It Only Looks Fancy

Tell me I’m not the only one who went into Marshall’s last month in search of Father’s Day gifts and walked out with a 2 lb. bag of sunflower seeds. No? Only me? Oh well. I had a purpose in mind for the sunflower seeds – a Thai-inspired sauce – but I’m so taken with this recipe for Baby Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto that I haven’t managed to find time to work on that other recipe.

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The carrot recipe comes from Saladish: A Crunchier, Grainier, Herbier, Tastier Way with Vegetables by Ilene Rosen with Donna Gelb, and I can’t stop/won’t stop cooking from it. All the recipes can be made beforehand, put in the fridge, then taken out, and are all still fantastic. My own take on this cookbook is that it’s a lot like Ottolenghi’s vegetable platters but not as ridiculous in their finishing details.

 

20180708_164536.jpgI made these carrots again tonight with my CSA carrots. I’ve also enjoyed the Rice Noodles with Lots of Asian Herbs and Lime Dressing, Roasted and Pickled Cauliflower, and tossed the Basil Dressing with a farro salad with summer squash and fresh corn. There are a ton more things I’m looking forward to making before this book has to go back to the library. Honestly, it’s looking more and more likely that I will actually buy this book, it’s that good.

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Although this looks like a fancy dish, it takes less than a half hour to put together, and most of that time is carrots roasting. While the oven preheats, I cut off the greens tops and plop them in a huge bowl of cold water to give them a clean. I scrub the carrots in cold water with a vegetable brush instead of peeling them. Although her recipe calls for 2 bunches of carrots, I used one with no negative results.

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Ilene suggests using the carrot top pesto as “a spread for crostini with anchovies, pickled carrots and sliced radishes; as a dressing for a wedge salad of iceberg or romaine hearts with crumbled blue cheese, spiralized or grated carrots, or as a garnish swirled into warm or chilled carrot soup.” Or you can put them on top of the roasted carrots themselves, with the aforementioned sunflower seeds, which you can get at Marshall’s while picking up presents for your next birthday/Father’s Day/Mother’s Day, etc.

Baby Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto from Saladish by Ilene Rosen

Ingredients

1 bunch baby carrots, scrubbed, tops attached

2 to 3 tablespoons flavorless vegetable oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Carrot Top Pesto

About 2 cups loosely packed green carrot tops (stems discarded), from carrots above

¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted (I didn’t toast mine)

1 small garlic clove

1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoon honey

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons flavorless vegetable oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fruity olive oil for thinning the pesto

3 tablespoons queso fresco, crumbled

2 tablespoons canned or jarred pickled jalapenos, minced (I did not have any on hand)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400F

Trim the carrots, leaving ½ inch of the green tops attached. Reserve about 2 cups of the remaining frilly tops for the pesto, plus several of the nicest-looking tops for garnish. Cut any fatter carrots lengthwise in half so they are all about the same thickness and place them on a sheet pan. Toss with enough oil to coat, spread them out in the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Roast the carrots for 18 to 25 minutes (depending on the size), turning occasionally, until nicely browned and tender.

Meanwhile, make the pesto: Put the carrot tops, 3 tablespoons of the sunflower seeds, and the garlic in the bowl of food processor or in a blender and grind to a paste. Add the mustard, vinegar, and honey and blend throroughly. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil and process until the pesto is thick but still retains some texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (You’ll have some pesto left over; store it tightly covered in the refrigerator, and use it within the next day or two, while the color is still bright.)

Arrange the carrots on a serving dish. Thin the pesto with olive oil until it can be drizzled. Spoon some pesto lightly over the carrots, and transfer the remaining pesto to a small serving bowl. Top the carrots with the cheese, followed by the jalapenos (if using), and finally the remaining 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds. Serve the remaining pesto on the side.

 

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Oops.

 

20171210_144218.jpgAnd sometimes you have such an overwhelming week that you accidentally email your food blog subscribers the newest Hebrew School post. My apologies for my subscribers, all 17 of you, half of whom are related to me, for the error. But now you know why posts this season have been fewer; it’s because I’ve been working a second job and tending to a second blog for it.

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Also new this season: we’re using a Winter CSA. The vegetables were so extraordinary from our summertime CSA at Mountain View that we decided to do their Winter CSA, which is biweekly. They promised more than 30 lbs. of root vegetables. I wasn’t expecting nearly 15 lbs. each of carrots, sweet potatoes and potatoes. But sometimes you’ve just got to go with it.

