Category: Beets


As you may have gathered from the frequency with which they appear in my recipes, I buy a lot of beets.  I’m not really sure why I buy so many beets–as a child I didn’t even like them!  (Though I can’t say that we had them often.  And seriously?  Stay away from the canned ones.  *shudder*)  Maybe I buy a lot of beets because they frequently look good at the grocery store and since they’re root vegetables, they have a longer season of availability.  Maybe I like the bright colors.  Maybe it’s going to Russia that did it.  (I do love a good bowl of borsch, hot or cold!)  Whatever the reason, I buy beets a lot.  And usually I put them with things like dill and goat cheese on the one hand, or citrus fruits on the other (see: Beets Romano or Beet and Kumquat Salad).  But this time, I wanted to do something different.  I wanted to do something creative with the bright red beets I had just acquired.  So I decided on a whim to send a tweet to Justin Warner, the winner of this season’s Food Network Star, curious to see if he’d answer me, and curious to see what rebellious beet ideas he might have.

And what do you know, he did answer!  In fact, he answered twice.  His first idea was to make a sparkling watermelon-beet borsch.  I had never thought to combine watermelon and beets, and the flavors melded surprisingly well.  And when you add club soda or sparkling water to the watermelon-beet puree, it fizzes up like a volcano in an elementary school science experiment.  (I’d highly recommend serving it as shooters–more fun that way!)

His second suggestion was to combine beets and white chocolate.  This was an idea I had to sit on for several days–I wasn’t sure what sort of vehicle I could use to bring these two things together.  I didn’t want to go the pure dessert route, but neither could I conceive of using white chocolate in a savory application.  (Maybe I need to watch more Chopped.)  But then it struck me–pancakes!  Chocolate chips go great in pancakes!  Shredded vegetables like carrots or zucchini go great in pancakes!  So why shouldn’t I put white chocolate and beets into a pancake?

Idea firmly in mind, I started searching for pancake recipes to compare and once I had that down, it was time to start cooking!

As it turned out, my shiny red beets were candy cane beets:

All shiny and red!

Look at the stripes!

For this recipe though, I needed to grate the beets rather than cutting them into chunks.  I could have tossed them in the food processor, but instead I decided to grate them by hand to get a finer texture (and a good arm workout!).  Interestingly, when you grate candy cane beets, they start of bright pink but quickly oxidize to a greyish-purple.  My pancakes won’t be winning any beauty contests, but they still taste good (despite my husband’s opinion that they look like old hamburgers!)

After grating the beets, you need to press some of the liquid out of them.  This is a key step.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.  If you do, your pancakes won’t stick together in nice little patty shapes.

The saran wrap is a vain attempt to keep them from oxidizing.

Once I had the beets grated, I mixed up the rest of the ingredients for the batter, folded in the grated beets, and then folded in the white chocolate chunks.

Look at all the chocolate!

I fried them up in a little butter on my electric griddle and they were done!  With the sweetness of the white chocolate, you don’t even need any syrup!

Pancakes!

White Chocolate Beet Pancakes
(serves 4-6)

  • 2c finely grated beets (2-3 large beets)
  • 1c all purpose flour
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 2tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 3tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4c buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4oz white chocolate (chips or chunks)
  • Butter for the griddle

Wash and peel your beets, and then grate them using either a box grater (to get really fine shreds) or a food processor (if you’re in a hurry).  Press out as much liquid as you can so your pancakes aren’t soggy.

Mix all of your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg) together in a bowl.  In a separate, larger bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients except the beets (oil, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla).  Once they’re combined, add in the beets, and stir so that they’re well coated.  Then add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix everything together until it’s just combined.  Finally, fold in the white chocolate chips!

Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to medium heat.  You want the butter to sizzle but not burn when it hits it.  Form palm-sized patties of pancake batter and fry them in the butter for 2-3 minutes on the first side, flip them, and let them go another 30 seconds to a minute until the other side is also golden brown.  You can keep the finished ones on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven to keep them warm until you’re ready to eat!

