Stain Those Hands! aka More About Beets

So you think you don’t like beets.  Or you already know you love them.  Either way, here are a couple more recipes for you to try.  If you fall into the first camp you may be pleasantly surprised.  If you fall into the second camp these will be welcome additions to your beet repertoire.  Either way, enjoy.  And if you try these and you still don’t like beets, then I can do no more but say well, more beets for the rest of us. 

Chocolate Spice Cake (with Beets, but no one will know if you don’t tell them…)

  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 oz dark baking chocolate
  • 2 cups beet puree
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • powdered sugar for decorating

First, make the beet puree.  Stem and root 5-6 medium beets, cover with water in a small saucepan, boil until tender.  Run under cold water until you can handle them then slip the skins off.  Puree in a blender then measure two cups.  (Use the rest in a soup or stirred into potato latkes or just eat.)  Next grease and flour a 10″ springform pan.  Using an electric mixer cream together 3/4 of the butter and the sugars.  Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing to incorporate well.  Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and the rest of the butter, either in the microwave (taking care not to scorch the chocolate) or a double boiler.  Set the chocolate aside to cool slightly.  In another bowl mix together all the dry ingredients.  Beat the chocolate into the butter/egg mixture.  It will look grainy or broken, don’t worry.  Mix in the dry ingredients, a cup at a time, until well mixed.   Pour into the pan and bake at 375 for 55 minutes, then check cake.  A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.  If it isn’t done, bake for up to another 20 minutes, checking every 7-8.  When it is done, cool for 10-15 minutes on a baking wrack then remove pan and cool thoroughly.  When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve with beautiful pink whipped cream (reserve 2 Tbs of the red beet cooking water and set aside.  Using a very cold bowl, cream, and beaters whip 1 cup heavy cream with 1 Tbs powdered sugar.  When it is quite thick, drizzle in the red water a little at a time.  Keep beating.  When it is the color you want, stop adding the water and beat until cream is whipped.  Serve each slice of cake with a healthy dollop of cream.  You can also garnish with a little grated beet but that might be going a bit too far.

Beet and Potato Mustard Gratin

  • 1 lb potatoes
  • 1 lb beets
  • 1 large or 2 small onions
  • 2 cups milk (cow or soy)
  • 1 Tbs brown mustard
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed, minced, or grated
  • 1-2 tsp kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Put the olive oil in the bottom of a glass baking dish, spread it all over the bottom and sides.  Peel and slice the potatoes, onions, and beets then layer them in the pan, ending with potatoes on top.  Meanwhile, whisk together everything else in a bowl.  Pour the wet mixture over the potato mixture, covering everything.  Cover pan with foil and bake at 400 for 35 minutes.  Remove foil and cook another 5-10 minutes to brown.  If there is a lot of liquid left in the pan leave open until moisture is absorbed.  Serve hot.

Beets

There are few vegetables that get as much negative press and hatred as beets (okra and eggplant might share top billing with beets).  I must admit that I was once of the haters.  Beets seemed a food that only old ladies ate, as I mostly remember my great, great Aunt Mabel eating them (and she died when I was still quite young) and they always seemed to ba sliced, slightly slimy, and pickled sweet.  Then I went away to college and one semester the food service ran out of money served only iceberg lettuce, canned beets, frozen peas, and cottage cheese on the salad bar for several weeks.  As the main dish was boiled pork (sometimes with horrifying “Hawaiian” sauce) I started eating beets by the plateful.  And lo and behold, they were delicious – or at least I could see the potential when they were topped with olive oil, a dash of vinegar, and plenty of salt.  Now, many years on, I love beets.  Boiled, roasted, baked, marinated, raw, in salads, pickled, in soups; however you do it beets are neat.  Try this salad.  Even confirmed “not a beet person” people like it.  And it is really, really good for you.

Beet and Carrot Salad with Tahini Ginger Dressing

  • 2 packed cups grated beets
  • 2 packed cups grated carrots
  • 2 Tbs tahini
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger root, peeled
  • 1 small clove garlic

In a large bowl mix together the carrots and beets.  In a small bowl mix together the tahini and olive oil, then add to the beets.  Using a microplane grater, grate the garlic and ginger.  Toss well to mix everything thoroughly.  Taste, season with salt and pepper as needed, mix well.  Eat.  Yum.

If your problem with beets is aesthetic – if you, like my husband, hate that beets dye everything on the plate the same color – then try the other, non-red beets.  Chiogga beets are red and white striped, like a candy cane and golden beets are lovely.  Try mixing them half and half with potatoes, some chopped dill pickle, green onion, a bit of sour cream, salt, and pepper for a really special potato salad.

Dreamwords

Ok, so I generally think my dreams (which tend to be quite vivid, sometimes mundane, and often extremely weird – usually laced with whatever stressors are currently in my life – sometimes repeating over and over for years) are just my mind working out problems and creating amusements.  But every once in a while a gem comes out of a dream:  an idea, a recipe, a problem solved.  Not long ago I had a dream in which this following expression was repeated several times, in several dreams within dreams.

