Golden Beets and Walnuts Tart

I have come to love beets. I even willingly drank a beet beer once. But the abundance of beets that inevitably comes from our CSA fills me with panic and dread as I try to figure out what I can do with them that my kids will actually eat.

I’ve tried making beet chips, which the younger kid seemed to like, but the older kid rejected because it still tasted too much like well, beets. I then put them in smoothies which the older kid liked but the younger kid rejected probably because it tastes too healthy. And although I think these were a success, I’m not feeding my kids cupcakes each week.

When last week’s share brought us our first bunch of golden beets, I hit the Internet up for some inspiration, searching for beet recipes my kids will eat. Among my search results was this beet, walnut, and chèvre tart. I figured at the very least, they might eat the crust without complaining and we’d call it good.

I adapted this tart in a few ways. It starts with swapping in some whole wheat flour in the crust, which you could say is to make it healthier but really, I thought the nuttiness of the whole wheat would complement the walnuts more. Next, I roasted the beets instead of steaming them, adding some flavor by throwing in some thyme sprigs. More color, as well as a healthful boost and frugal use of the beet tops was added by sautéing the chopped beet greens with the caramelized onions. Lastly, instead of chèvre, I used more kid-friendly Beecher’s Flagship cheese.

The result was gorgeous and glorious! But did my kids like it? Well, the older one picked up a beet suspiciously, asking what it was. My husband and I refused to tell her so she took a bite and gleefully declared it to be a carrot. We probably should have lived up the lie, but told her the truth. After that, her interest in the tart suddenly dropped off.
But the younger one? The one for whom it took 3.5 years before she’d willingly eat a strawberry? She begrudgingly declared it “half good,” but she also did not hesitate to eat more bites, greens and all. My husband gave me a high five on the sly. I’ll take that as highest kid praise when it comes to a hard sell like beets!

Golden Beets and Walnuts Tart

(Adapted from here. )

Tart Shell Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Tart Filling Ingredients
3 small beets, halved
Olive oil
2-3 thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
Beet greens, trimmed off of stems and finely chopped
2 tablespoons dry Sherry or whatever dry wine you have on hand
3 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 ounces Beecher’s Flagship cheese or a hard, nutty white cheese. Maybe gruyere or even a sharp white cheddar can work
1 cup chopped walnuts (Although I think pinenuts might be a nice swap.)
About 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Start by making the tart shell. In a food processor, add the flours, salt, and butter. Pulse 8-10 times, holding the button down for 2-3 seconds each pulse, until the butter is the size of small peas. With the processor running, add 4 tablespoons of ice water until the dough just comes together. Remove to a sheet of plastic wrap and clump together into a ball, drizzling more water if the mixture is too dry. Flatten the ball into a disk then wrap tightly in plastic. Chill for at least 30 mins or up to two days.

Preheat your oven to 375. Roll out dough to a 13 inch circle then carefully lay it over a 10 inch tart pan, pressing the dough up and into the sides. Cleanly cut off excess dough by rolling your rolling pin over the top and breaking off the overhanging dough. Place a large sheet of aluminum foil over the crust and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake shell on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, then remove from oven. Carefully remove the foil and set shell aside.

To make the filling, start by roasting the beets. Turn your oven to 400 degrees. Place beet halves on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and top with thyme sprigs. Wrap tightly in foil and bake for 1 hour or until tender. Unwrap beets so they can cool a little.
Heat 1 tablespoon each of unsalted butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Stir to coat in the butter and oil then cover with a lid and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 7 mins, stirring once halfway through cooking time. Remove lid and continue to cook onions until lightly caramelized, for me, that was about 15 mins more. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and the chopped beet greens, then crank up the heat to medium high. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the sherry. Cook until greens are wilted, about 3-5 minutes. A lot of liquid will be in the pan. Using tongs, remove the greens and onions to a colander, squeezing out extra liquid as you do. When all of the greens and onions are in the colander, press on them with a wooden spoon to get rid of more excess liquid.
Set the oven to 350 and place the tart pan on a baking sheet.
Place the greens and onions in the bottom of the tart shell. Peel then thinly slice beats crosswise. Place them on top of the greens– you can layer them decoratively, if that floats your boat. In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk the eggs then add the 3/4 cup of cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk together until combined then pour over the beets in your tart shell. Break apart the cheese into small crumbles and scatter over your tart.
Bake tart on the baking sheet for 20 minutes then scatter walnuts on top and return to the oven, baking for another 20 minutes or until the filling is firm but still slightly quivers. Remove from oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before scattering parsley on the top and removing the tart from the outside tart shell ring.