Not that I’m complaining, but I did turn to Facebook last month in hopes of some new carrot ideas. My two best takeaways were roasting them with honey and lots of Aleppo pepper, then drizzling yogurt and sprinkling fresh mint on top. The second was this carrot bread that a Boston friend, Amy, posted straight to my page. She has always served me top notch baked goods, so I took notice and got out the food processor that same night.

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This carrot bread is reminiscent of carrot cake, my favorite cake, so that’s a good thing for me. It’s made with oil, making it dairy-free. If you use Earth Balance to butter the pan it stays that way. It’s great sliced in the morning, with maybe a swipe of cream cheese or butter, but it’s great plain, too. It freezes like a dream. I served this alongside some dried cranberry cream scones, jelly doughnut muffins and cut up pineapple for the parent coffee schmooze at services yesterday morning, and it was very much appreciated.

20171120_201224.jpgThe recipe makes two loaves which means one automatically goes into the freezer. Bake this tomorrow and have one at the ready when friends stop by unexpectedly.

I’ll be back soon with a kale recipe for Chanukah. Yes, really.

Carrot Bread

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 ¼ cup oil

3 cups flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups finely shredded carrots

Beat eggs, add sugar, beat, add oil. Beat. Stir in dry, mix until smooth. Stir in carrots. Bake at 350F for 1 hour until toothpick comes out clean.

The Middle

Wait a sec, where did July go? July is the cream in the center of the summer cookie, and it seems I’ve licked it clean. It’s been a tasty month, not to worry. July started with a few days up in York Harbor, Maine, at Sylvie’s in-laws, where we spent the mornings tag-teaming crossword puzzles, eating cherries, and vying for the best reading seats on the wraparound porch.

Mid-month, some friends went out of town, and we jumped at the chance to enjoy their CSA share for that week. I’m used to my share coming in a box, but theirs, through Red Fire Farms, is set up is like a mini-farmer’s market: you pick your own veggies to match the allotment for the week. The produce was really exquisite, and, as a Western Mass native, I was delighted to learn their farms are located in Granby and Montague. I advised the two women running the stand to make sure to get to Montague this summer, even if to take an afternoon off for lunch and a visit to The Book Mill.

So we started the month out of town and with an empty fridge and ended up with a bounty. Pounds of carrots filled my crispers, and beets and their thick green leaves poked out of my middle shelves whenever I opened the door. My cupboard barely shut with the piles of potatoes July was offering us. I panicked for just a second, not knowing what to do with all the vegetables. But then it dawned on me that I had all the ingredients for my very favorite beet salad, a salad, I realized with some embarrassment, that I had never shared on this blog.

Beet vinaigrette, along with Salad Olivier, is a Russian salad I enjoyed at my best friend’s house growing up. (Sure, she’s originally from Latvia, but this seems to be a catch-all Baltic dish. At some point I’ll get Salad Olivier up on the blog. Love that salad. Love it, love it.) The recipe I use, and the one my mom uses, is from Spice and Spirit cookbook, that purple cookbook with the perfect hamentashen dough recipe. The authors note that this salad is often served “as a side dish at a Kiddush” which makes sense because it’s a cold dish that can be made ahead or assembled from ingredients cooked before Shabbos.

Sure, boiling potatoes and cooking beets takes some time, but I prepped all the vegetables for this salad over a few days. Although the recipe calls for boiling the beets, potatoes and carrots all in one pot, a few days ago I grabbed the beets that were in the fridge, cut off the greens (and set them aside for some nice sautés with garlic, maybe some ginger) gave them a rinse, and placed them into a lasagna pan (something that had sides). I filled the pan with about a half inch of water, covered and sealed the entire pan with foil, and tossed it all in a 400 degree heated oven for an hour or so. I knew they were done when a fork easily slid in and out of them. When the beets were cooled down, I tossed them into a bowl, covered them, and put them in the fridge. For the past few days, I’ve grabbed a beet or two, run them under cold water which allowed their skin to easily slip away, and added them to salads and dishes. Couldn’t be easier.

Last night I peeled some potatoes and carrots and set them in a large pot of water that I brought to a boil as I sat and watched the Olympics in the other room. Again, couldn’t be easier. So even though the beets, carrots and potatoes had to be cooked beforehand, the actual assembling of this salad took just a minute or two. I have a friend whose Mom is Hungarian, and I’ve noticed that she tends to keep boiled potatoes on-hand in the fridge at all times. It really does make putting together a meal a snap.

Classic Beet Vinaigrette

The amount here is massive and can feed a dozen. Feel free to halve, or even quarter, this recipe. I also tend to always have red onion on-hand, so I usually sub that in for the scallions, making this a pretty dandy pantry recipe for the summer or winter.