I love chicken pot pie.  Okay, really I love all pies, but most pies are dessert–chicken pot pie is your entree!  You could have pie twice in one meal and be totally justified!  Unfortunately, chicken pot pie is, for obvious reasons, not vegetarian friendly, and when you’re married to a vegetarian, it’s usually nice to cook things that both of you can eat.

Enter the vegetable pot pie.  All the creamy goodness and golden brown flaky crust, none of the dead animals.

You can really use any vegetables you want–potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beets, onions, sweet potatoes, celery, greens…it’s all good!  Just adjust your herb selection based on your vegetables and you’re good to go.  In my case I had some beautiful golden beets, a bunch of swiss chard and a couple of potatoes so I decided to go in a dill-heavy direction (I love dill!).  But play around!  The beauty of this dish is that you can make individual pies in ramekins, so feel free to make some different flavor combos.

Confession time: I did not make my crust from scratch.  I had Trader Joe’s puff pastry in the freezer and as I was short on time, I just slapped it on top of the pie instead of taking the time to make my own crust.  That said, Trader Joe’s puff pastry is quite delicious.  So don’t feel bad if you don’t make puff pastry from scratch!  It’s a little high maintenance, what with all the folding, pounding and rotating.  (If you do want to make it from scratch though, Alton Brown will teach you how!)

The third important part of making a good pot pie is the sauce.  This is what gives the filling the delicious creaminess you expect from a pot pie.  And the key to a good sauce?  A good whisk.  Whisk the flour and melted butter together to make a smooth roux, and then just keep whisking as you add the milk and stock.  This is how you will avoid lumps.  I’m also convinced the sauce thickens faster when I’m whisking, but I make no promises.

And with that, I give you my take on a vegetable pot pie:

Vegetable Pot Pie, fresh out of the oven!

Vegetable Pot Pie
(makes approx. 5 servings of pie with some leftover filling)

  • 3 medium beets
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • splash of olive oil
  • 3 tbsp dried dill
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp water

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Give your beets a good scrub and then put them in a large pot of water and bring them to a boil.  Cook them until you can get a fork into the center of the beet without too much difficulty.  Drain, run them under cold water, and slip the skins off.  Then dice them and put them in a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, cube the potatoes (you can peel them if you like–I didn’t bother) and bring them to a boil in a pot of salted water.  (If your beets are already done, you can use the same pan to save on dishes, but get some fresh water in case there was any grit left on the beets).  Cook until just barely tender–be careful not to overcook them!   You don’t want potato mush!  Add them to the bowl with the beets.

Dice the onion and chop up the upper half of the chard stems and put them in a skillet with a splash of olive oil over medium heat.  When the onion starts to turn translucent, add the chard leaves (cut them into bite sized pieces first) and a pinch of salt and let it cook until the chard is fully wilted.  A lid helps speed the process along if you have one that will fit your skillet.   Once that’s done, add it to the bowl with the beets and potatoes.  Add the dill as well.

In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat.  When it’s melted, add the flour and whisk until you get a smooth paste.  Then add the milk and stock, whisking as you go.  Keep whisking until the sauce starts to bubble and it thickens up.  Once it’s at a consistency that you like, take it off the heat and pour it in with the vegetables.

Toss everything together until the vegetables are well coated with sauce.  Give it a taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Take your puff pastry and lay it on a cutting board.  (If it was frozen, thaw it for 10 minutes first).  Cut it into pieces large enough to cover the tops of the ramekins with an overhang of 1/4-1/2 inch.  Or if you’re me and you’re geometrically challenged, cut a piece to fit your biggest ramekin and cover the other pies with random scraps.  And then only take a picture of the pretty one.

