditional gnocchi
recipe, the little potato pillows are sort of mushy. Also, in the summertime, there is nothing worse than turning your oven on or boiling potatoes for 30 minutes. Besides - it's an energy drain. So in an effort to save time, energy, and my house from excruciating temperatures, I used the microwave. This may not be such a big deal for most people - the microwave is like a third appendage for many college students - but I hate the microwave and I almost never use the fancy built-in one in my kitchen. Last night was an exception, however.
The common advise for preparing a good gnocchi (according to my many cookbooks) is that baking the potatoes is preferable to boiling them because the potato stays drier and the gnocchi will have a better texture. One recipe even recommended baking the potatoes on a layer of kosher salt (it promotes convection like cooking). At any rate, I was not about to put my oven on to 400 degrees to bake three little potatoes, so I decided to try nuking the potatoes instead. To my great surprise, it worked out nicely and the cooking time was a total of 10 minutes! The only thing I would add about this technique is that you should NOT poke holes in the potatoes, and try adding a moist kitchen towel on top of the potatoes for the last 3 or 4 minutes of nuking time. Below is my altered recipe for nuked potato gnocchi with a delicious arugula pesto. I have to confess that I totally forgot to add the pistachio nuts that were to be the base of this pesto (it is traditionally pine nuts), mea culpa. The pesto still tastes great without the pistachio nuts, but I will be sure to add them next time and blog about it.
- 3 russet potatoes, nuked in the microwave for 10 minutes
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk, whisked
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg (or if using fresh nutmeg, grate 1/2 a nut)
- 1/3 c grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 c flour (plus more for rolling/mixing dough)
Step One: After nuking the potatoes, remove the skins and shove the potatoes through a ricer. Create a well in the pile of potatoes and pour in the egg. Sprinkle around the cheese and nutmeg, as well as 1 cup of flour. Mix the dough by hand with a spatula, and add more flour if needed. Work the dough into a ball, but don't over-knead it. Dust it with flour.
Step Two: Cut the dough ball up into 6 sections. Roll each section out into a snake and cut it into 1 inch pieces to resemble pillows. Set aside the pieces on a floured cookie sheet.
Step Three: Place a handful of gnocchi in boiling water and cook until the pieces float to the top (about 1 minute). Remove with a slotted spoon and repeat until all the gnocchi is cooked.
Step Four: Toss the cooked gnocchi in the Arugula Pesto below. I served this dish over garlic sauteed french green beans. Delicious!
- 1 c of fresh arugula
- 1 handful of fresh basil
- 1 handful of fresh Italian parsley
- 2/3 c olive oil
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 c Parmesan
- 1/2 c pistachio nuts (optional)
Step One: In a blender, toss in garlic, and greens. If you have the pistachios, add them now as well. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil from the top until the mixture become frothy and green. Pour in the Parmesan and continue blending. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Step Two: Spoon the mixture onto the gnocchi and toss.
You can freeze any leftover pesto, but it may discolor when you thaw it in the refrigerator. The pesto has a tangy bite to it thanks to the arugula. While I regret not adding the pistachios, the pesto still turned out quite will without them. For texture, leave some nuts whole.
Labels: gnocchi, pesto, pistachio, potato