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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Roasted Yams and Pears in Rosemary Walnut Honey

I am a slacker. Okay, for those of you who know me personally, that’s not news, but really– I’ve been feeling my slacker title particularly hard during the holidays. For example, it’s now officially too late to talk about the holidays as anything but dead and gone and I’m getting around to writing this post now. The reason? My amazing co-workers generously doled out handmade gifts– I received homemade soaps, a personalized covered notebook, amazing dark chocolate bark with sea salt and marcona almonds, and a jar of delicious rosemary honey. What did I give in return? Nothing. Yeah, I know I have this lovely excuse, but I still feel guilty.

But I made the most of those lovely gifts. That jar of honey? I used some of it to make a side dish for our Christmas dinner. Inspired by another co-worker’s contribution to our pre-holiday pot luck, I used the honey to help sweeten and add spice to a dish of roasted pears and yams. The honey had stems of rosemary, a couple of small red chili peppers, and golden nuggets of walnut, so I thought that since all those flavors marry well with yams and pears, maybe this might add something special to the dish rather than using regular clover honey.

And you know what? It was perfect. Those spices made the yams taste slightly earthy, enough of a contrast so that it helped round out the sweetness of the pears. There was also a pleasing variety of textures: slightly crisped skinned yams with soft but not mushy pears and the crunch of walnuts. This was a side dish that you just couldn’t help smiling after taking a bite. I may be a slacker and late to say this, but I am so very thankful for all the wonderful things that happened in 2011– a beautiful baby, a job that I love, and thoughtful co-workers.

Note: Be sure to buy under-ripe pears. I used Anjou pears here. And since not everyone can be lucky enough to receive a jar of honey steeped with rosemary, chili and walnuts, I’ve adjusted the ingredient list below accordingly.

  • 3 small yams, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 firm pears, cored and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stems and roughly chopped (yield about 1.5 tablespoons)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and roughly chopped (yield about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all the ingredients except walnuts in a large bowl and toss together. Spread out on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until yam pieces are tender. Tumble the roasted mix into a large serving bowl or onto a platter and sprinkle with walnuts and any additional fresh rosemary and thyme if you wish. Serve immediately.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Three Easy Squash Soup Variations on Second City Soiree

It’s winter and therefore, perfect weather for cozying up to a piping hot bowl of creamy, sweet and spicy, winter squash soup. Below is a recipe for the soup, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, then visit Second City Soiree for three easy ideas for garnishes that transform this one soup into three different but equally delicious variations.

  • 1 medium winter squash of your choice, be it butternut, sugar pumpkin, or kuri (pictured above), peeled, seeded, and chopped, yielding about 4 cups of 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large leek, trimmed of dark green and root ends, quartered length wise and thinly sliced. Place slices in a bowl full of water and stir around to release dirt. Use a strainer to remove leek pieces to drain.
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4-6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1-2 tablespoons of a mix of spices of your choice– I’m a fan of ground cinnamon, curry powder, cayenne, and ground ginger
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

Spray a large glass or microwave safe bowl with cooking spray. Add the squash. Microwave on high for 7 minutes. Take bowl out and stir. If squash pieces are fork tender, you’re done. If not, microwave for another 3-7 minutes. Place a colander over a medium bowl and drain squash, reserving any liquid. Set aside squash and squash juice.

In a large soup pot, melt butter over medium high heat. When butter’s foam has subsided, add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally for 4-5 minutes. Add the squash and squash juice along with the spices and thyme. Cook for 10 minutes or until juices have evaporated and a fond has formed on the bottom of the pot. Deglaze with 1 cup of stock. Add another 3 cups of stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. Puree using an immersion blender (or in batches of no more than 2 cups at a time in a regular blender, holding the lid down with a towel.) Add more stock to reach your preferred consistency then season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Snow Pea & Radish Salad

I bet that this post won’t get many hits. Snow peas? Radishes? Sounds boring right?

But in this salad’s defense, I’ll say that I was surprisingly pleased. For one thing, this salad is so refreshing on a hot day: chilled in the fridge, the snap peas and radishes stay crisp and are full of cool, hydrating water.  The lemony dressing and grassy dill are bright in flavors, pairing nicely with tangy, creamy blue cheese.

Then there are the colors: vibrant magenta and purple from the Easter egg radishes pop against that deep jade green of the snow peas. It’s a feast for the eyes, making this salad look and taste more exciting than what you’d expect from just hearing the ingredients. During these hot, late summer days, try a scoop of this salad next to food fresh off your grill. You’ll be pleasantly surprised too.

Note: Snow peas have to be trimmed of the tough fiber that holds the pod together, unless you want to see your fellow diners spitting out chunks of the pod. Simply twist the flowering end of the pod and peel down. If there’s no flower end, peel along the side where you can see the peas are attached inside the pod.

  • 3/4 lb snow peas, ends trimmed and fiber removed
  • 2 large Easter egg radishes, ends trimmed and sliced into match sticks
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh chopped chives and dill
  • blue cheese crumbles to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and honey. Add in the snow peas and radish match sticks and toss to coat. Mix in chives and dill then plate. Add blue cheese crumbles to taste.

CSA Count: 4

Snow peas, Easter egg radishes, chives, dill

Fresh Pea Pesto Penne

A couple of weeks ago, we got our first batch of shell peas of the season from the CSA. I wanted to try something new with them, other than sautéing them, adding them to a stew, or making a spread. After seeing a post on fresh pea pesto on another food blog, I thought I’d try making a pasta sauce out of the peas too.

I dutifully started shelling peas, a task that I oddly enjoy but has become a game of sorts lately– how many pea pods can I get through before the baby needs a diaper change or needs to be nursed? In any case, there’s something oddly satisfying about splitting open that crispy, green shell, running your finger along the peas to release them from the pod, and hearing the plinks of each pea as it falls into the bowl. The one downside is seeing how much work you did for a relatively little yield. I took this picture to show how much I’d be tossing in the compost compared to how much I’d actually use for this dish. In this case, I think I shelled 1.5 lbs of peas to get about 1.5 cups of peas.

But the work is worth it. I took those peas and blanched them before adding them to a food processor with some toasted walnuts, garlic, lemon zest, fresh mint and dill and salt and pepper. I then took some of the water in which I cooked the pasta and streamed that in while processing until I had a smooth, pesto like puree. I added my pesto to the cooked linguine and mixed in some marscarpone cheese and a splash more of that pasta water. The noodles were soon covered in a slick, pastel green sauce. How did it taste? The sauce was sweet and creamy with an underlying grassy taste from the peas and fresh herbs, yet warmed through from the toasty, nutty taste of the walnuts. This was a fast, refreshing, and relatively healthy meal. The only heat generated was from water boiling on the stove, so definitely a dinner to keep in mind during high summer heat and peak shell pea season.

  • 12 oz whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1 cup walnut halves, toasted
  • 1.5 lbs shell peas (or 1.5 cups fresh peas)
  • 2 medium cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons each fresh dill and mint, chopped
  • 6 oz marscarpone cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Bring a small pot of water to boil then add the peas. Simmer for 4-5 minutes or until peas are bright green. Drain and submerge under cold water to stop cooking. Add the peas, toasted walnuts, garlic, lemon zest, mint and dill to a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process while streaming in pasta cooking water until you have a smooth paste, about 1/3-1/2 cup of water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the pea pesto mix to the hot pasta along with the marscarpone cheese. Splash in more pasta water until you get a sauce consistency to your liking. Serve immediately.

Yields 4 servings.

CSA Count: 3

Shell peas, fresh garlic, dill

Garden Count: 1

Mint