Before the beans are even ground you can taste the final bitter sip of the coffee, and yet we make it anyway.

I love that.  It is so true – even if you can see the end you take the enjoyment where it is.  So here’s to dreaming in words and truths.

Peach Butter and Zucchini Pickles

So, all summer you were looking forward to fresh, ripe peaches.  Now there are here!  Alas, the time when they are actually ripe, actually delicious, and actually inexpensive is so short.  How to capture a few extra moments of that sweet, sweet time?  Make peach butter.  Eat it on toast, pancakes, ice cream, spread on chicken, layered between cakes, whipped into heavy cream, in spoonsful straight from the jar…This peach butter will last several weeks in the fridge or can be frozen in airtight containers (check out the freezer-proof jars in the canning section of the store) for up to a year.  Again, a reminder about ingredients:  good ingredients make good final product, bad ingredients make bad final product.  You cannot make good pickles out of saggy, old, pitted, moldy, otherwise no good vegetables.

Brandied Peach Butter

  • 15 large peaches or 20 small
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar

Wash, pit, and cut the peaches into quarters.  You do not need to peel them.  Put the peach pieces, the water, and the brandy in a sauce pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until peaches are very soft, 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the stove then push through a sieve, catching all the liquid and pulp in a bowl, leaving all the skins behind.  Put the pulp and liquid in a heavy bottomed pot and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for between 1 and 2 hours.  The butter is ready when it doesn’t run off the back of a spoon but sort of clumps up instead.  You don’t want to let the pulp get dry nor stick to the bottom of the pot.  If it sticking, turn heat down.  Remove the pot from the heat then cool by placing the pot in a bowl full of ice and stirring until cool.  Put butter in half-pint or jelly jars and close the bands tightly.  Eat all by yourself or give as gifts.

Zucchini Pickles

  • 2 lbs fresh zucchini or yellow squash
  • 1 large or 2 small white or yellow onions
  • 2 Tbs kosher salt
  • water
  • 4 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs mustard seed
  • 2 Tbs prepared brown mustard

Clean and very thinly slice the zucchini.  Peel and very thinly slice the onions.  Put in a large plastic or glass bowl, toss with the salt, cover with water, stir gently then allow to sit for an hour.  Meanwhile, put all the rest of the ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, allow to cool while vegetables are soaking.  When the veggies have soaked and the vinegar brine has cooled pour the water off the veggies.  Pour the brine over the vegetables and mix gently.  Put in a large (gallon) size ziploc style storage bad and remove any excess air or put in a large crock or jar and cover tightly.  Refrigerate.  They will be ready to eat as early as the next day and as long later as 3 weeks.  Keep refrigerated and enjoy.  You can put them in smaller, like half pint or pint jars, and share them out into friends’ fridges – this is a great way to use/get rid of extra zucchini.

 

Peaches, Summer’s Golden Gems. Or some such.

Ah, peaches.  Nothing means summer quite like the sweet smell of peaches (mingle it with fresh cooked corn on the cob and the smell evokes many a happy summer dinner from my childhood.)  I love the flavor of fresh peaches, really ripe fresh ones – not ones that were picked green and shipped hard, those get mealy and horrible before they get ripe and sweet – but don’t really like the fuzz.  I know, I know, the fuzz is part of what makes a peach a *peach*.  And some people love the fuzz, I know that, too.  But I just don’t like it.  So I peel them.  Luckily really fresh, really ripe peaches peel as easy as bananas.  It is the hard ones that need either blanching and shocking or a very sharp knife to peel without losing half the fruit.  Those same really fresh, really ripe peaches are best eaten as is, maybe adorned with a little splash of cream but certainly not needing baking, saucing, grilling, pickling, marinating, poaching, or otherwise treating.  But, let’s just say, you have too many peaches to eat out of hand, what do you do with them before they get all mushy and become nothing better than compost?  Then comes in the freezing, pickling, jamming, pureeing, preserving.  Try this recipe for quick peach pickles.  They will be good in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Tangy Pickled Peaches

  • 1 lb peaches, peeled and pitted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 10 black peppercorns

Bring all the ingredients except the peaches to a boil on the stove in a stainless steel pot.  Cook for 5 minutes then add the peach slices.  Allow to cook, not boiling so hard as to break the peaches, for another 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly.  Pour into jars, allow to cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Eat the next day.  Yum.  A word about pickling.  If you use fruits and vegetables that aren’t very good quality you will get pickles that aren’t very good quality.  Start with good, fresh produce.  Do not use peaches that are soggy, squishy, moldy, badly bruised, or otherwise not in good shape.  Use those ones to make peach butter (well, not the moldy ones, obviously.)  Recipe to follow another day when I do not have a perfect peach looking me in the eye, ready to eat.  Cheers.