Set five small ramekins (or whatever odd selection of ramekins you have handy–there’s no reason you can’t make one big pot pie if you want) on a sheet pan.  You can line the pan with parchment paper for easier cleanup if you like.  Fill the ramekins with your vegetable mix.  In a small bowl, beat together the egg and tablespoon of water.  Brush it onto both sides of the puff pastry, and set the pastry over the tops of the filled ramekins.  Put it all in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  After that, check it every few minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  Let the pies rest for a few minutes after you take them out of the oven.

Enjoy!

Beets Romano

At long last a new post!  It’s been far too long.  In the beginning I had a good excuse: I was busy getting married!  Then we were eating out a lot and when we weren’t doing that we were eating leftovers (who knew that getting married would leave you with mountains of leftovers in the fridge and freezer…like a giant bag of edamame!)  And then…I couldn’t think of anything to write.  I had a few halfway decent recipe ideas, some of which might turn up in later posts, and a few major recipe fails, but nothing really inspired me until this dish.

I had some beets in the fridge and I really wanted to do something other than making individual lasagnas with them.  Much as I like individual lasagnas, I wanted to branch out a bit.  But what to do?  I remembered that I also had cream cheese in the fridge, and so I grabbed my mom’s old copy of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook to look up the recipe for Noodles Romano–a favorite childhood dish of mine that we simply referred to as “cheesy noodles” (as distinct from macaroni and cheese!).

The resulting dish contains no noodles, and in fact looks nothing like its white-colored inspiration, taking on, instead, a vibrant pink color.  But it sure was tasty!

And now without further ado:

Beets Romano

  • 4 medium-sized beets, boiled until tender
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • a handful of fresh chives, cut small
  • 1tbsp dried dill 
  • 3/4c  frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/3c buckwheat, cooked til tender
  • 1/4c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 8oz package cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, softened
  • Up to 2/3c boiling water*
  • salt
  • pepper

Once you’ve boiled your beets and they are cool enough to handle, slip the skins off of them, dice them up, and put them in a large bowl.  Add the thawed peas and garlic and set aside.

Meanwhile put the softened butter and softened cream cheese in a metal bowl and mash them together a bit.  Then pour in about half of the water and whisk everything together until the cream cheese and butter have melted and you have an even consistency.  If it seems too thick or lumpy, add more water until you have a consistency you like.  Add the dill and chives, and salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the cheese sauce over the beets and peas and stir until everything is coated in sauce.  Then stir in the buckwheat, add a bit more salt if you like, and enjoy!

*I used 2/3c of water right away and this proved to be too much–the dish ended up with the consistency of soup.  Luckily by the second day the buckwheat soaked up all the excess liquid and it turned out exactly how I wanted it originally!  So don’t worry if you add too much water–it will be better on the second day!

Lunch

Lunch!

This was my lunch yesterday–omelettes are my favorite way to use up leftover veggies!  Also, beets are curiously good in omelettes.  Not sure why I’d never tried that before.

Beets like citrus.  This is a general rule of thumb, and is quite useful for throwing together a quick salad.  But today I discovered that beets love kumquats!  The combination of flavors–sour from the juice of the kumquats, sweet from their rinds, and earthy from the beets is incredible.  You definitely want to try this one.

Beets and Kumquats

Beet and Kumquat Salad

  •  1 beet (cooked til soft, peeled and cooled)
  • 2 handfuls of kumquats

Dice the beet and put it in a bowl.  Wash the kumquats and cut them in half (thirds if they’re big).  Toss them together with the beets, pouring any juice that you lose while halving the kumquats over the mix.  You want about equal parts beet pieces and kumquat halves.  Toss together and enjoy!

Serves 1-2

Note: This would probably also be good with a dark, leafy green like kale.

Another note written after eating this salad for dinner:  The sourness of the kumquats builds up, not unlike how the burning from spicy peppers builds up.  I would not advise eating large quantities of this all at once.  Also, if your kumquats are particularly sour, you might consider either adding a bit of sugar, some sweet fruits, or more beets.  That said, it’s still a good flavor combo!

