Monday, August 29, 2011

FOOD AND WORDS ON HOLD

I am taking a break to rethink, redesign, and find my focus for Food and Words, but I do check in occasionally.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

BOIL A BEET, GO TO JAIL!

Once I discovered roasted beets, there was no going back.

Growing up I recall not particularly liking beets, although in our house we children had to have at least a taste of each dish my mother served.  She was an exemplary cook in general, but she boiled her beets and made them a la Harvard, an association that must be embarrassing to the school, although no one agrees whether the name has any connection to it.  Today, of course, I prefer some foods over others, but I have always eaten what is set before me,   (Admittedly, I haven't been faced with a sheep's eye in a Bedouin tent.)  My sister, on the other hand, remains a picky eater; so my mom's tasting ploy brought her only a fifty percent success.  



iStockphoto/ © isatori
Beets come in many varieties, each with its particular color and subtly different flavor.  I like them all.  The classic deep purplish-red beet does stain, which can make other ingredients look unattractive, but won’t spoil the taste.  I understand in Sweden this beet juice is the only red coloring allowed by law to dye manufactured foods.

SALAD OF ROASTED BEETS WITH BLUE CHEESE AND WALNUTS

4 medium beets, 3" to 4" in diameter, any variety
8 cups loosely packed baby spinach or mixed baby greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Kosher (coarse) salt
3 ounces firm blue cheese, shredded on the large holes of a grater
1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
3 limes cut into quarters

1.    Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.    Trim tops and tails of beets.

3.    Wrap beets in one layer in heavy foil or double regular foil.  Place on a baking sheet to catch possible drips.

4.    Roast until a fork easily pierces the beets, about an hour; cool.

5.    When ready to serve salad, toss greens with olive oil, a couple of large pinches of salt, several grinds of pepper.  Divide greens among 4 plates; reserve.

6.    Slip skins off beets with fingers; they should peel away easily.  Trim a bit more if necessary.

7.     Slice beets, arranging slices of each beet on top of each plate of greens.  Sprinkle each with 1/4 of the blue cheese and 2 tablespoons walnuts.  Garnish each plate with 3 lime wedges. (I offer more at the table, because I like things quite tart.)

4 servings


Tips

  • Avoid large beets; they can be a bit tough and woody.
    • I shred the cheese, because it adheres to the vegetables better than crumbled.  Cheese should be cold when you shred it but should sit at room temperature for 15 or so minutes before using.
    • Cut the thin line of pith from the top edges of the lime wedges to make them easier to squeeze--less likely to squirt juice into the eyes of those around you.
      • I always serve salads at room temperature.  We taste flavors best when food is not eaten icy cold or burning hot.  
      • If your beets come wearing their fresh, crisp leaves (usual at the farmers market--not so often in supermarkets), cook them separately as you would any winter green and have them with another meal.  In Cajun country, this would be called a lagniappe or a small gift given to a customer with a purchase, but generally the word has taken on the meaning of a little something extra a gift.

        Tuesday, April 5, 2011

        SPRING BRINGS THE SPEARS!

        I've been enjoying our local asparagus--one of my favorite vegetables--for the last few weeks.  At the start of the season, I want to prepare it simply--hot or at room temperature--with a drizzle of olive oil, a smidgeon of coarse sale, and some coarsely ground black pepper.  As the supply increases and the price goes down, I start including it in a variety of recipes.  I love asparagus most any way, including this sandwich.

        ASPARAGUS, GOAT CHEESE, AND SMOKED SALMON SANDWICH

        8 ounces soft, white goat cheese at room temperature
        1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon capers, chopped
        1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground, fresh black pepper or to taste
        6 oblong sandwich rolls
        1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced, separated into rings
        24 cooked, large asparagus spears
        12 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon


        1.  Thoroughly mix cheese, capers, and black pepper; reserve. 

        2.  To assemble sandwiches, spread 1 generous tablespoon reserved cheese mixture on each cut side of the rolls.  Layer 1/6th of the onion rings on the bottom of each roll.  On top of the onion, layer 1/6  of the salmon and 4 asparagus spears, interspersing asparagus between slices of salmon. 

        3.  Cover sandwiches with tops; cut in half at a diagonal.

        6 servings

        • Cook the asparagus the way you prefer.  I've reached a point where I cook few vegetables in water or steam.  For me nothing brings out flavor like roasting or sauteing.  (In fact, I have some beets I just bought at the farmers market in the oven even as I write this.)  I toss the asparagus with a little olive oil and coarse salt, then spread the spears in one layer on a baking sheet.  I roast them at 400 degrees F until just tender-crisp, about 10 minutes for the fat ones.  Because it seems almost impossible to find bunches of asparagus all of a thickness, you will probably have to take out the thinner spears as the larger ones continue to roast.  When I get pencil-thin asparagus, I "grill" it in a large frying pan just filmed with olive oil, turning frequently, until tender-crisp and lightly browned.
        • Sometimes I use the filling in a wrap.