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.

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.

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

Sweet & Spicy Beet Salad

John and I have been eating a ton of salads with dinner lately. It’s in part due to an abundance of salad greens from our CSA, also in part due to visiting family bringing prepared salads, and also due to its being a fast way to get a vegetable in with our pre-prepared meals before one of us has to dash off to feed or comfort a newborn baby. This has meant that the vegetables that need to be cooked, beets and turnips, from the last two weeks’ shares have been neglected. Given the choice between a beet and a turnip, I opted for the beets.

I know that this blog is chocked full of beets, to the point of them having their own search category. So this salad isn’t really anything new as far as experimenting with ideas is concerned, but I thought it was worth writing about for the reason that this salad was both delicious and easy enough to make while exhausted from newborn-induced sleep deprivation.

I sliced my beets and started to roast them my usual way: foil wrapped, dressed simply with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme sprigs. Then I thought, why not add other spices to the beets to see if it makes the flavors more complex. These beets then got sprinkled with chili powder, curry powder, and cinnamon. Into the oven they went while I nursed the baby. The baby went back to sleep by the time the beets were done, giving me a chance to rummage through the dregs of salad greens left in our refrigerator. We had some red oak leaf lettuce, but sadly, the arugula that I had hoped to use for some peppery flavor was wilted and half rotten. No problem– I just tore up the beet green leaves themselves to supplement the lettuce. A quick dressing was thrown together, using balsamic vinegar, olive oil, then for sweetness and added viscosity, I decided to use some maple syrup instead of the honey I normally would use. To play off the spices from the beets, I added some cinnamon and fennel seeds before pouring in the juices from my roasting foil packet. The greens and beets got tossed with the dressing then plated before getting topped with crumbled Danish bleu cheese. Sweet, complexly spiced, juicy, crisp and refreshing. Enough to wake us up until the next round of baby feeding/fussing.

  • 1 bunch red ace beets
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: chili powder, yellow curry powder, and cinnamon
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 small head red oak leaf lettuce
  • bleu cheese to taste

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • juices from roasted beets
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim beet tops and root ends from beets. Reserve the beet greens. Split each beet in half lengthwise then lay out on a piece of foil, about 1 foot long. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper along with the cinnamon, curry, and chili powder. Lay the thyme sprigs on top then fold up foil into a tight packet. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until beets are tender, when you can pierce them with a knife. Carefully unwrap the foil packet to avoid being scalded by the steam, and let cool while you wash and spin the salad greens and make the dressing.

Strip the beet green leaves from any tough stems and tear to bite size pieces. You can leave any beet leaves that are on a more tender stem in tact. Add these to torn lettuce in a salad spinner, wash and spin dry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients then add the salad greens and toss to coat. When beets are cool enough to touch, peel away the beet skins then cut each beet half into thirds lengthwise. Plate salad greens with beets then crumble bleu cheese to taste.

Serves: 2-4

CSA Count: 2

Beets (beets and their greens), red oak lettuce

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