Category Archives: Beets

I hate Brussels sprouts.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Every time I cook for an audience, someone leans over the table and whispers in my ear. “I hate Brussels sprouts,” they’ll say, or maybe it’s asparagus, fennel or squash. Then, conspiratorially, they share, “but I love what you just cooked.”

These are my proudest moments. Cooking vegetables crisp-tender, lightly salted with bright vinegar and rich butter, is like a music montage makeover, the equivalent of removing big glasses and drawing the bangs from their shining face.

However, faced with beet greens, I thought I was beaten. The purring I’d hear while rattling off ingredients for my weekly cooking demo – Asian pears, cauliflower and blue oyster mushrooms –  would end in a full glottal stop at the mention of beet greens, grins turning to grimaces.

I moved ahead, inspired. Tender, young, deep crimson Bull’s Blood beet greens were earthy-sweet, reminding me of my Mom’s braised red cabbage. Chopped apple and cider drew out sugars while cinnamon and fresh ginger added bright warmth.

The ultimate test was my friend Michael. Who, after three days of urging, finally, standing at my Eastern Market demo, took a bite. “They’re not bad,” he offered. Then he cleaned his plate.

PS I love Brussels sprouts. A lot.

Cider-braised beet greens

Serves 4-6

IMG_3579-1Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 Honeycrisp apple, diced
  • 1 pound Bull’s Blood or other beet greens, cut in a chiffonade (ribbons)*
  • 2 tbs Autumn Apple or cider vinegar*
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbs diced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves

*Grab Bull’s Blood beet greens from Gardener’s Gourmet at Eastern Market – they’re the folks who always have beautiful greens out in fun, metal tubs. Autumn Apple vinegar, from Sapore, is indispensable in my Fall pantry.

Directions:

  • Heat butter and olive oil in a 3-4 quart saucepan over medium low heat. Sauté onion until soft, about 3 min.
  • Add apple, and sauté for 4 minutes.
  • Add beet greens, Autumn Apple vinegar, cider, cinnamon stick and ginger. Cover and cook until beet greens are tender but still firm, about 5 minutes.
  • Uncover and cook until liquid reduces, another 3-5 minutes. The greens will give up a lot of moisture as they wilt.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional vinegar as needed.

The root of the problem.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

A beetroot salad, in British television, seems to be shorthand for punishment or penance. However, faced with a spring   season where the calendar had gotten far out ahead of the weather, that’s precisely what we made.

Cold days had prevented the emergence of sweet asparagus or spring onions, so we sat in the test kitchen staring at winter storage celeriac, parsnips, carrots and beetroot. They seemed more suited to a fall roast tossed with thyme than a light spring salad.

Our first decision was to serve them raw, the second was a light poppyseed vinaigrette. Shaving them thin on the smallest side of our box grater eliminated thick , tough shreds  of fibrous root vegetables. With the grater already out, we grated onion rather than dairy to thicken our dressing.

Faced with several vinegars, Sam, part of our #testkitchen crew, selected a mildly acidic, slightly sweet Autumn Apple from Sapore. It was the perfect choice.  Winter never tasted so much like spring.

*Yes, this blog post title is a terrible pun. If one of you had brought me more coffee it could have been avoided.

Sam’s Root Vegetable Slaw

The beets turn the rest of the vegetables a beautiful bright ruby color.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

For slaw:

  • 1 cup grated beet
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1 cup grated celery root
  • 1 cup grated parsnip

For dressing:

  • 3 tbs grated onion
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1-2 tbs honey
  • 1/4 cup Autumn Apple* or Sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

*Autumn Apple vinegar is available in DC or online at Sapore. Commonly available cider vinegars tend to be bitter and acidic. Sherry vinegar would be a closer match to the autumn apple.

Directions:

  •  Toss together grated vegetables in a large bowl.
  • Make dressing: whisk together onion, dry mustard, paprika, poppy seeds, honey and Autumn Apple vinegar with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Whisk oil into dressing in a thin stream to form a creamy emulsion.
  • Dress slaw and let rest 10-20 minutes before serving to let flavors develop. These vegetables are bold and heavy, so add a little more dressing than you would to fresh greens.
  • Serve topped with grated lemon zest.

Emotional eating.

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My birthday is not complete without a lemon cake. My Mom made them for me when I was young. Cliff Hunter baked his lemon pound cake for my birthday in 2005, and my husband Jason bakes them each year now, often with homemade lemon curd.

Each of us has strict rules of flavor for Thanksgiving’s stuffing and mashed potatoes, green bean casseroles and Acorn squash based on the dishes that came from our mothers’, grandmothers’, and aunts’ kitchens.

For some of us it’s not summer until we bite into the first ripe tomato or ear of fresh corn. Others can’t imagine New Years without braised greens and black-eyed peas. Christmas would not be complete for me without Polish pierogi filled with cabbage, potato and cheese, or prunes.

