More Cabbage? Genius.

Mere moments after last weeks obsession with red cabbage slaw, I began reading a hard copy of Genius Recipes.  I missed the Fergus Henderson Red Salad when it appeared online a couple of years ago - and who knows, I might have overlooked it by not being completely obsessed with red cabbage at the time.  I'm only mentioning it because it is genius, as is the rest of the Kristen Miglore book which feels so good in the hands.  With 'gestures of balsamic' and 'healthy splashes of olive oil', it is exactly the right evolution from my red slaw when plated with Greek yogurt and candied jalapenos.  A short and sweet paragraph encouraging you to give it a go.

red salad.

Daring Baker's Challenge September 2012: Empanadas

Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family’s favorite recipes for Empanadas! We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our Empanadas as creatively as we wished!

I thought about this challenge a long while before actually beginning.  Our challenge was actually for the empanada gallega, which is technically more of a "casserole style" empanada.  But as I watched lots of Spanish-language YouTube videos of women folding the empanada dough deftly around fillings, I knew that I really wanted to try the individual, hand held empanadas instead.  I read over many recipes for doughs, noting that there were differences in those destined to house fried pastries and those for baked. 

Then, I had my first actual phone conversation with Deena - who I met in person this Summer, but I still somehow considered an "Internet friend" only.  All of a sudden, she felt like a real friend, someone to discuss food on the phone with.  I found myself wishing I still had the long, spiral-corded wall phone in my kitchen, the one that was easier to balance on your shoulder when doing the dishes and chatting.  She told me about the blog Laylita's Recipes, (after we talked about, and I remembered, these emapanda-related tuna and cauliflower versions that she made) and all of a sudden I was knew exactly what kind of empanada I would make, those filled non-traditionally with beets, Swiss chard, and goat cheese.

beet filling

I haven't made empanadas before.  I have made pasties, which are somewhat related - as are most pastry wrapped half-moons, I suspect.  To all of our neighbors south of us here in North America, emapanadas are an almost everyday food, a good way to use up a bit of leftover meat and veg (or even just cheese) in a maybe not so wholesome way, but in a very satisfying one nonetheless.

I think the reason it was so easy for me to decide on beet empanadas is because the wholesomeness quotient was certainly raised by using such high-nutrient vegetables as beets and chard.  I knew I'd be eating these alone, so I made just enough for me (and froze most of my dough rounds for another day).  I allowed enough extra filling to make a pizza for myself a couple of days later, and I just ate the last 1/4 c. of filling for lunch today alongside the last of my toasted rye bread and some salty Amish Swiss cheese.

Making the filling is easy:  just saute some garlic and onion in butter or oil until softened somewhat, add a few leaves of finely chopped chard and some salt and pepper and cook it down until wilted.  Add to a waiting bowl of (roasted, cubed) beets, cool slightly, and crumble in enough fresh goat cheese to satisfy you.  The secret ingredient is some fresh oregano added after the cooking.  My goat cheese was a widely available brand with peppadew peppers in it. (Laylia's recipe is here.)

beet filling empanada

The dough we were provided for the challenge was a yeasted dough, but I wanted a quicker dough, with some fat but not so much that the pastries felt greasy.  Since I was so excited about Laylita's Recipe blog, I decided to just try her dough as well.  A full 6 oz. of butter was perhaps more than I though necessary for a "healthier" empanada, but I decided I wanted to splurge.  After all, I've never made empanadas before... and it felt like a bit of a celebration.  I rolled the dough to about 1/8 of an inch thick, which felt a little on the fat side, but I saw why as I began to fold the edges.

I moistened the edges of the dough with water and pinched them together as I saw in so many videos.  After pinching, which really flattens the outer edge, you start back at the beginning and fold a crimp down the length of the curve.  (Here is a favorite video, you can see her folding over the crimp at 2:35.)  By the fourth try, I had it down, and that one was easily the prettiest one of the bunch.  It's the one on the lower right:

Laylita recommends filling the empanadas, then letting them chill for 30 minutes prior to baking. 

