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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Ricotta Stuffed Pancakes

Is it just me or haven’t the berries this season been phenomenal? Plump, sweet blueberries. Juicy, tangy raspberries. Ruby red strawberries. It’s no wonder that the baby has been devouring berries, smacking her lips and savoring the textures and juiciness of each berry as she squishes them before popping them in her mouth. I fear for us when berry season is over.

But for now, it seems like that end is nowhere in sight. Last week we received a flat of strawberries (our first bulk share shipment) plus an additional pint as part of our regular share. All of the strawberries were perfectly ripe. We sailed through two pints in a single day, but couldn’t keep up that rate of consumption without some variation to keep things interesting. So as I stood in front of an open refrigerator on Saturday morning staring at the remaining 6 pints of strawberries, I spied a container of ricotta cheese and instantly knew what I needed to do. Pancakes sandwiching a sweetened ricotta filling and layered with macerated strawberries.

I lightened the ricotta by folding in some whipped cream then brightened the flavors with some lemon zest and a touch of almond extract. The strawberries, although sweet on their own, turned glistening thanks to the juices released from tossing them with a little bit of light brown sugar. I stacked my pancakes with layers of ricotta and strawberries in between. I even made a little baby sized one for the baby! John, who usually takes care of feeding her solids since I take care of the… er… liquids, took a look at the beautiful miniature pancake sandwich and rather alarmed, asked, “How is she supposed to eat this???” Well, like we ate it. It’s beautiful to look at but even better when you demolish it. Each bite cut from the stack, squishes out some of the ricotta filling, mixing it with the berry juices into a delightful sludge that ends up mimicking syrup. Smashy smashy!

Pancakes

  • 8 oz all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 8 oz of milk, plus a splash more
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping

  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered for larger berries)
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar

Ricotta filling

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1.5 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

To make pancakes, preheat a griddle over medium heat and preheat your oven to 200 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In a large bowl, combine butter, 8 oz milk, eggs, and vanilla and whisk until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon until just combined. There should still be lumps. Add a splash more milk to thin out the batter if you wish. Reduce the heat under the griddle to medium low then lightly butter with 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Pour out pancakes to about 4 inches in diameter (about 1/3 cup). Cook until the edges have solidified and bubbles in the center of the pancake pop and make little holes. Flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until golden brown on each side. Continue cooking pancakes in batches, placing finished pancakes in the low heat oven. I got six 4-inch pancakes and two 3-inch pancakes.

While pancakes cook, combine strawberries and brown sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.

To make the ricotta filling, add the heavy cram to a chilled metal bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Place ricotta in a medium bowl and add the sugar, almond extract, and lemon zest, mixing until combined. Add the whipped cream and gently fold it in.

To serve– plate a pancake, top it with 2 tablespoons of the ricotta filling, a heaping spoonful of strawberries, then repeat two more times.

Yields 2 servings and 1 baby sized one.

CSA Count: 1

Strawberries

Nutella Surprise Oatmeal

I am so excited that spring is here! That said, I’m sad about letting go of cold weather mornings for one reason only– this oatmeal, the oatmeal combination that was my breakfast obsession this past winter.

It starts off innocently enough with plain old rolled oats cooking on the stove top. Although here’s a trick I learned from John: rather than bringing the milk to a boil per the package directions before adding the oatmeal, I combine them and heat them together so that the oatmeal ends up creamier, I presume because the starches have a longer time to release and seep into the milk, giving this the consistency of a loose pudding. A small handful of light brown sugar and some dashes of cinnamon also help here.

This oatmeal is garnished with toasted pecans and dried cherries. Looks pretty healthy and delicious on its own, no? But here’s what makes this oatmeal decadent– I hide a spoonful of chocolate hazelnut spread in the bottom of the bowl. The heat of the oatmeal melts the chocolatey spread and as you stir in the oatmeal garnish, the secret star ingredient is revealed. Oatmeal, spiked with cinnamon, with tart cherries and buttery pecans swirled with heavenly chocolate and hazelnut! Call me gullible, but even though I was the one who’d make my oatmeal and knew well enough about that little puddle of Nutella awaiting me at the bottom of my bowl, I’d still be giddy and delighted every time I ate this. Nutella Surprise Oatmeal– definitely worth enduring cold weather for.

For 2 servings:

  • 1.5 cups rolled oats, not instant
  • 3 cups skim milk
  • big pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon plus a couple more dashes of cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate hazelnut spread

In a medium saucepan, combine oats, skim milk, salt, brown sugar, and teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until oatmeal achieves your desired consistency– for me, it’s creamy, but not too thick, cooking for about 15 minutes. While oatmeal cooks, combine the dried cherries, pecans, and a couple of dashes of ground cinnamon in a small bowl.

Place 1 tablespoon of chocolate hazelnut spread in each bowl, then divide the oatmeal between the bowls. Top with the cherries and pecans then serve immediately.