Ingredients

8 medium potatoes

3 carrots

6 medium beets

4 scallions (or a quarter of a red onion)

3 sour pickles (I actually prefer dill in this recipe)

Dressing

1 Tablespoon salt

3 Tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup vinegar or lemon juice (I enjoy balsamic in this recipe)

¼ cup oil

¼ tsp. pepper

Directions

Scrub potatoes, carrots, and beets and place in a 4-quart pot. Cover vegetables with water and cook until soft. Potatoes and carrots will become tender before the beets. Remove them and continue to cook beets.

Let vegetables cool, and peel; cut potatoes and beets into cubes. Peel and dice carrots, scallions and pickles and then mix all vegetables together in a large mixing bowl.

Mix together dressing ingredients, add to vegetables and toss well. Potatoes will take on red appearance. Chill and serve.

Pot of Gold

Call it kismet, call it destiny, call it Lady Luck, but there is something afoot in my kitchen. A few weeks back, as we were enjoying stuffed pumpkin at a Friday night dinner, I become just a tad wistful talking about my love of cholent, a stew prepped on Friday afternoon, put on a low-flame and cooked overnight so it’s ready the next day for Shabbat lunch. Alas, I lost my Crock-Pot sometime between moving from Harlem to Lower Allston. Such is life, I thought to myself, and helped myself to another piece of pumpkin.

The next day, I set out to take a walk down by the river to watch some of the Head of Charles (read: to eat free food samples down by the river). As I weaved my way through my neighborhood, I stumbled upon a tag sale. And there it was: a Crock-Pot! After inquiring with the Crock-Pot seller about the safety of a Crock-Pot with a $15 price tag – they had just gotten married and were selling things they had doubles of – I convinced them to set it aside.

That Monday morning my sister popped up on Gchat and randomly asked me if and when I was going to post some slow-cooker recipes. “Funny you should ask that,” I typed.

We’ve had some freakishly warm weather this fall, so I was slow to put my new find to use. This past weekend, however, I decided to get a few things in order in the kitchen. I spent an afternoon tidying my pantry by putting dried beans and grains into empty glass Bell jars. Things did look extra-spiffy at the end of my task, but my actions served a deeper purpose: to keep creepy crawling things out of my food. I also did some electronic tidying, sorting through all my emails that contained recipes — 538 to be exact, including several featuring slow cooker recipes I’d tucked away, just in case.

I’ve started digging through the myriad of Crock-Pot recipes, but I’m going to start things off with that cholent I dreamed about.

I started this project two days before. Right before I went to bed, I placed 1 and 1/2 cups of dried cranberry beans to soak overnight. (A quick word about dried beans: Given the new information about BPA levels in canned foods, I am going to now exclusively use dried beans when I cook with legumes, and you should, too. OK, enough lecturing.)

When I came home from work the next day, I assembled the rest of the cholent. I set the cooker to low and left it on overnight. When we woke up in the morning the house had the smell I’d been pining for. Or, as Rich sang, “It’s beginning to smell a lot like cholent.” I kept the pot on low and went to work. I think the cholent would have been ready by mid-morning and certainly for lunch. If I wasn’t at work, I’d most likely be eating bowls of this all day long.

You’ll notice that I’ve topped mine off with a dollop of Greek yogurt. I know some of you won’t be able to do that final step, but if you can, I promise you it’s terrific. You can also leave out the eggs and keep this dish vegan, but I love the deep flavor of the slow roasted egg. I also left salt out of the Crock-Pot and added it to taste when all was said and done.

Vegetarian Cholent with Cumin and Aleppo Pepper

Ingredients
1 and 1/2 cups of dried beans (I used cranberry, but I think chickpea would also be great in this version) soaked overnight
1/2 cup barley
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 onion halved and quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large potato or 2 small potatoes, peeled, halved and chopped into quarters
1 turnip, peeled, halved and quartered (a rutabaga would also be very nice)
Approximately 2 1/2 cups water, depending on the size of your crockpot
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
2 eggs

Directions
On the night before you want to serve the cholent, place all ingredients in your Crock-Pot, except for the eggs. I prefer giving everything a stir so that the spices swirl and cover the vegetables, then place the eggs on top of everything else. Cover, turn Crock-Pot to low, and walk away. In the morning, check to see if everything is sufficiently moist. If things look dry, add a half cup water. Turn the eggs over.

For the yogurt: when ready to serve, mix 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper, juice of half of one lemon and a pinch of salt into 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt. I also tried a plain scoop of yogurt on top of today’s lunch. Both were delicious; it will really be up to you how much you want to explore the added spices.