All food tastes better with emotion. Think beyond fear, pain and stress. That’s just Twinkies and pizza good. It’s joy, peace, love and hope that elevate fine foods, however simple, from delicious to memorable. And it is those foods that we enshrine in tradition.

Golden Honeycrisp Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 Honeycrisp apples, cut in matchsticks
  • 1 golden beet, cut into slivers

For dressing:

  • 1 shallot
  • 3 tbs goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup Serrano Chile Honey vinegar*
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 cup Arbequina olive oil*
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp mint, chopped

*Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar is a new favorite from Sapore Oil and Vinegar near Eastern Market in DC. The vinegar is actually fermented honey. You can substitute Sherry or Cider vinegar. Arbequina is a grassy, Spanish olive oil. Substitute any good quality olive oil.

Directions:

  • Make dressing: whisk together shallot, cheese, vinegar and cumin, a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Whisk in olive oil in a thin stream and season to taste with honey and mint.
  • Toss together apples and beets. Toss with dressing.
  • This salad is definitely better dressed lightly.

Crécy is not French for “carrot.”

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Anything this orange, made with root vegetables, should be served on a crisp fall day – rich and hearty with a crusty bread and some good farm-fresh butter (which I evangelize about here). But this carrot-beet soup is light and fresh, tastes as good cold as it does served hot and is perfect for summer.

Arriving home from a trip to the Market with baby carrots and golden beets, I began searching cookbooks for salads and sautés. Stumbling across a recipe for Potage Crécy first made me think of soup. Crécy, it turns out, is not French for orange root vegetables, but refers to a town known, once-upon-a-time, for growing exceptional carrots. However, there is debate about which of two French towns, one in the south and one in the north, each with Crécy in its name, first served up this light summer soup.

Reading through several recipes, I discovered a basic formula of carrots cooked with onions and stock, puréed and flavored with orange. We added the golden beets, sweet but far less earthy than red ones. I grabbed a bottle of Sapore’s Orange Oil off the shelf and we served up three bowls, each seasoned differently. It was a quick bite after adding turmeric but before adding cumin that was our favorite – although curry was a close second. Served warm, it is light and sweet. Once chilled it is herbal and far more carrot-y. Both are delicious.

Potage Crécy

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 candy sweet onion, or white onion, diced
  • 4 cups thinly sliced carrots
  • 3 cups diced golden beets
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 6-8 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tbs Orange Oil*
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • Sherry vinegar

*If you don’t have Orange Oil, substitute 3 tbs olive oil, and one tablespoon grated orange zest

Directions:

  • Melt butter over medium heat in a 4 quart soup pot. Sauté onions until
  • soft and translucent.
  • Add carrots and beets. Sauté 7-10 minutes until golden on edges. Add ginger after 5 minutes.
  • Add stock and simmer approximately 30 minutes until vegetables can be mashed with a fork.
  • Pass soup through the finest blade of a food mill or purée with a blender. Return to pot.
  • Stir in Orange Oil and simmer an additional 5 minutes to bring flavors together.
  • Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and stir through cream.
  • Add turmeric a little at a time so as to not overpower the carrot flavor.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and sherry vinegar.
  • Serve hot or cold.

Beets aren’t poisonous.

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My Dad doesn’t like beets. Or mushrooms. Every time I serve them to our family he jokes, “They are poisonous and we really shouldn’t eat them.” Now my beet-hating husband backs my Dad up in these arguments. Thank God for my mom.

Admittedly, this recipe has not made Dad a convert, but it does continuously get rave reviews and a visitor to @Eastern Market yesterday morning walked up to my cooking demonstration with a bag full of beets and said, “those are the best beets I’ve ever had and I’m making them at home tonight.”

All due credit goes to chef Deborah Madison for this amazing combination. It sounds bizarre, but it’s awesome! Finely dicing your beets into a 1/4″ dice really speeds up the cooking. You can have this done in 20 minutes without any oven roasting involved. Score one for the beets.

Beets with Crème Fraîche and Mustard
Ingredients:
  • 2 large beets, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes*
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs chopped thyme
  • 2 tbs crème fraîche
  • 1 tbs dijon or grainy mustard
  • Sherry vinegar
* There’s a trade off here: more knife work means less cooking time. If the idea of cutting beets into 1/4″ cubes sounds to you like one of the lower planes of hell, please feel free to cut them into larger cubes and increase your cooking time.
Directions:
  • Melt butter in a 10″ sauté pan over medium heat. Add beets and thyme.
  • Stirring every few minutes, cook beets until softened, about 20 minutes. I like mine pretty firm, but cook yours the way you like them – it’s your kitchen!
  • When cooked, remove from heat and stir through crème fraîche and mustard.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and a splash of sherry vinegar. The vinegar brightens the rich, fatty flavor of the butter and the earthiness of the beets.