Berry Stuffed French Toast

Recently, after years of disappointment, I rediscovered a love for IHOP. As an adult, IHOP had up until now never met the high standards that my childhood memories had established. I couldn’t stand the overly sweet, sticky and thick fruit sauces on my pancakes, not to mention getting squicked out by the usual breakfast place’s complete ignoring of any rational idea of portion control. But now, I am back on the IHOP love train! Granted, it took a little bit of libational overindulgence to get me to crave going to one in the first place, but that visit, with its straightforward and prompt service, far exceeded my expectations. I would definitely lobby for a Congressional order that all IHOPs be open 24/7.

Although I normally don’t like sweet things for breakfast, the exception seems to be french toast. That night, inhibitions lowered, I ordered cream cheese stuffed cinnamon toast. At the time, I couldn’t think of anything I’d ever eaten before that had been as delicious! Memories (as misty as they might be) of that french toast, fueled on by catching glimpses of a Bobby Flay Throwdown on stuffed french toast just egged on (get it? egged on– ha!) a craving to make a stuffed french toast for breakfast. With leftover strawberries, blueberries, and cream cheese from a July 4th dessert, I had the fixings to make the craving a reality.

I cut thick slices of challah and soaked them in a custard mixture of eggs, cream, orange zest, plenty of cinnamon, and a generous pinch of cardamom. The sliced strawberries and juicy blueberries were mixed with vanilla sugar and macerated while I griddled the toast. When I had lovely, golden and crispy pieces of french toast, I spread a thick layer of my cream cheese mixture (lightly sweetened so it still had plenty of tang) on a piece of toast then sandwiched the berries in between. This breakfast was more indulgent than usual, especially with a healthy dousing of maple syrup, but oh so worth it. Add your coffee maker carafe to the table and it’ll be almost like bringing IHOP home with you.

Note: I used about half of the cream cheese filling the day before, piping it into hulled strawberries and topping with a blueberry as a decoration for July 4th cupcakes. That means that the filling recipe below should be enough to make 4 servings; however, the ingredients for the toast were enough to serve two. So if serving four, double the slices of bread and the berries. You should likely have enough custard filling to soak all the bread slices.

Filling:

  • 1/2 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 3/4 cup blueberries, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or substitute 1 tablespoon regular sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 3 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1.5 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

French Toast:

  • 4 thick slices of challah or brioche
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1.5 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • large pinch cardamom
  • canola or vegetable oil

Mix together berries and sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

Beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, heavy cream, lemon zest, and vanilla extract until smooth. Set aside until ready to use.

In a small Pyrex baking dish, whisk together the eggs, cream, granulated sugar, salt, orange zest, cinnamon, and cardamom. Soak two slices of bread in the custard mixture. Pour enough oil into a large heavy bottomed skillet so that the oil coats the skillet completely. Heat the oil over medium high heat. Having ensured that both sides of the bread soaking in the custard are coated, set the toast in the pan when the oil is hot. Adjust flame to medium and fry bread until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook the other sides for an additional 3-4 minutes. Remove to a baking sheet and keep warm in an oven at 185 degrees F. Continue process with other pieces of bread until all are cooked golden brown.

To plate: spread about 1/4 cup of cream cheese filling on piece of french toast and scatter berries on top. Top with another slice of french toast. Serve warm with plenty of maple syrup.

CSA Count: 1

Strawberries

Zucchini (Breakfast) Hash

Summer is slowly getting itself settled here in the Pacific Northwest, and I am getting impatient. We had one burst of glorious summer weather this weekend– the kind that makes me otherwise tolerate PNW weather for the rest of the year, but now the rain is back. Add to it word that our CSA will be starting up in a little over two weeks and I am super fidgety! I’ve been falling into a little bit of a creative rut lately and am looking forward to the surprise collection of produce each week to restart my engines.

In the meantime, the only “surprise collection” of ingredients to be had around here are those in my refrigerator– leftovers. I loved these two dishes (yes two) since I did well with improvising with bits and pieces found in my fridge and pantry, didn’t let things go to waste, and refurbished a dish from leftovers of previous leftovers.

To begin, I made a zucchini hash out of a couple of zucchini and potatoes I had leftover from ingredients for other meals. This hash served as a side for dinner one night. I pan-fried chunks of Yukon gold potatoes in a cast iron skillet and tossed in slivers of sautéed onion, zucchini, and mushrooms. This was a great vegetable side dish since the potatoes were crispy and starchy, a great contrast to the slightly sweet but softened squash. A chiffonade of fresh basil, the final dregs from last summer’s indoor plant, added a bright refreshing anise flavor to the vegetables.