Sophomore Slump

One hundred posts in, and I’m still making the same rookie mistake: I haven’t yet learned I need to photograph all my cooking and baking projects, and not just ones I aim to post on this here blog. And what’s even sillier on my part is the fact that I’ll sometimes be dining with other people who do photograph everything they’re about consume, like my friend Rachel who took some really beautiful photographs of every dish of our dinner on Saturday night. (Quick review: extremely affordable, very tasty, and terrible service. I’ll probably be back.)

I think I’ve just committed the most egregious example of this mistake with this savory tart filled with roasted vegetables, caramelized onions and smoked mozzarella. I had no plans to make this, nor blog about it. Nope, had no dreams about how well the sweetness of the onions would bounce off the smoky cheese that had melted in between the layers autumn vegetables that had been wrapped in a savory, flakey crust. Nope, not a thought.

What I had planned on taking a picture of was the butternut squash. Not because I wanted to do anything with it for the blog, but because I wanted to document its size. It was the largest squash I’d ever seen — my guess is one and a half feet high and about 15 pounds. It was roughly as tall as my cat, but clearly outweighed him by five or so pounds. I had wanted to photograph the cat standing next to the squash, but I totally forgot to do it until I had cut off the top of the squash on Sunday night in order to whip together some butternut squash risotto. After I had cleaned and cubed the chunk of squash – there is still a chunk of squash in the fridge that hasn’t been touched, about the size of a regular butternut squash – I realized I had way too much squash on hand. So I decided to roast the leftover squash, and while I was at it, I might as well toss in some other roots I had hanging around my crisper. So out came some beets, a few carrots, and a handful of red potatoes from the cupboard. I did call Rich in at one point to take a photo of the striped Chioggia beet because I was so taken by its beauty. Can you believe this came out of dirt? I asked him.

So I peeled and cubed my root veggies, tossed them altogether in a bowl with a few glugs of olive oil and a healthy pinch (make that two pinches) of salt, and dumped it all in a large lasagna pan. I decided at the last minute to lay down a few sprigs of thyme on top. My goodness, I said to myself, all those colors, it’s as pretty as a picture.  I then covered it with foil, and tossed the pan into a 400 degree oven. I know, ridiculous, right? To see it, say it, and then do nothing about it. So silly!

About 20 minutes in, I checked the veggies, gave them a stir, and then 25 minutes after that, I removed the foil, gave everything a stir, turned the oven down to 350, and baked them for about 15 minutes more. I then removed the pan from the oven, admired how all the pinks and oranges looked like a sunset, and then taste-tested a few of the different veggies to make sure they had all softened sufficiently. Once they cooled, I moved them to some Tupperware and put them in the fridge.

This next part is something that I often grapple with on this blog: using ingredients that aren’t exactly inexpensive. Last week I was poking around the cheese case at the market around the block when I stumbled upon a very nice hunk of smoked mozzarella. It was some sort of Manager’s Special that day, and was discounted $3. I bought the cheese – I mean, wouldn’t you? – but figured I wouldn’t mention it on the blog because I couldn’t very well go and expect people to go and buy a pricey bit of cheese for something, even though I bought it at a discount.

So, I was sitting at my desk at work thinking about my ball of cheese and my roasted vegetables when it occurred to me that those two things might taste very good together. But I didn’t want to mash them into a sort of hash and put them in a pie dish and melt the cheese on top. And that’s when it dawned on me: this would be the perfect opportunity to try out a savory version of Jacques Pepin’s apple galette with some fresh herbs added to the dough. And, I asked myself, wouldn’t the tart be so much better if some caramelized onions were involved?

And that’s when I kicked myself for not photographing my roasted root veggie prep. I did not know any of it was going to end up on Cheap Beets, but now it has, if but with a truncated version of the photography. Sure, some of you might take note that this is the third version of some sort of rustic tart on my blog – in a row, no less. Some of you might even call it cheating. But I don’t think you’ll really mind.

Rustic Roasted Root Vegetable Tart with Caramelized Onions and Smoked Mozzarella.

This is four separate recipes in one, just as the roasted pear and cranberry crostata was. I followed my own advice this time and made each part on a different night. Of course, I hadn’t actually planned it that way, but tarts really are what happen to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Part One: Roast approximately three cups of root vegetables – I suggest butternut squash, beets, carrots and potatoes – according to the description above.

