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Entries in Beets (2)

Wednesday
Jul132011

A favorite food?

At a Cape Cod wedding earlier this summer, our table was diving into lobsters, steamers, clam chowder and corn on the cob when a dear friend posed the question "What is your favorite food?" I have answers to this question once you add qualifiers... favorite dessert, favorite vegetable, favorite drink, etc. But favorite food? Impossible!

After asking the question, Kate pointed to her husband attacking his lobster and her look said it all - his favorite food is clearly lobster! I thought for a few minutes about my response and then said something that surprised me - beets! It is not that they would be the food of choice for my last meal, but beets are a food I can eat every day and never grow tired of and I am always looking for a creative way to cook with them.

After stating this, Kate told me about their favorite recipe containing beets and kindly passed it along. I love turning beets into a main dish rather than a side (e.g., beet gnocchi) and incorporating an ingredient that is new to me - farro.  The recipe reminded me of a dinner we had in Provincetown last summer at Tiny's, a farm-to-table restaurant with truly awesome food and a great view of the main street in P-Town.  We rode our bikes from Boston to P-Town over the course of two days and our meal at Tiny's was a great way to end of the journey.  One of the many delicious items we ate that night was beet risotto (pictured below).  I remember sitting outside, watching people walk by below and telling Rob that I was going to try to make that beet risotto!  I haven't yet, but this dish was inadvertently close.

Back to the recipe at hand!  I sent Rob hunting for farro at a mainstream grocery store (unsuccessful) but I have since found it at both Vitamin Cottage and in the bulk foods section of Whole Foods.  Once cooked, farro is a moist, chewier version of pasta that I really liked.  Dare I say that this dish tastes both healthy and delicious?

 

Farro Spaghetti, Beets, Brown Butter, Poppy Seeds
Adapted from this recipe published in New York Magazine

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds red beets
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 pound good quality farro or whole wheat spaghetti
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 heaping tablespoon poppy seeds, plus addition poppy seeds for a garnish
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup pasta water
12 tablespoons fresh, soft goat cheese

Preparation

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F. Place the beets in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Cover with olive oil and water. Bake until a tester easily passes through the beets, about 1 1/2 hours. Let cool.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Peel the beets. Cut into chunks and add to the bowl of a food processor. Process until a rough purée is achieved.

Add the farro to the boiling water.

Add the butter to a room temperature 10-inch skillet. Turn heat to high and brown. Toast the poppy seeds in the brown butter for about 2 minutes. Add the puréed beets, salt and pasta water to pan. Stir to fully incorporate.

Use a wire mesh strainer or tongs to remove the farro directly into the skillet toss to combine.

To serve; divide the farro into equal portions and place on warm plates. Use 2 round or oval soup spoons to create little balls with the goat cheese and place one on top of each serving. Garnish with a light sprinkle of poppy seeds.

Sunday
Jun192011

Pink! + Beet Gnocchi

Please excuse the grammatically incorrect title of the post, but I am trying to convey that I am not just talking about pink, but hot, vibrant pink and I hope the exclamation mark helps to convey that. Saturday morning I found myself in Denver with a blissfully free day ahead of me... and it turned out to be, as  I like to say, a delicious day. It began with an iced coffee and a walk in Wash Park with a dear friend and a trip to the Cherry Creek Farmer's Market.


The encounters with pink were early and often... beautiful roses climbing up the side of Chelsey's house, fragrant peonies for sale from Pastures A Plenty Farm, a shocking pink stand mixer at Williams-Sonoma and finally the deep pink beets that I found at the farmer's market.



A few years ago, I discovered that I love beets. If you've only had the canned variety and think you don't like them, I implore you to give them a second chance. Roast sliced beets with olive oil and sea salt I suspect you'll change your mind.  

The impetus for finding beets was a dinner I had last week at Root Down, a fantastic restaurant in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver. The restaurant's dinner menu includes an awesome dish, beet gnocchi, and I desperately wanted to attempt to replicate it at home. I searched my cookbooks and online for a recipe and was disappointed to find that they all contained ricotta cheese, which neither Rob nor I like, so I improvised a bit. Rob and I both agreed that the end result was a flavorful, pillowy and delicious.

I've included two versions of the recipe below. The first is simply gnocchi in a thyme-infused butter. It is simple and delicious and really highlights the beet flavor of the gnocchi. The second is my version of the gnocchi they serve at Root Down. The gnocchi is paired with steamed spinach, fresh blueberries, slivered almonds and, if you'd like, crumbled goat cheese. Not only is the dish stunning because of the rich colors, but it tastes great. Either way, I have altered the recipe below as I used it to make the gnocchi smaller. I found that I would have preferred mine to be at least half the size of those pictured.

 

Beet Gnocchi & Beet Gnocchi à la Root Down
8 first-course or 4 main-course servings

3 small beets, trimmed
1/2 lb fresh goat cheese (note - the recipes I found that included ricotta cheese called for 1 lb of cheese. I only had 1/2 lb available, plus I didn't want the goat cheese flavor to overwhelm the beets. If you want to add more, I think you can safely add up to 1 lb)
1 large egg
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups flour, divided

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 fresh thyme sprigs
Additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Beet Gnocchi à la Root Down
1 pint fresh blueberries
2 bunches of spinach, washed and steamed
1 cup sliced, blanched almonds, roasted in the oven just prior to serving
1/2 pound goat cheese, crumbled

 


1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wrap beets in foil and roast until tender, about 1 hour.

2. Cool beets for 15 minutes. Slip skin off beets; discard skins. Coarsely grate beets. Place 3/4 cup grated beets in large bowl (reserve remaining beets for another use). Stir in goat cheese, egg, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Mix in 1 cup flour. The gnocchi dough can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

3. Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour. Place remaining 1/2 cup flour in small bowl. Using a teaspoon measure as aid, scoop dough into rounds (in my opinion, the smaller the better). Transfer each round to the bowl with the flour, then roll each into a 1" log. Hold in palm of hand and gently press centers with fingertips to make slight indentations or use a fork to make indentations if you are feeling ambitious (this never really works for me so I have accepted that mine will not have indentations). Transfer the gnocchi to prepared baking sheet. The gnocchi can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Note that if you double the recipe and have extra gnocchi, freeze them on the baking sheet and, once frozen, drop the frozen gnocchi in a Ziploc bag for future use.

4. Melt butter with thyme sprigs in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Cook until butter begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside.


5. Working in batches, cook the gnocchi in large pot of simmering salted water until the gnocchi float to the surface, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook for an additional 90 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the skillet with the butter and thyme. Heat the butter and gnocchi over medium heat, stirring gently to coat. Remove the thyme sprigs. Transfer to the gnocchi to a plate; sprinkle generously with additional Parmesan cheese and serve.

If you'd prefer to add a few ingredients to complement the beet gnocchi, place the gnocchi on a bed of steamed spinach and garnish with fresh blueberries and slivered almonds. The Root Down menu notes that the dish also contains an apple cider reduction and Iberico cheese - since I used goat cheese in the gnocchi, I think sprinkling goat cheese over the dish would also taste great. I know it seems odd to use spinach, blueberries and almonds to complement these gnocchi but it really does work.