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Posts Tagged ‘roasting’

So you want to hear something that sounds a little weird to me? I like beets, and not only do I like beets, but I absolutely LOVE beet greens. I think I can officially be called a grown-up now. I think….

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Anyway, why is this such a revelation? Due to the fact that just a few short years ago, I couldn’t be persuaded to even consider the beet, it stands to reason that for me to kindly elbow my way to the front of my favorite Farmers Market organic vendor and snatch the last bunch of his bi-colored beets off the table is little short of miraculous. What’s more miraculous is that he is but one of only a few vendors that I see at my local weekly stops that A) actually has beets other than red ones, B) has beets with stunningly gorgeous greens and C) has beets with the green still attached, period.

Why farmers hack off those nutrient rich leaves I’ll never know. Beet greens are nutritional powerhouses, chock full of Vitamins A, B-6 and C, antioxidants like beta carotene and lutein and they are full of fiber, zinc, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and iron. There’s no saturated fat and no cholesterol in beet greens, and with a quick saute and a few seasonings, you get a delicious option for your plate. A cup of greens will set you back a measly 10 calories or so.

I recently experimented with Spinach Pesto, much to our delight (and Griffin’s chagrin) and so it wasn’t without much thought that I considered another go-round of Pesto with the slowly growing pile of beet greens that I was accumulating. A quick search for recipes or methods turned up little on actually making a Pesto with the greens, and not like it’s much to consider what with a food processor, some good olive oil, a little garlic and a few seasonings, that I would be well on my way to a glistening dish of green goodness without much of a recipe to follow. Pesto is pesto…. the method is still the same.  I knew the greens couldn’t be used raw like spinach can, so I decided a quick sauté was in order.

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I decided to use caramelized leek and garlic as a good base for this pesto, something that would have a lot of flavor to stand up to the commanding taste of the beet green. After a slow saute to a deep golden brown, I dropped the beet greens into the same pan, stirring and tossing them with the hot leeks, and watched carefully to get them to a point of losing their crunchy texture, but not so far as to make them fully cooked. I left them dark green with some toothsome bite, then scraped them onto a baking sheet to cool. The whole thing was placed in the food processor, with olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, then whizzed to the perfect consistency.

Wow. This is one amazing flavor, let me tell you. Perfect for pasta, as would be expected, but also good for spreading on my favorite herb flatbread and topping with an array of roasted and julienned beets, a drizzle of good herb vinaigrette and a sprinkle of nuts.

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Perfect Herb Flatbread

1- 3/4 c. AP flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2-3 T. fresh herb of choice
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. good quality olive oil

Heat oven to 450° and place a round baking stone in oven.

Blend dry ingredients, including herbs together in a bowl. Slowly add water and oil and blend until a somewhat stiff dough forms. Turn out onto parchment paper and knead gently about 4 or 5 times to pull the dough together. Roll into a large 10-12″ circle with a rolling pin, sprinkle with sea salt and a drizzle of oil and place, with parchment, on heated stone. Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until browned in some spots. Remove from oven and cool. Do not leave on baking stone or it will continue to bake!

Dough can be divided into smaller portions and rolled out separately to smaller circles.

If you don’t have a baking stone, place the dough (on the parchment) right onto the rack of your oven. It may come out a little rippled.

I roasted these beets, wrapped in foil and in a 400° oven until they were nice and tender. The skins slip right off once cooled and they keep for several days in the fridge.

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Admittedly, I like to break convention. I’m not one to conform to stereo-typing, I don’t mold myself to any expectation and I refuse to adhere myself to a certain role. At home, I’m just as easily found outside shoveling, chopping ice on our north-facing driveway, spreading mulch or digging a hole for a new garden plant as I am in the kitchen whipping up something delicious. I don’t think in terms of ‘mans work’ or ‘womens work’, and while we do have some things in our house that may fall into those categories, I don’t think that any job should be defined by your gender. I would have never succeeded as a single parent for 7 years with that belief.

In my life too, I’m the one who would most likely encourage you to step outside the box. Years ago, in an outing with women I was working with, we spied a parking spot outside our destination on the opposite side of the street from where we were. Here’s me in the backseat telling the driver to make a U-turn, while the other women in the car want to play it safe and go around the block. When I’m in the minority, I tend to be slightly insistent about what I feel, and apparently I was loud enough that the driver whipped around the steering wheel in a speedy U-turn and scored the parking spot. Later she confessed that she’d never done anything like that. I asked her if she liked it, and after a moment’s repose, she replied with a grin “I think I did!” Stepping outside a comfort zone, or taking one of life’s U-turns is hard for some people. I’m generally not one of them.

This trait, good or bad as it can be, is part of me in the kitchen as well, and here it really tends to take off soaring because I’m the majority cook in the family and no one is standing about trying to tell me what to do with a recipe or certain dish. I rarely follow a written recipe, and when I do I’m most always disappointed. I know what I like, and after a lifetime of cooking, making mistakes and blending every ingredient under the sun, I have a storehouse of knowledge in my brain as to what works and what might not. My brain can see how any recipe from any source can become something else altogether, and knows just how to make it delicious.

Take this roasted vegetable pasta dish; I don’t recall the origin of the dish as the only note I have on it says  “eggplant, tomato and pasta” – yeah, that’s concise- but I recalled enough to know that you roasted the veggies, pureed them with pasta water and some olive oil and mixed it with cooked rigatoni. I also recalled that the finished dish, while not a beauty queen, was delicious. Sometimes, ‘delicious’ is all I can remember, and really, do you need to know anything else? Well, a method might help.