Part Two: Make the savory crust

Crust Ingredients

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/3 cup ice water

1 teaspoon fresh sage, ripped into small pieces

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Directions

In a food processor, combine the flour with the salt, butter and fresh herbs and process for about 5 seconds. Sprinkle the ice water over the flour mixture and process until the pastry just begins to come together, about 10 seconds; you should still be able to see small pieces of butter in it. Transfer the pastry to a work surface, gather it together and pat into a disk. Wrap the pastry in plastic or wax paper and refrigerate until chilled. (You can also roll out the pastry and use it right away.)

Part Three: Caramelizing the onions

Ingredients

3 red onions, cut in half, laid flat, then sliced into ¼ inch thick half moons

Olive oil

Salt

Directions

Place the onions in a deep 4-quart saucepan and drizzle and toss with olive oil to coat, about ¼ cup. Set over medium heat and, shimmying the pan occasionally, cook until the onions are slightly golden on the edges. Stir occasionally – it might take as long as 25 minutes of slow, slow cooking — then stir in a few pinches of salt. Stew, stirring occasionally, until the onions are amber colored and tender but not mushy, another 20 minutes or so. If at any point the onions look as if they may dry out, cover them to trap some of the moisture in the pan. Taste for salt. You should get about 1 cup cooked onions.

Part Four: Assembling the Tart

All of the previous ingredients can be made beforehand and refrigerated for approximately three days.

Ingredients

¾ cup smoked mozzarella, cut into ½ inch pieces

Savory dough

Caramelized onions

Roasted root vegetables

1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to a circle and transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet.

In the center of the pastry, lay out all but one quarter of the caramelized onions.

Lay two thirds of the mozzarella on top of the onions.

Using a spoon, gently place all of the root veggies on top of the cheese.

Distribute the remaining onions and pieces of cheese on top of the vegetables.

Fold the pastry edge up and over the vegetables to create a 2-inch border.

Brush the folds of the crust with the beaten egg.

Bake the tart for about 1 hour, until the pastry is nicely browned and crisp. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the tart cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Gimme Carrots

I found a second book the day I visited The Strand in early July, but for the sake of a smooth story, I left it out. But now the second book has caused a bit of kitchen inspiration, in the strangest of ways. This is odd, seeing as how it’s the Keith Richards autobiography Life.

Let me explain: I’ve made a concerted effort this summer to stay away from the grocery store, relying instead on my CSA box for my produce. It’s a mixed bag, literally: one week might offer a pint of sweet-as-sugar strawberries, but nestled among some twisted green garlic scapes. The downside: for three weeks and counting, I have received bunches of my vegetable kryptonite: carrots. Not that I don’t like carrots, because I adore them, but they give me a tummy ache. A terrible, terrible tummy ache.

The first week I cleaned them and handed them over to Rich, who crunched away in the other room, only to return to the kitchen to ask if we could maybe keep carrots in the house as a snack. The next week brought more bunches of the vegetable, although now they were coming in all sorts of lovely red and purple hues.

So how does Keith Richards’ life fit into this post? In chapter six of Life, he and his mates, awaiting trial on drugs charges, decide on a whim to drive to Morocco in Keith’s blue Bentley. (Fun fact: Keith claims the bust was orchestrated by News of the World, who paid off his Belgian chauffeur. The more things change…) But rather than be disgusted/secretly impressed with the wanton drug use, all I could think about was Moroccan carrot salad. Garlicky, pungent, with flicks of green parsley, it’s one of my all-time favorite dishes. But like Keith’s relationship with Jack Daniels, I just cannot eat it anymore. But Rich can — two nights in a row. He hasn’t complained yet.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

I have been making this salad in single servings, but my guess is that most of you will want to double or triple it. And I promise you the math will work.

The recipe here is very bare bones, and I encourage you to mix things up if you’re so inclined. Harrisa would be a great addition, although I’ve left it out in this simple version.

3 carrots, chopped into one-inch pieces (about 1 cup)

1 clove of garlic, minced (I actually lean towards two, but I’m a bit extreme in my garlic use)

1 small handful of parsley, minced

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Two squeezes of lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Pinch of red pepper flakes, or to taste

Pinch of salt

Directions: Fill a small saucepan with water and pinch of salt. Add the chopped carrots and set on the stove to boil. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes. To test for softness, pierce with a fork.

While the carrots are cooking, chop your garlic and parsley. Place those in a medium-sized bowl, along with the spices and salt. Once the carrots have cooked, remove from the heat and drain in a colander in the sink. Add the cooked carrots to the bowl of garlic, salt and spices. Add the oil and lemon juice. Stir. Enjoy. When Rich brings the bowl back, carrot-free, I run my finger around the bowl and lick with gusto. This last step is up to you.