I made (and ate in one sitting, mind you) just 4 empanadas, technically empanaditas since they were a scant four inches across.  I even baked them efficiently in my little toaster oven.  After brushing them with a beaten egg, I beat another egg and that's what my son ate for dinner.  As they baked, I quickly made a sauce, also based on how Laylita ate hers.  To some whole milk yogurt, I added some minced garlic, a whole fresh cayenne pepper from my garden, a large handful of minced cilantro, lime juice and some salt and pepper.  The spicy dipping sauce was what made eating them feel more like a meal and not just a snack.

empanadas (2)

I ran out of time to make another, more independently inspired batch of emapandas.  I do have two very small leeks and some ancho peppers from my garden, still sitting out on the counter.  I intended to have them sauteed and added to some cheese to fill 4 more rounds that still sit well covered in plastic in my fridge.  Maybe tomorrow.  I also saved the scraps from cutting out the dough rounds and rolled a single 7-8 inch round that I thought I could top a pot pie with... but there is just so much appetite in a week!  Fortunately, pastry dough does tend to keep well under refrigeration for several days, and in the freezer even longer.  I'd say that the 6 oz. of butter is going a long way as well.

empanadas (3)

Be sure to have a look at the Daring Baker blogroll for other empanada inspirations, and at the original recipes that Patri provided us!  Even if I (once again) didn't follow instructions, I had a great time making something I've never made before!


sliced beet gratin

It's early beet season here in Wisconsin, and I ate this ridiculously good gratin made with both the beetroot and healthy green tops yesterday (and today) with particular delight. You can read more about it on the Becky-Home-Ecky blog I write on Milwaukee Magazine.

My enthusiasm for all things beety had me thinking about some beet heavy recipes from my past. Bright pink beet pasta, tender Indian spiced beet "chops", whole beet risotto... so much good stuff I've made - and new stuff that I've found to make soon - that I thought a short link list of beetific recipes would certainly in order!

Here are some past favorites:

Beet Pasta (with a shockingly simple Blue Cheese Sauce to eat it with)
Beet Chops
Beet and Beet Green Risotto
Beet Gnocchi
Vegan Beet Stacks with Cashew Ricotta Cheese
Chocolate Beet Cake

chocolate beet cake
I definitely need to make this cake again...

Whenever I see something made with beets, I mentally warehouse it. Here are just a few recent perusals that I should get around to making this year:

Whole Beet and Lemon Galette (Three Clever Sisters)
Maple Horseradish Glazed Beets (LeFort Urban Homestead)
Ginger Spiked Pickled Beets (Food in Jars - the Cookbook)
Beet Ice Cream with Orange Zest and Poppyseeds (CosmoCookie)
Jamie Oliver's Smoked Beets (via Food52)

casa rcakewalk beet escabeche taco
beet escabeche tacos: concocted with roasted beet, leftover rice, canned escabeche...

Regardless of actual recipes, I will remember a favorite technique my friend Elisa was doing a couple Summers ago: roasting beets, then marinating them in a canning jar with a little feta, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil, salt and pepper. They were ready for salads (or just to pop in my mouth plain from the jar) for up to a week, if I could keep them around my fridge for that long. This Summer, I'm making this a fridge staple once again.

I hardly need inspiration for beets, but sometimes it's good to have a reminder of good, beety things. And sometimes, it's good to share beety ideas with people who actually love beets as much as I do. Do you have a good recipe for me to try? Leave me a link in the comments, and I'll add it to my Summer Beet List!

Everything's Rosy.

About a year ago I read somewhere about a woman who said that she likes to wake up at least a half hour before her household. Thirty minutes hardly seems like enough time to accomplish anything, but recently I have successfully implemented this myself - even if it requires me to be ripped from my sleep and dreams, and even if it makes me feel blurry eyed for several minutes before actually getting out of bed.

For the past 5 years, I have not really set an alarm. We got up when we woke up, I got up actually when the Kiddo woke up since I am rather night-owlish. But getting up at the crack of dawn isn't really so bad. This morning, I had already thrown in the first load of laundry and prepped some beets to roast before my son was even poked gently awake. My entire morning seemed rather pink after dropping him off at school. I walked in the door, (washed my hands), and took the roasted beets out of the oven. It's our last hot day, and I had the oven on early so I could welcome Fall tomorrow with beety fresh baked goods.

When they were cooling, I ran the Watermelon Jellies down to the basement shelves. I made two batches over the weekend using Marisa's recipe, one plain and one with fresh cayenne peppers. I have never made watermelon jelly before, but I have to say that it has grown on me. Especially the cayenne version. I am most excited to make some crackers, get some good sheep's milk feta, and enjoy this warming sweet melon flavored jelly to it's full capacity. I tried the skimmed off foam on frozen scones, and was appropriately amazed. Watermelon Jelly is completely worthwhile and deserves a place on the jam shelf, and don't let anyone try and convince you otherwise!