For my roasted veggies, I used an eggplant and a pint of grape tomatoes, halved. I also cut an onion into eighths, large diced a red pepper and rough chopped six cloves of garlic as additions. Mix it all up in a bowl with a few good glugs of olive oil, some seasoning of choice, and toss.

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Don’t give in and add more oil; the notoriously thirsty eggplant will drink up some of it and the rest of the vegetables will get their fair share. Too much oil on eggplant in the oven and it just becomes soggy. Spread the veggies out on cookie sheets, with plenty of room, and roast at 400 until the tomatoes are nice and wrinkly, the eggplant is browned and everything smells amazing. This took me about 25-35 minutes.

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Cook the pasta while the veggies roast. You want the pasta water for the puree; I always place a pyrex measuring cup in the colander to help remind me to catch that good starch. Drain the pasta, reserving up to two cups of the water. Keep the pasta warm.

Place the veggies in the food processor with some salt and pepper. You can save some of the roasted pieces to top the pasta, if you wish.

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Add in about a cup of the pasta water and another healthy glug of olive oil. Whir the veggies to a consistency of choice- I like it a bit chunky- and scrape down the sides. Now take a look at the mix- it should be fairly thick. Add in a little more pasta water to make it to a spreading consistency. If it’s too thick, it won’t coat the pasta well enough.

You can also add in some kalamata olives, and be sure to have some fresh grated parmesan ready.

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And if you’re like me and enjoy something crunchy, toasted and seasoned on top of your pasta, make some bread crumbs. I took a shortcut this time and put the remains of these bagel chips through the food processor.

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Oh my, this was a really good addition!

Once the veggies are processed, scoop some of the puree onto your rigatoni or other large shape of pasta. This is such a hearty dish that a tiny shape would get lost in amongst the lovely vegetable mix. You may not need all the puree so add as you go to make it the consistency you like. Stir, taste, season with salt and pepper and taste some more.

Then, take your serving, add in the parmesan and crumbs and pick up a fork.

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Mmmmm….. who needs convention anyway??

The puree was really thick and delicious- not so visible in these photos but trust me…each bite was a huge flavor burst in the mouth. There was plenty left over even after I coated the pasta with quite a bit. The next day I could hardly wait to take the remains of the vegetable mixture, spread it on toasted peasant bread and top it with fresh mozzarella. This made for a quick and delicious light lunch. I also think it would make a wonderful appetizer for a party.

Ok, if you need a set of instructions, follow the jump…..

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Unbeknown to me, yesterday’s post about Men Making Dinner and Nacho Day was my 500th post on this blog.  That kind of blows my mind; I’ve been at this a long time- yes, 2 1/2 years to be exact- and I’m rather prolific with words so really, it shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Nor should it be any surprise that when you roast root vegetables that include beets, everything will be PINK!

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Pretty pink and richly colored, in fact; staining your couscous and your bowl, but filling your tummy and taking the edge off the raw wind that came up.

And the national food holiday today? It’s Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day and I thought about seeking out this concoction and spending copiuos amounts of time bestowing praise on such a delicious combination but then I spotted this roasted vegetable dish and all thoughts of chocolate scampered out the window. I should be declared something- possibly certifiable?-  when veggies take precedence over chocolate.

But like I said, the wind turned raw and the rain was pouring down and after our early week flirtation with the 70’s in November– temperatures, not the decade mind you- the chill and damp that came over us was harsh and required not a candy to bring relief but something warming, deeply satisfying and a hot oven.

The original recipe, found here in our local paper’s award-winning Taste section, caught my eye and made me drool; an array of vegetables roasted to tender melting goodness and served over super-simple couscous. With my little carnivore heading out with his beloved Uncle Mike to the Gopher basketball game, it would be a welcome dinner for us- no meat yet tons of flavor.

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Beets, rutabaga, parsnips, eggplant, carrots and tomato were my combination, doused with olive oil, a sprinkle of thyme, salt and pepper and a long roast in a 400 degree oven. I knew the outcome even before I started, but the beets were small and tender and I didn’t care if they bloodied my dish. The chopped beet greens added a nice color and tons more nutrients-don’t ever throw those away!! They taste like spinach and are SO good for you. And the nicest part about the whole dish was, as we sat down with steaming bowls in front of us, Mike declared with a high amount of enthusiasm “I love beet greens!” which was the smallest little detail ever, but after six years of marriage, I never even knew this about him. Imagine that! This was, by and large for the blustery night, a much better option than chocolate.

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To roast your own:
Take one eggplant, one rutabaga, three parsnips, three carrots and one bunch of beets (mine had three in it) and cut them into uniform chunks. Place them in a roasting pan and pour about 1/3 cup of oil over them and add seasoning of choice. Stir to coat. Roast at 400 degrees, stirring after about a half hour. Roughly chop three tomatoes (minus the seedy pulp) and scatter over vegetables at the 30 min. mark. Continue roasting for 15-20 more minutes, then stir. Everything will be PINK. Saute the cleaned and chopped beet greens separately and stir into the veggies before serving, or serve on the side.

Prepare quick-cooking couscous, polenta or another base of choice and serve roasted veggies over this, sprinkled with some fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Delicious additions to the veggies could be: garbanzo beans, kalamata olives, celery root, turnips…..really the sky is the limit, or your personal taste. Leave out the beets if you don’t like PINK.

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