Yields 12 slices.
CSA count: 3 (golden beets, parsley, beet greens)
Kid rating (out of two empty plates): 1 empty plate

Notes for the working parent: I made and blind baked the tart shell, roasted the beets, and cooked the greens and onions over the weekend, storing the beets and greens separately in the fridge. I then assembled and baked the tart on a weeknight, giving me lots of downtime while it was baking to shop for workout clothes online, so you know, a relaxed, post-work cooking effort.

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Muffin Tin Frittatas

I think that so far, I’ve been lucky that having a baby around the house hasn’t affected my finding time to cook too much. Sure some things have changed: we don’t eat dinner until 8:30 at night so I can still make food from scratch but start after she goes to bed; I certainly don’t blog about my efforts as often; and dinner plans with friends have now become brunches, squeezed in between her morning and mid-day naps.

I also fully anticipate that this will likely change once she’s more mobile and I can’t just plop her down in a Bumbo chair or exersaucer and entertain her by explaining what I’m doing as I cook. I’ll have to find fast but tasty ways to still cook from scratch if I can. These mini frittatas should fit the bill. Quick assembly, hands off co0king in the oven, lovely colors, easily portable to friends’ houses, and delicious warm or at room temperature. Plus it has a frou frou sounding name to keep the foodie in me happy if I have to eat on the run, chasing down the little tornado of destruction that my backwards crawling daughter is on the verge of becoming.

I also like how versatile these are– you can load them up with whatever ingredients you want. When I made these for a potluck brunch with friends, I made one batch with cheddar, bacon, and chives and another batch with smoked salmon, cream cheese, fresh dill, and diced red onion. These cooked beautifully. They puffed up, got crispy on the outside and yet were tender on the inside. Perfect for brunch with or without little kiddos running around, and although lately our brunches have been with little babies and toddlers, that doesn’t stop us from pairing these with mimosas and dousing them with Sriracha. Parenthood doesn’t have to change everything, you know.

  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • cooking spray
  • filling ingredients of your choice. Examples: 4 ounces cooked, crumbled bacon, 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives. Also pictured here, 4 ounces crumbled smoked salmon, 3 ounces cream cheese, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill, and 1/4 cup finely diced red onion.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Take a muffin tin and lightly coat with cooking spray. Beat together eggs, milk, salt and pepper until well combined. Add filling ingredients* then pour into muffin tin, filling about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the eggs have just set and are a little quivery when you gently shake the muffin tin. Remove from oven and let cook for about 5 minutes. Using an offset spatula, gently loosen the frittatas from the muffin tins and set on a serving platter. Sprinkle with any additional chives or other fresh herbs, depending on what ingredients you used (cilantro for a southwestern theme would be good, parsley for an Italian theme, you get it.) Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 9 frittatas.

*If doing bacon, cheddar and chives, add 3/4 cup of cheese to the eggs and reserve the last 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top of the frittatas in the last few minutes of baking so that there’s a gooey cheese layer on top.

Rainbow Chard & Pea Carbonara

Spaghetti carbonara has been eluding me. In the past, things would go wrong: not enough egg to create a silky sauce; too high heat so the pancetta burned; wrong kind of cheese so that the whole dish tasted funky.

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis should know that when I find something to be culinarily challenging, I’ll keep returning to it until I’m satisfied. Plus, who wouldn’t want to master spaghetti carbonara– eggs, cheese, bacon, so delicious not to mention that it’s a super fast meal to throw together when pressed for time.

