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Beet Down – A New Way to do Beets

4 May

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I’ve moved a lot, both growing up and now in my adult years.  More than occasionally I get the, “How do you do that?” round of questioning, mostly from people that consider a significant move an over-filled pick-up truck unloading across town.  Now, don’t get me wrong, a move is a move.  But some are more uprooting then others.

We’ve been in Jacksonville for about 3 years now, and I’m starting to get a tad bit antsy about where we’ll go next.  At night, Rob and I lie in bed perusing Zillow, dreaming of a possible destination for our next Coast Guard-led adventure.  Port Angeles, Detroit, Boston, not much is out of the running except for land locked areas, most of which we wouldn’t want to live in anyway (sorry, Oklahoma.  Been there, done that).  Of course we look at houses that are waaaaay beyond our means – with kitchens that just might make me famous – but it’s just a fun torturous game we play.  Like window shopping at Gucci.

Everywhere we go we try to squeeze everything we can out of the location, and we have only a year left in north Florida.  We’ve done a lot here, but definitely have a lot more to go, do, and see.  Though altogether we’ve found things we love (paddle boarding, the bird life, dolphins, good shopping), and really don’t love (the bugs, the heat, the bugs, the heat, oh and snakes.  Well, I don’t mind the snakes, but Rob runs away like a little girl).

In terms of one of the more important things in life – food – we’ve also found our regional likes and dislikes.  Sorry, Southern folk, we haven’t taken to the oddly-hairy-yet-slimy-at-the-same-time-omg-who-created-this-thing called okra, nor have some traditions (potato salad at Thanksgiving?) found a settled place in our hearts.  BBQ, however, that’s a love story.  So are the sweet onions.  Also, honey.  And so are the beets.

I’ve never actually documented the epic argument Rob and I had over beets.  Maybe one day.  But, beets!  Really?  Aren’t there better things to argue about, like sponges or spoons?

Well, we’ve grown in our relationship since arguing about beets (thank goodness) and now we can’t go a week without them.  Luckily, farms in Florida grow beets almost year round, and the months they don’t, the red roots keep for a long while in a crisper – if they last that long.  Thankfully, our CSA provides us with bunches regularly.  We eat them straight from the oven, or cold with a bit of vinegar and honey.  I’ve chopped them up into fancy tapenades and relishes, used their juice to dye Easter eggs, and have even infused vodka to make a fancy beet cocktail.  Beet options are endless.

So then why are restaurants only serving beets with the standard goat cheese and arugula?  I mean, some have pecans, some do a balsamic reduction drizzle, but really they are all the same.  It’s so sad!  Culinary monotony at its best.

So let’s turn the tables, shall we, and shake up the beet world.

With these: Beet Tacos.

Vegetarians, unite!  Meat Eaters, indulge!  Paleo folk, take a shower from your last CrossFit workout and pick up one of these tacos (sans cheese and crema)!

These are simple enough for a weeknight, but impressive enough for easy entertaining.  Having spent enough time in Mesa, Arizona, I prefer the small corn tacos to flour, and I feel their earthy flavor compliments the sweet beets wonderfully.  Chipotle crema is nothing more than 1 c Mexican cream (found now at most grocery stores), 3 chopped up chipotle peppers, lime zest and 1 tsp of agave Every Mex dish needs some beans, which are super simple to prepare.  Heat some canned black beans (drained and rinsed) in a pot over medium heat with ½ c water, 1 glove of garlic, and a sprig of mint.  Once boiling, remove from the heat, discard the herb and garlic, season the beans with s&p, and smash them with a fork.  For the star of the show: In a foil-lined baking dish, roast 4 peeled beets at 400 degrees with a dash of s&p, a drizzle of canola oil, 1 tsp cumin, and a whole jalapeno (sliced down the middle) until beets are tender, about an hour and a halfThe fresh topping of crisp cilantro (tear off stem) and soft shredded romaine (roll 2-4 leaves like a cigar then chop into thin strips) top off the bite with herby freshness For an optional creamy, salty indulgence, crumbled Queso Fresco tops the taco with ease.  Oh, and don’t forget the squeeze of that lime you zested earlier (it’s not just a margarita garnish, you know).

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When Rob and I were dating, tacos were our go-to dinner date.  Here in Jacksonville, we haven’t been able to find quite the same ole(!) experience as I we had in the South West.  Remembering those fresh flavors, I decided to create my own using one of Jacksonville’s finest produce, the bodacious beet.  Yes, bodacious.

With Cinco De Mayo coming up, enjoy these tacos with friends and maybe a marg or two.  You’ll get the best of two worlds, or at least the best of two regions of the U.S. (speaking from lots of moving – and eating – experience here, folks).