There comes a point, about a week and a half after grocery shopping, when you realize oh no!  You bought way too much produce and it’s starting to go bad!  No?  Maybe it’s only me…

When I find myself in such a situation, I have two go-to options: veggie omelette* or stir fry. But since I didn’t have any eggs, stir fry it was!

A random assortmentI had a random assortment of veggies on hand–half a red pepper, half an onion, a beet (the last of the beets!), and some broccoli. This to me says Thai food. (Well, except the beet. But I needed to use it up.) But, of course, this being clean out the fridge day, I didn’t have all the ingredients to make any sort of authentic Thai food. So I decided to just go with whatever seemed like it would taste good–veggies, spices, and long noodles.

When I’m making up a stir fry with a lot of spices, I always like to get them out ahead of time so that I don’t forget any potentially good ones. I pulled out ground ginger, garlic powder, chili powder, salt, black pepper, paprika, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and olive oil, figuring that I’d decide as I went along which ones I would actually use.  I ended up not bothering with the paprika or garlic powder, or the vinegar (but more on that later.

Now most people use some sort of large frying pan or wok for making stir fry.  This has some definite advantages, particularly the fact that it would be infinitely easier to clean something that you can actually put in the sink.  But I haven’t gotten around to buying one and I’m still cooking with my post-college collection of random cookware.  Thus my stir fry was made in this:

It's electric!

My trusty electric griddle!

The biggest advantage of cooking in this is that it heats up instantaneously.  Makes for speedier cooking!

Veggies!Once I had everything out and chopped, and water boiling on the stove for noodles, I put a couple glugs of olive oil in the griddle, turned it on, and let it heat up for a few seconds before tossing in the pepper, onion, and broccoli.  After stirring things around a bit and getting a nice sizzle going it was time to start adding spices.  I started off with the ginger, because I knew I was aiming for a gingery taste in the end.  I had to put in a lot.  If you’re making this at home, do it with fresh ginger if you can–the flavor will be much stronger!  Then I added a little bit of salt (though not much because I was planning on adding fish sauce later and fish sauce is salty!), some black pepper, and some chili powder, mixed everything around a bit more and tasted it.  More chili powder and ginger!  I really wanted this to have a kick to it.  Once the broccoli was bright green and the peppers and onions were softening, I turned the heat almost all the way down just to keep it warm.  You don’t want to overcook the vegetables!

Once the pasta was done, I drained it, and dumped it in with the vegetables.  The pasta I used came from Trader Joe’s and was a spinach and chive linguine.  But really you could use whatever you want.  I do like linguine for this type of stir fry though.  I turned up the heat a bit, and after giving everything a good stir, I decided it was time to add some sauce.

Now, I had no real plan for making this sauce.   I vaguely intended to do something with fish sauce and vinegar.  But I didn’t want to ruin the veggies.  So I put a forkful into another bowl, dripped some fish sauce on it and tasted it.  Wow is fish sauce ever fishy when there’s not a lot of other flavors mixed with it!  (Yes, I know, this should have been obvious.)  A little grossed out, I decided to add the vinegar to see what that would do to the flavor.  So I added a few drops of vinegar to what was left in the bowl.  Bad idea.  Terrible idea, in fact.  The vinegar idea was thus quickly vetoed.   I decided, however, that a few drops of fish sauce in the entire stir fry wouldn’t be too overpowering, so I put some in.  You could easily substitute soy sauce instead to make this vegetarian.  And honestly?  After the fishy smell/taste overload of the test bite…I might do that next time too.

At this point you might be wondering what happened to the beet.  Or you might have forgotten about it like I did.  Granted I didn’t intend to put it in til the end anyways since all it needed to do was warm up, but I totally forgot about it until I was about to plate my food.  But I tossed it in, turned up the heat again, stirred everything around, and then tasted it.  I added a little more ginger, gave it one last good stir, turned off the heat, and plated up my food!

Done!

On the plate!