The other challenge to spaghetti carbonara for me? Trying to find a way to make myself feel a little better about eating it. In this case, I had rainbow chard and shell peas from the CSA. I thought that the bright burst of green vegetables would not only make this a dish as pretty to look at as it is to eat, but that it’d be a great way to punch up the nutritional value of this meal. It turned this pasta dish into a one pot meal since the fresh vegetables mixed in meant that I could skip out on making a side salad… or at least so I convinced myself.

With three eggs, 4 slices of bacon, some garlic that sizzled in the bacon fat, and 6 oz of ground up Parmesan cheese, I achieved the right balance for a silky sauce and the chard and peas brightened up the flavors. Fast, seemingly healthy, filling, yet light– perfecto!

  • 3/4 lb spaghetti, cooked according to package directions, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, diced
  • olive oil
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 6 oz Parmesan cheese, ground in a food processor
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bunch rainbow chard, chopped
  • 1/2 pound shell peas
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Boil water, salt it, and cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta cooks, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp then remove to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. While bacon cooks, beat eggs in a large mixing bowl and grind cheese in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add cheese to the eggs along with 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix until combined. Add garlic to the bacon fat and cook for 30 seconds or until aromatic. Add the rainbow chard and peas and cook until chard is wilted and peas are bright green. When spaghetti is cooked to al dente, drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Quickly toss spaghetti in egg and cheese mixture, tossing to coat each noodle in the sauce. Add pasta water as needed to achieve sauce consistency. Mix in cooked vegetables. Plate and serve immediately, topping with parsley and more cheese as desired.

CSA Count: 4

Rainbow chard, shell peas, garlic, parsley

Asparagus Crostata

Apparently this week has been National Vegetarian Week, and I kicked it off with a post about lamb meatballs. Huh… well, to make up for it, here’s a vegetarian dinner idea that is easy to put together and takes advantage of all that plentiful asparagus that’s popping up in markets everywhere.

An loyal subscriber to Bust magazine, I was thrilled to see that this month’s issue was dedicated to food and foodies. Inspired by a recipe in the blogger potluck article for asparagus pie, I wanted to achieve the same combination of flaky pastry, custard filling, and crisp, green asparagus, while somehow making it even easier to assemble. I settled on making a crostata instead of a full-on pie with lattice topping: this way, I only had to worry about folding in the sides of a single layer of crust so as to make a large tart and with a flat, open surface, I could take out a step of pre-cooking the asparagus since the vegetable could roast while the pastry bakes.

For the custard filling, I combined ricotta cheese with creme fraiche along with an egg for even more richness and lots of bright flavors from lemon zest, chives, and thyme. I spread the filling out on a large round of pate brise dough then carefully lined up the slender asparagus that I had tossed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. I folded in the edges of the crust, set the whole thing in the oven and crossed my fingers. Twenty-five minutes later, I had a golden crust, a firmly set custard, and nutty, roasted asparagus. I sprinkled on some additional fresh chives before cutting them into wedges to serve.

Admittedly, the crostata itself wasn’t too pretty to look at, but look at the final product below– I loved how when cut into wedges, you had these little triangles that were pin-striped with bright green. Served with a lightly dressed pile of arugula for a salad and you have an easy, light, and satisfying meal.

Note: The pastry recipe to which I hyperlink creates enough crust for 1, double layer 9 inch pie. The remaining third can be wrapped tightly in plastic and tossed in your freezer to use in combination with other dough scraps for pie or quiche or you can roll it out flat, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, then cut into strips and bake for a tasty snack.

  • 2/3 of a recipe for pate brise (I use Joy of Cooking’s recipe.)
  • 1 bunch slender asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1.5 teaspoons)
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 oz creme fraiche
  • 10 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 egg yolk, mixed with a little water, or a little heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim the asparagus of tough, woody ends then toss with olive oil, garlic, and about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the creme fraiche, ricotta, egg, 1 tablespoon of chives, thyme, and lemon zest. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper.