CinEnjoy!

Beet Tacos
(serves 4)
*ingredients and instructions above. 

To assemble:
Put the corn tortilla on a plate.  Spread some of the smashed black beans on the tortilla.  Top the beans with some roughly chopped beets.  Then Top the beets with the lettuce, cilantro, queso fresco, and a drizzle or two of the crema.  Squeeze the juice of a lime slice over the top, and you’ve got seriously one of the best tacos you’ll ever eat.

Enjoy!

An Aftertaste
If you like beets, check out these and these.  

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The Galette that Saved My Life

22 Apr

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No, my life wasn’t literally in danger.  No, there weren’t superhero galettes flying around donning colorful capes and swords.  Nor were there any galettes with magical powers.  I simply had a stressful day, and this galette made things better (apparently I’m a little dramatic).

Here’s what the galette did do. For one, the crispy, crispy protein-packed crust took no time at all.  Also, with seasonal vegetables, I knew the nutritional value was there.  And with the smell of freshness roasting away in the oven, it brought about the memories of comforting home-cooked meals I grew up eating.

And boy could I go for one of those meals.

Growing up, I was fortunate. It wasn’t until about the middle of college – when I needed to cook on my own – that I realized just how fortunate I was.  Other coeds in my environment experienced only tv dinners throughout their childhood (it was the 80s after all), leaving them with limited taste preferences, food experiences, and nutritional prowess.  While I was never deprived of the famous Kid Cuisine (anyone remember the chocolate pudding?!), I also was scarfing down raw veggies as snacks, Cornish game hens, salads at every meal, and a variety of edible colors.  Because of this, I ate.  I ate well.

Vividly I remember coming home from basketball practice, showering and getting to work on my homework on my mom’s old roll-top antique desk. The soft, outside ambient light was turning dark, and the house always had lingering warmth from the SoCal day.  Downstairs, Tom Brokaw’s velvety voice reported the day’s happenings, and my sister was probably sitting on the step in time-out (sorry, Jenn, but you did spend a lot of time there).  A pot was on the stove, or something was in the oven, and the smells were always delicious.  I sat in a holey blanket struggling through my pre-calculus, a soggy messy ponytail dampening my sweatshirt, Casey the dog at my feet (before he got old and stinky), and the comfort of knowing a home-cooked dinner with my family enrobed me.

The computer screen just got foggy. I miss those days.

So rather than fall into a swamp of reminiscence wishing I had my mom cook me an old-fashioned meal while I do my precalc homework, I decided to create it myself. (My mom does live 8 doors down from us so maybe this could happen, minus the math homework – or maybe my dad would give me some problems just to see if I can remember how to solve changes in functions with respect to independent variables.  Eh?  Like that, Dad?)

Wanting to fill the house with the smell of warmth, I knew baking or roasting something would be ideal. I roast veg a lot, but wanted to spice things up a bit and make the meal special – average weeknight special.  So finding some leftover quinoa flour, I whipped up a quick dough with cold butter and cold yogurt.  Free-forming the rolled out dough around some seasonal veggies held them together with a sprinkling of very sharp cheddar cheese.  After 40 minutes in the oven, a beautiful, rustic galette was born.

And the house smelled weeknight wonderful.

Of course the circumstances were different, but when the light gets low and the house starts to smell like the love someone put into a good meal, it’s like a big, necessary hug (sans homework).

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Spring Veg Galette
(serves 2-4)

Dough:

  • 1 ½ c ground organic quinoa flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • ½ c all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 4 tbsp cold butter, cut into chunks
  • ½ c cold greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 5-7 tbsp cold water

Filling:

  • 1 pint asparagus, ends trimmed
  • Fresh corn cut off 1 cob
  • 1 medium radish, thinly sliced
  • ½ c sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • s&p
  • *Optional: 1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To make the dough, cut the yogurt and butter into the flours with salt until the dough shows pieces the size of peas. NOTE: use a pastry cutter, or two large forks to cut the dough.  Add in the cold water, a tbsp at a time, mixing until dough holds together when squeezed.  On a floured surface, pour out the dough and form into a disk.  Working quickly to keep the dough cold, roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it is 1/8 in thick.  Using as much surface area as possible, use a paring knife to cut the dough into a large circle, discarding the few outside scraps.  Roll the circle of dough over a rolling pin, and lay it onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. 

In the center of the circle, layer the asparagus (I used thinner stalks here), corn, and radishes, leaving about an inch border all the way around. Sprinkle the veg with s&p and a tbsp drizzle of olive oil.  To create the galette, start with a piece of the edge and fold over the veg to create a little crust.  Go all the way around folding (and crimping the pieces together if you want to), until a little open pie is formed. 