I also strained out the elderberry vinegar. It had been sitting for several days (I've lost count), but tasted well rounded and earthy so I figured it was time. Using the workhorse nut milk bag, I let it hang for about a half hour before squeezing the pulp nearly dry. My hands briefly stained light purple, I measured the finished vinegar at 4 cups. Using the same method as the Cherry Vinegar (which was adapted from Pam Corbin's Raspberry Vinegar), I added 1 c. of sugar for each cup of vinegar and warmed it just enough to completely dissolve the sugar so that my cider vinegar remained raw. It is lovely. I have the jars bottled, labeled, and transferred to the basement shelves. I just drank a couple of tablespoons over ice, diluted with seltzer water, and it is fantastic. But since elderberry seems to be more in the medicinal family than the gustatory one, I'll be sure to curb my consumption. However, drinking 2 T. a day throughout cold and flu season seems like it could be very easy to do.

I peeled the beets, and pureed a couple of them. When looking up the link for the Ground Cherry Hot Sauce I made last week, I ran into a beet doughnut recipe that Sarah Nett posted. They were baked doughnuts, and I have not made dessert over here in what seems like forever (in reality, it has only been a week or two). In the back of my mind I thought perhaps I could make these camouflaged enough that my boys would both eat and love them, but after trying them, I'm not completely certain they would be fooled.

I love the flavor and color, but the texture needs some work. Had I baked them in a doughnut pan (I don't have one), I think they may have worked better actually, since the texture did remind me of doughnuts. Making them as muffins instead left the bottoms slightly gummy - and I suspect I should have added a bit more flour or leavener.

If you are a baker, will you take a look at my recipe in progress and give me a couple of suggestions? I have a feeling these could be fantastic with a tweak or two...

WORK IN PROGRESS Beet Muffins (adapted from My Culinary Sanctuary)
  • 1 c. AP flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. pureed beets
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. yogurt
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 T. vegetable oil (I eyeballed)
Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with papers, or grease them well.

Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

In a medium sized bowl, beat eggs with brown sugar for several minutes, until the sugar is partially dissolved. Mix in yogurt, vanilla and oil, and beat well.

Scrape the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix well by hand, but do not overmix. Portion into the waiting muffin tin.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

slightly gummy.

I am not about to give up on these beet muffins. On looks alone, they have captured my Autumn-ready heart. I glazed them using a quick doughnut glaze that I remembered loving from the Daring Baker Donut Challenge a while back. I eyeballed small amounts into a little bowl and stirred it with a spoon. After dunking the photographic one, I just spooned a little over each. (I am frustrated with my favorite muffin papers. They used to be amazing and non-stick and now the only thing they have going for them is that they are compostable...)

So I feel productive and maybe a little less lonely on this second Monday of the school year. I'm saving my yard work for tomorrow when our weather will quickly turn to more Fall-like temperatures. My morning went fast, which I know is how these school years will go.

Please remember if you have an idea for these muffins to let me know. Could it be that they need a stick of butter? When I'm so tired tonight from getting up so early, I'm sure I'll be wide awake thinking about how to fix them.

Tiny Beets: First CSA meal of the season.

Yesterday, I got my first ever CSA box. I decided to join a CSA last fall, when I was both frustrated with my shade-filled garden and impressed with Highcross Farm produce at the farmer's market. I did follow through on filling some raised beds in the middle of my sunny backyard, and have tomatoes, eggplants, peas, lots of peppers and assorted herbs finally doing very well so far thanks to unobstructed views of the sun and all of the rain we have been getting lately. I know I've mentioned before that when I first moved to the city, I used to feel strange getting my summer produce from strangers at markets. Growing up, we always had a huge garden, and it was something I never realized was so precious until moving away from home. I've always had some sort of little garden going, but not really a big enough one to eat a whole season through.

I think I'm really going to enjoy my CSA. I know I was already impressed with what arrived in my small box yesterday: pac choi, green lettuce, chives and oregano, 4 stalks of rhubarb, and a bunch of tiny beets along with another basil and tomato plant for the back yard.