Roll out the pastry dough to about 16 inches in diameter. Place the dough on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet. Spread the ricotta and creme fraiche mixture on the dough, leaving about a 1-2 inch border. Carefully line the asparagus in a single line across the diameter of the dough, alternating whether the tips face up or down. Fold in the borders of the dough until the meet the edges of the custard filling. Brush the crust with the egg yolk and water mixture or some heavy cream (you can sprinkle with large flake salt, if you want.) Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden, custard is set, and the asparagus is spotted brown and crispy at the edges. Cut into wedges and serve.

Garden Count: 2

Fresh chives and thyme

Peruvian Chicken Noodle Soup

In November 2009, John, our friend Doug, and I visited Peru to spend some time with John’s sister and her family and of course, to see Macchu Picchu. Home to hundreds of species of potatoes, this was a culinary haven to a carbohydrates addict like me. Meals frequently combined rice, potatoes, and corn. I could eat lots of carbs and not feel guilty about it since it was all part of enjoying the local food.

While in Cusco on our way back from Macchu Picchu, we stumbled into a restaurant off the main square that had more casual, local food, a welcome change after the various pizza, chop suey, and chicharrones menus accompanied with the offer of “all day happy hour for you” restaurants that had relentlessly sought our patronage in Aguas Calientes. For me in particular, I was on day 2 of treatment for food poisoning (done in by an avocado salad at a respectable restaurant, sadly not by some adventurous street fare) so I was wary about what I could test out on my still troubled stomach. I settled on a chicken soup and soon found myself in comfort food heaven: a rich and flavorful chicken broth brimming with soft vermicelli style noodles, strands of airy egg white, powdery chunks of potato, and bright with fresh cilantro. No wonder we love chicken noodle soup while sick.

We decided to get this same soup to go for John’s sister who was shut in at our hotel with her sleeping son. John looked up how to say “take out” in Spanish with our free iPhone Spanish dictionary app but something must have been lost in translation as the waitress brought out another steaming hot mini cast iron cauldron of the soup. Through hand gestures and more broken Spanish, we explained that we needed to take the soup to go with us, but the waitress shook her head and said she didn’t have any containers to do that. I then spotted our empty bottle of water, and thought that if we could carefully spoon the soup through the narrow neck, we could recap it and take it back to Anne to eat. Surprisingly skilled at this, I managed to fill the bottle about 1/3 of the way when the waitress saw us, shook her head as if to say, “Stupid gringos,” grabbed the bottle and the cauldron of soup from me then unceremoniously dumped everything into a plastic bag before handing it back to us with our bill.

Maybe it was the lasting impression of how comforting that soup was, but I was determined to recreate it to the best of my ability back home. It took a year and a half later with a return trip to Peru to remind me of that intention. Here’s my version– probably not at all authentic but still hits the spot: I used dried angel hair pasta, homemade chicken stock, peeled Yukon gold potatoes, and to add a little bit more protein, some shredded chicken breast. Spring has been slow in coming out here in Seattle, so I don’t mind having warm, chicken noodle soup even though it’s now May, but if it’s warmer out where you live, you still might consider making this soup. There’s just something about the bright yellows from the egg and the vibrant green of the cilantro that makes this a very spring-time soup to me. So make a pot, and I bet that there won’t be any leftovers to try spooning into a plastic bottle.

  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 chicken breast halves (about 1 pound), cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • handful (about 1/4 of a pound) angel hair pasta, broken in half
  • 3 eggs, beaten with a 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, plus more for serving.

In a large soup pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Reduce the heat to barely a simmer, then place the chicken pieces in the stock and cover the pot with a lid. Poach until chicken is cooked through about 10-15 minutes. Remove chicken from stock to a plate to cool slightly. Add the potatoes and bring stock back up to a gentle boil. Cook for about 7-8 minutes then add pasta and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until pasta is cooked through and potatoes are tender, falling apart when touched with a fork but otherwise holding their shape. While boiling the potatoes, shred the chicken meat with two forks then return to the pot. Pour in the egg and cornstarch mixture while stirring soup with a wooden spoon to help egg form strands. Add cumin and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cilantro then ladle soup into bowls, topping with more chopped cilantro if desired.