We ate what we could, and I stored what was left (about 1.5 cups) away in the fridge, half expecting that I would forget about its existence as it would get pushed to the back of the fridge by other leftovers and ingredients only to be found weeks later, icy yet moldy to be tossed into the food waste bin for compost; however, fortune must have smiled upon this particular Tupperware of leftover hash. I spied it a couple of days later while looking for inspiration for a Saturday breakfast. Joining the squash hash was half of a turkey kielbasa (leftover from this guy) and some crumbled ricotta salata from a pasta dish we’d eaten earlier in the week. Topped with poached eggs, this side dish was born again into a bright and happy breakfast. Once summer decides it’s here to stay, I know what I’ll be making when overwhelmed with zucchini and summer squash!

Note: This recipe makes enough hash for a side dish and a breakfast for two. If serving four for breakfast, double the amount of sausage, cheese, and eggs.

  • canola oil
  • 2 large Yukon gold potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, sliced into half-moon slivers
  • 6 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium clove of garlic, minced (about 3/4 teaspoon)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chiffonade
  • 1/2 turkey kielbasa, diced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled ricotta salata (or other dry, salty cheese of your choice such as cotija, feta, or Parmigiano reggiano)
  • 2 eggs

In a large cast iron skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon canola oil over medium high heat. Add the potatoes and try to maintain a single layer to ensure that each piece makes contact with the oil and the pan. Fry undisturbed for about 5 minutes. Potato pieces will be easily turned without sticking once they have formed a good crust so don’t try stirring them before the 5 minutes is up and if they don’t easily give, then let them cook for a couple of minutes more before you try turning them. Use a spatula to flip over the potato pieces and sear the other sides for another 5-10 minutes or so, adjusting heat as necessary to avoid burning.

In the meantime, heat another 2 teaspoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the zucchini, mushrooms and garlic and sautee for 7-10 minutes or until zucchini has softened but is still a little firm. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Combine zucchini mixture with crisped potatoes and top with basil chiffonade. Serve as a side, reserving a 1.5 cups to make breakfast hash.

To make the breakfast hash, reheat the zucchini and potatoes in the microwave. Heat about half a tablespoon of canola oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, and like the potatoes, cook undisturbed for at least 5 minutes so that the sausage can caramelize. Using a spatula, flip over the sausage pieces and continue to cook for another 10 minutes flipping occasionally but not often and adjusting heat as necessary to avoid burning. Stir in the reheated zucchini squash then plate, topping with eggs cooked however you like them. Crumble cheese on top and serve.

Homemade Granola Bars

It’s unfortunately been awhile since John and I have gone on a long camping trip. Lately, our travels follow John’s marathon schedules. But when we went on week-long road trips, heavy on the camping and hiking, I used to hit the bulk section of natural food stores and get ingredients to make my own trail mixes. I liked toasting my own granola and mixing in what I thought was the ideal balance of salty and sweet elements, something I could never find in commercially made trail mixes.

These granola bars let me revisit those homemade granola days. I made these as a study aid for a friend who was studying for the February bar, with the goal that these could be counted on to be re-energizing, comforting in its touch of chocolate sweetness, and a satisfying but healthy snack to deter distracting stomach rumbles. With a mix of toasted almonds and coconut, these bars were warm and nutty in flavor and a sprinkle of orange zest added a bright citrus flavor that balanced out the sweetness from the coconut and chocolate. Dried cherries spiked these bars with the occasional pop of tartness. These bars set up thickly, but with plenty of crunch thanks to the granola and puffed rice cereal and slight chew from the honey. Try these out, whether you’re studying for a huge exam, going on a hike, or just want something happy for a breakfast at your desk.

Note: Feel free to swap out and experiment with ingredients that you’d prefer, maybe chopped hazelnuts instead of almonds, or golden raisins if you don’t like the slight tartness of cherries.

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1.5 cups sliced almonds
  • 3/4 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • zest of half a large orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup puffed rice cereal (rice crispies)
  • 5 oz dried cherries
  • 1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. On a large, rimmed baking sheet, mix together the oats, almonds, and coconut. Toast the mixture in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even toasting. Your house will smell incredible during this process!

While the granola mix is toasting, combine the butter, honey and brown sugar in a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan and melt over medium high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil then turn off the heat. Stirr in the vanilla.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Pour the granola mix into a large bowl. Add the cinnamon, orange zest, salt, wheat germ, puffed rice, and dried cherries. Pour the honey mixture over all of this and mix together, preferably with your hands if cool enough to touch. Line an 11 x 7 baking dish with parchment paper and lightly spray the parchment paper and sides of the dish with cooking spray. Press the mixture into the baking dish until flat and uniform and bake for 25 minutes.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate in short 20 second bursts, stirring between heating zaps until chocolate melted and runny. Do not try to take a short cut by heating chocolate on high for a minute or so as the chocolate can burn instead of melt. With a spoon, drizzle the chocolate in zig zag lines all over the granola bars. Cool until chocolate hardens, then cut into bars of whatever size you wish. Yields 8-10 bars.