It is early in the season, so when I say "tiny beets" I mean really tiny. There were three little beets in the above bundle, weighing in at just over 2 ounces without their tops. I decided that 2 oz. of beets plus their greens would be a good amount for my lunch, so I decided to veganize a recipe I saw on innBrooklyn: Beet Chops.

I kind of thought I would save the recipe for my Vegan Monday post, but I just can't since it was so tasty. I used a slightly higher proportion of russet potato to beet, and altered Indira's cooking methods just a little, but the effect was truly great. And lest you think I'd toss the gorgeous beet greens, I sauteed them quickly in olive oil to make a bed for the chops.

The result is a pretty, pink dish, glamorous enough for a dinner party, and elegant enough to make me feel special for cooking it just for myself. I recently read Judith Jones' book The Pleasures of Cooking for One. I have to say, it is probably one of the best reads I've had in a long while. There are many reasons one can be driven to cook for the self, some are sad and lonely reasons, and some are fueled by experimentation and curiosity. Weather I am sad or lonely, curious, or am the only beet lover in my household, I certainly love to cook and don't need much prodding to make a mess of my kitchen for no other reason than to just please myself. It is only an added joy to be able to sit at the table and think to myself, "This is REALLY good".

The original recipe calls for equal parts beet and potato, but I had very tiny beets, so I upped the russet ratio. Indria also dredges the chop in egg to help the bread crumbs to stick, but since I was making a vegan version, I omitted this and just lightly pressed the bread crumbs into the sides. I make my own bread crumbs from my leftover bread, so I know that they are vegan. You could experiment with panko crumbs, or even corn flakes, and discover a tasty variation.

Beet Chops (adapted from Indria on innBrooklyn)

Serves one, but proportional enough to easily accommodate more servings.
  • 2 oz. beets, boiled and mashed
  • 5 oz. russet potato, boiled and mashed
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 t. turmeric
  • 1/8 t. garam masala
  • 1/8 t. chili powder
  • 1/4 t. cumin powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • bread crumbs for dredging
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • beet greens from the beets, coarsely chopped
  • olive oil
Boil the beets and potatoes separately since they cook at different rates. (Reserve some of the cooking liquid just in case.) I mashed them together in the same bowl. Meanwhile, saute onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add spices, salt and pepper, reduce heat, and stir until onions are soft, another 3-5 minutes.

Add onions to mashed potato/beet mixture and stir together well, adding a bit of reserved liquid if the mixture is too dry. Form the mixture into 6 "chops", I made mine rectangles. The mixture is soft, like a fragile play dough, so work carefully.

Press the chops into the bread crumbs gently, so that all sides and ends are evenly coated. Heat some vegetable oil, about 2 tablespoons, in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. When oil is hot, carefully add chops, and cook about 1 minute per side until all 4 sides are lightly browned and crusted. (I actually used my hands to add them to the pan and flip them, since they are pretty delicate, just be careful of the heat.) When the last side is done, turn off the heat and saute the beet greens.

Heat a little olive oil over medium heat, until hot but not smoking, and add beet greens. Toss with a bit of salt and pepper and saute until cooked to your liking, about 2 minutes for me. Serve the beet chops on top of the beet greens.

Homemade bread crumbs: I seasoned these with salt, pepper and a bit of onion and garlic granules - but I usually leave them plain.

I had tasted the beet/potato mixture prior to pan frying, and knew that I loved the flavor, but I was pleasantly surprised at just how delicious the hot beet chops were. I really love Indian spices, and it really works with beets - I don't know if I'd ever had anything similar before! They almost melted under the weight of the fork, and were amazingly "beety" for only having a mere 2 ounces of beets. They were also a cheerful color:

The best surprise of all, is that while I chose the 3 chops that were most "photogenic" to plate up first, it was the 3 that got slightly charred that tasted the best. It was accidental to be sure, since I have an electric stove, and the "Genuine CalRod" coils always tilt my pans slightly to one side no matter my rigging it seems. I guess, if I had a deeper coating of oil, all my chops would have been rendered more blackened and crispy. However you choose to alter the recipe, I'm sure you will enjoy your result...

...provided you love beets, of course. If you do, and find yourself in the position of cooking for only yourself, whatever the circumstance rejoice in the fact that there is no right or wrong, there is no one you need to impress, there is just the simple joy of standing over your stove and tinkering with a dish that will no doubt bring you the greatest reward.