Mushroom Leek Quiche

I love making quiches. I love how versatile they are, making for a hearty breakfast or a light lunch or dinner. In fact, I frequently make quiches and think about blogging my efforts. Problem is, as practiced of a pie baker I may be, I suck at blind baked crusts. I think it’s because I never use enough pie weights, so the crust always falls down from the sides and I end up with a flat disk at the bottom of my pie plate. I suppose I could just make a crustless quiche, but it’s the buttery, flaky crust I love most about quiches. Hell, I’ve even served my quiches upside down before, topping the baked quiche custard with the crust disk just to keep that flaky goodness in the picture. Besides, a crustless quiche would feel like giving in and not challenging myself.

Inspired by spring, I decided to make a quiche with light and bright flavors. With leeks readily available at the local produce stand, I thought how perfect they would be for a spring-inspired quiche: subtle, almost sweet onion flavor and soft, pale greens dotting the bright, yellow custard.  For some meaty flavor without actually using meat, I chose crimini mushrooms, figuring they would add firm texture and an earthy flavor.

The mushrooms and leeks got a quick saute in some melted butter along with some minced garlic. To brighten the flavors some more, I added some lemon zest and chopped fresh basil. To round out the flavors of this quiche, I chose Gruyère for its combination of sharpness and nuttiness.

After prepping my filling all that was left was to hold my breath, cross my fingers, open the oven, and check on my blind baked crust. This time, I over compensated by using 1.5 portion of a double crust recipe and added some leftover split peas to my pie weights. Lo and behold– those were the tricks I needed. My crust held its shape, and although it wasn’t prettily fluted at the edges, frankly, that was a marked improvement over a flat disk that I’ll take any day. I say this with the hope that you won’t judge when you see the final plated picture. All that mattered to me, as all that should matter to you, is that here was a brightly flavored quiche with a soft custard and flaky crust, perfect for a spring-time meal.

Note: Save your dough scraps for future pies or quiches or in a handy trick I learned from my mother-in-law, cut them into pieces and sprinkle a mix of cinnamon brown sugar on them then bake off for a sweet snack.

  • 1.5 portion of your favorite double crust recipe. I’ve been partial to this one from King Arthur Flour lately.
  • Cooking spray
  • egg yolk mixed with a large pinch of salt
  • 1 large leek, trimmed of dark green part and root end
  • 8 oz crimini mushrooms, scrubbed clean
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, minced (yields about 1 teaspoon)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1.5 cups half and half
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese

Roll out pie dough to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Lightly spray the pie plate with cooking spray then place crust in pie plate, trim edges leaving a half-inch over-hang, then roll the crust edges inward. Flute the edges if you want to/can. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Take a piece of aluminum foil that is large enough to cover the bottom of your pie crust and hang over the sides and spray the shiny side with a little cooking spray. Place the sprayed side down on the pie crust and fill the pie to the brim and the edges of the crust with pie weights, be they store-bought, uncooked rice, dry beans, or a mix. Bake for 20-25 minutes, then remove the foil from the pie pan and prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, covering the entire bottom of the crust with little holes. Return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, keeping an eye on it and flattening any bubbles in the crust with a wooden spoon if necessary. Remove from oven again and brush with the egg yolk and salt mixture before baking for 2-5 minutes more.

While preparing the crust, make your quiche filling. Start by cutting the trimmed leek in half, lengthwise then cutting both halves cross-wise so that you have 1/4 inch thick slices. Add the sliced leeks to a bowl of water and swish around to let the dirt settle to the bottom. Use a strainer to remove the leeks from the rinsing water and set aside. Trim stems from mushrooms and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat. When the foam subsides, add the leeks, mushrooms, and garlic, then saute until mushrooms begin to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes. Turn off heat and mix in basil and lemon zest. Let this cool slightly while you mix together the custard.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and half and half. Season with a/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and the nutmeg. Whisk together until combined.

Reduce heat of oven to 375 degrees F. While crust is still hot, add the mushroom-leek mixture to the crust then top with the shredded Gruyère cheese. Pour in the custard mixture then bake for 25-35 minutes or until quiche is golden and custard has set. Slice into wedges and serve while warm.