Saturday, April 26, 2008

Henry the eighth has sung.

It's over. Finals are done, I'm mostly free, and waiting on my final grades to go on and get posted. I'm hoping for another 4.0 this semester, but only time will tell.

I've been on a mildly
Mediterranean kick lately,which has produced two notable mentions.

Roasted Beet Salad

First, I LOVE beets. Like, a whole lot. This is something my mother has been making for a long time, and is so simple that it barely counts as a recipe.

what you need:

A bunch or two fresh beets. Six medium sized beet will, when diced, yield medium sized bowl full. They look small when you buy them, but when cut up i ended up with a lot more that I expected. Unless you're entertaining, i would stick with about three good sized ones, otherwise you'll end up eating beets with every meal for a week.

Rubber gloves
Beets WILL stain everything they touch. Rubber gloves really really are necessary. A passable alternative is cling wrap and tape, but you're going to need a good friend who's willing to tape up your dominate hand for you... and be sure to provide context before just asking folks if they'd be willing to ceranwrap your hands.
olive oil

For the dressing:
olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & pepper
Dijon Mustard

Goat cheese and walnut pieces to top.

Step One is to roast the beets. Preheat the oven to about 400 degrees ( 350 if you've got an oven that likes to burn everything)
Cut the greens and and any rat-tail like roots off the beet so all you have a a round thing. Then, coat each beet in olive oil so its covered but not dripping, and wrap each individually in tinfoil. This results in quicker roasting and flavor retention. Do not half wrap the beet in foil and then pour olive oil in. It sounds like a good idea (trust, me i did it) but then you have too much oil in the little packets, and it seeps out and first will burn up on the bottom of your oven, which will cause your smoke alarm to go off each time you open the oven until you figure it out. Then, when you get smart and put them on a baking sheet, the oil will still seep, and then pool and then start to pop, causing more smoke and disconcerting sounds to come from the oven. SO, oil lightly but throughly first, then wrap.
Then put them on the oven rack, and bake until they're done: should be about 45 minutes, you'll be able to easily get a knife in ( don't bother to unwrap them, just poke through the thinnest spot in the tinfoil.) when the knife goes in easily (think about how you would know a potato is done,it'll feel like that) take them out and unwrap them CAREFULLY so you don't burn/stain/steam yourself or others.
Let them cool enough that you can handle them comfortably.

Step two is where the rubber gloves come in. You gotta peel 'em. Which, really, is super easy. Get suited up in your beet gear (gloves, ceranwrap, apron, very old tee shirt... what ever it takes. I ceranwraped my creme colored counter top too) Do this on a plate or a cutting board or something.
Once your prepped, pick up a beet and.... peel it. It skin will come right off. You can rub it a little bit to get it started, and once you get a bit up it'll peel right off. I promise. If you are wary of my instructions, just rub 'em a little. you'll see.

Step three is the salad making stage. Discard the skins (ie, get them off the cutting board.) and start dicing. It doesn't matter what shape or size pieces you end up with so long as they're comfortably bite size. put them in a glass bowl that they won't be able to stain. Then in a jar, make up your vinaigrette: equal parts oil and vinegar, with a good squirt Dijon mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Give it a good shake, pour it on the beets and toss.

Top with (or toss in, if you're not "presenting" it and just want to eat it) crumbled goat cheese and walnuts. A note here: make sure your goat cheese is good and cold: warm goat cheese does not crumble very well. In fact, though i have yet to try it, i think feta may just be a better choice all around. Crumbles well, still tasty. I think its a win-win. If you're going to feta, i suggest Pastures of Eden, made from goats milk in Israel. its by far the best feta I've ever had ever. I mean it. (you can, of course, get it at Trader Joe's)

Chick Peas and Swiss Chard

one smallish onion,thinly slice
clove or two of garlic, thinly sliced
one can chick peas, drained and rinsed
about half a bag of chard
(Trader Joe's Chard of many colors)
one small tomato, diced (or a handful of canned diced tomatoes, drained... which, given that tomatoes are still out of season, I would recommend)
half a lemon or so to juice.

You're going to sautée everything, so i would suggest using a wide-bottomed semi-deep pan.
start with the onions. when they're about half done, add your drained chickpeas (and garlic), and sautée them so they start to get a little crusty.
once the garbanzos have a bit of a crust, add your tomato and use the drippings as an opportunity to scrape up brown bits. Then, add the swiss chard as much as you can at at time, and sir/turn (bring the bottom to the top) constantly, until all the the Chard is wilted nicely.
Then, juice the lemon on top (and salt and pepper of course) and serve warm.

Simple, delicious, and springy.

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