Sprinkle the galette with the cheddar cheese. If using the egg wash, paint the crust of the galette dough with the beaten egg (this will create a lovely golden, shiny color on the crust once baked). 

Put the sheet pan in the oven and bake until the crust is browned and the veg are cooked through, about 40 minutes.

Slice into pie pieces, and pair with a light salad. Enjoy!

Turkey Tetrazzini

30 Nov

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Wow. Sigh…. Phew. Did anyone else have a whirlwind of a Thanksgiving? This year, it felt like Thanksgiving plain right snuck up on me. Also, coming down with the stomach flu the week of the biggest food holiday of the year was less than ideal. But despite the craziness of the holidays at work, and the flu, the worst part of the whole shooting match is that I didn’t do any Turkey Day Trials!

For any long-time readers, you know the joy I’ve had with practicing and perfecting my Thanksgiving foods for the big day. This year, I did do a Sweet Potato Turkey Roulade that stole the show on a random Friday a few weeks back, but that was about it.  By the day of Thanksgiving, even though my mom and I were splitting the cooking for the day, I had not pre-prepped anything leaving me a stressed hot mess on the day. My standard Bourbon Butternut Squash Soup curdled, my Bacon Wrapped Dates didn’t get wrapped, and I was still cooking things when my guests arrived (my personal pet peeve).

The turkey, however… was delicious.

I tried something new this year with my farm fresh turkey. Instead of brining (what a mess), and stuffing (that never works), or even brown-bagging the bird (my mother in-law swears by it!), I simply tented the turkey with foil for the first hour of cooking, then let the thing hang out at 350, uncovered, for the last 2 hours. The only seasonings were salt, butter, and white pepper, and I used a bit of chicken stock on the bottom of the roasting pan for some basting. My standard for resting is 45-minutes to an hour to create the perfect temperature for, well, handling, but also for carving. And I have to say, even without Turkey Day Trials, this year’s bird took the gravy.

Now, it’s back to the grind. My students were so excited to tell me that they saw the “big Tom” and the “leg kicking ladies” on the televised Macy’s Day Parade, and North Florida is back to its supernatural-for-this-time-of-year 80-degree weather. With Thanksgiving, back to the grind also translates to leftovers.

Like many, I am a huge fan of the extra-mayo, turkey and cranberry sandwiches. There’s nothing wrong with those buggers, but there is something better: it’s a standard, it’s a classic, it’s perfect for lunch at work, it’s the infamous Turkey Tetrazzini.

I’m not a huge casserole lover (simply because I like having a diversity of food during the week, and when there are only two mouths to feed, those mouths get a little tired of the same thing 5 days in a row). But when it’s Turkey Tez, it’s no holds barred. This is an easy casserole, and one that nixes the 1985 canned mushroom soup rendition. Also, with the switch from regular to whole wheat spaghetti, the added structure and nutty taste compliment the turkey perfectly. A word to the wise, though: make sure the casserole has cooled a bit before serving. Once when my mom served up a healthy-right-out-of-the-oven scoop to my dad, it cracked the plate!

This one is simple and satisfying.   If there is any turkey left in your house, give this recipe a try and savor the start to the next holiday season (omg, it’s here already!).

Enjoy!

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Turkey Tetrazzini
(makes 1, 9-inch square casserole)

  • Leftover turkey meat, shredded, and however much you’ve got! (I used the meat from 2 legs, and the rest of the breast meat, about roughly 4 cups)
  • ½ package of whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 5 stalks celery, sliced into half-moons
  • 2 pints cremini mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
  • 5 springs fresh thyme, leaves removed
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 c chicken broth
  • 2 c shredded mixed cheese (I like the shredded Mexican blend)
  • 4 tbsp butter, plus 1 tsp for greasing
  • s&p

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-in x 9-in baking dish with the tsp of butter.

In salted boiling water, boil the spaghetti noodles until they have just left the crunchy stage. They should still have some bite to them, and will continue to cook in the oven. Drain the pasta, and set aside in a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the butter. Sauté the onion, celery, and mushrooms, season with a pinch of s&p, until they start to soften. Off the heat, stir in the thyme leaves and sour cream. Transfer the veg to the bowl with the pasta, and mix to combine. Pour in the chicken stock, mix, and then pour into the greased baking dish. Even out the mixture in the dish, and then evenly top with the cheese. *Note, you may want to put the baking dish on a sheet tray, just in case the mixture bubbles over a bit.

Bake until golden and bubbly, and bits of sticking-out pasta have become browned and crunchy (oh those are so good), about 30 minutes. Let cool a bit before serving (don’t crack a plate!), pour a buttery chardonnay to pair, and savor the season.

Enjoy!

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