On the left: Stir fry. On the right: Mango slaw (minus the cashews and mint) from Smitten Kitchen**

 

*Actually it very rarely turns into an omelette as I don’t have an appropriately sized frying pan.  Usually it’s more like scrambled eggs with vegetables.

**Smitten Kitchen’s mango slaw recipe.

More Beets!

The lasagna from my last post only used one beet, so I had three more to use!  I decided to try something a little different and make a beet curry.  Since I’d never made anything like this before, I started off by googling around for recipes, but came up mostly empty handed.  I did find a few recipes, but they all required a long list of Indian spices which, unfortunately, I don’t have.  But I wasn’t going to let this stop me!  I do have a good curry powder, so that’s what I started with.

I dropped about three tablespoons of unsalted butter into a medium pan, and once it was melted I threw in about a tablespoon of curry powder.  There are a lot of different curry powders out there, and if you’re not making your own, I would recommend the Whole Foods brand (though ironically that’s not what I have–they were sold out so I ended up with Frontier Natural Curry Powder, which is also a pretty good option).

Then I tossed in the diced beets, peas (thawed but not heated), and what turned out to be the key ingredient–golden raisins.  After letting everything simmer for a bit I tasted it and added some salt.  Just at the end I threw in a couple tablespoons of shredded coconut, tasted it again, and added a few more raisins and a bit more salt.  Here’s the result:

mmm...beets!

It turned out better than I was expecting, and tasted even better as leftovers!

The recipe (all quantities are approximate):

Beet Curry

3tbsp unsalted butter
1tbsp curry powder
2 medium beets, cooked, peeled and diced
1/3c frozen peas, thawed
a handful of golden raisins
2-3tbsp shredded coconut
salt to taste

Melt the butter in a medium pan and add the curry powder.  Stir until curry powder is coated.  Add beets, peas, and raisins.  Simmer 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add salt, stir, and add coconut.  Cook for another minute or so and add more salt and/or coconut if necessary.  Enjoy!

Lasagna for One

The final product.I’m pretty sure I’ve never made this dish the same way twice. It changes depending on what vegetables I have handy, what I’m in the mood for, and how much time I have for cooking.  But it does always contain beets, goat cheese, and (obviously, since it’s lasagna!) a lasagna noodle.

The original recipe for this lasagna came from Lauren over at A Delightful Affair.  I really love her blog and am frequently inspired by her cooking!  In her version of this lasagna, she uses asparagus, arugula, and peas in addition to the beets.  I’m with her on the peas, but I’m not such a fan of the asparagus and arugula, so I toss in other things.  Usually I end up with some combination of beets, peas, carrots and broccoli, but this most recent time I ended up using baby spinach which turned out better than I was expecting!

I’m not going to post a step-by-step here, since you can find that over at Lauren’s blog, but I did want to make a few notes about what I do differently in my version:

The Beets
As I have yet to find vacuum-sealed, pre-cooked beets, I bought fresh ones.  I boiled them, but you can also roast them or steam them.  However you do it, they’re done once you can stick a fork into them.  Run cold water over the beets to cool them off enough to touch, and then rub the skins off.  You could have peeled them ahead of time but this way is much easier!

The vegetables!The Dressing
The dressing is a mix of rice vinegar, honey, and olive oil.  I like clover honey for this.  I tried it once with orange blossom honey with the thought of, “hey–beets are good with citrus, orange blossom honey presumably comes from the blossoms of orange trees, ergo it should be good with beets!”  Sadly this logic failed me.  Orange blossom honey was way too sweet for this dish.  And of course its flavor had no relation to citrus whatsoever.  So yes.  Clover honey is the way to go.  I also like to add some dill to the dressing, because to me, beets and dill should almost always be together.

The Reduction (that I don’t make)
Lauren tops her lasagna off with an apricot reduction but when I first started making this recipe, I didn’t have a second pan so I couldn’t make the reduction, and since it still turned out well without it, I’ve just never bothered.  If you want to try making the reduction though, head on over to her blog and she’ll tell you how!