And The Beet Goes On

“They’ll keep,” my mom reassured me once I told her how I’d accidentally bought seven pounds of golden beets from the local farm collaborative. This is a bit of a problem for me: I have a hard time judging proportions. I once accidentally bought nine cubic yards of soil for a garden. 

While some might find this to be a nightmare scenario, my love of beets went into overdrive. (I mean, I did name this blog after them.) The first few pounds we juiced in the juicer I picked up this fall through the Buy Nothing Northampton Facebook Group. After we cleaned up the kitchen, I roasted another three pounds and enjoyed them throughout the week. On Monday night we had roasted beet Reubens, made with sauerkraut from Real Pickles, and bread from Rise Above Bakery in Greenfield. 

On Tuesday, I reached for my Ultimate Nachos cookbook for some Taco Tuesday inspiration. Although there was a recipe for beet, apple and goat cheese nachos, I landed on “The Joker Guacamole,” because, well, guacamole. The recipe was clearly intended to be made with red beets to end up purple and green, like the Clown Prince of Crime. My beets’ golden color meant my guacamole wasn’t stained, but neither were any of my cutting boards nor my hands. I cut back on the amount of garlic and lime juice in the recipe below because it was too strong.  

I also made queso because cheese sauces are generally something that makes me happy. This recipe dirties two saucepans and takes a bit of attention and time, but it was totally worth it. I used Cabot sharp cheddar cheese and it was perfect. I felt like I was at a ballgame as I dipped my tortilla chips into the cheese sauce and mound of mashed avocado. Even Lilli, my picky eater, enjoyed the cheese sauce on top of pasta that night. 

The rest of the week we enjoyed beets in salads, with hummus in sandwiches, and tzatziki. They also featured in a fresh “Winter Roll” with sprouts, arugula, roasted butternut squash and raw carrot with a peanut sauce.

There’s a single golden beet left, and you might be think I would be done for a while. But I just roasted a (much more reasonable) batch of red beets and have started using them. And the circle of life continues.

Beet Guacamole and Bechamel Cheese Sauce (Queso) from Ultimate Nachos by Lee Frank & Rachel Anderson

Beet Guacamole

Ingredients 

2 avocados, halved lengthwise, pitted, and flesh scooped out

1 garlic clove, minced

Juice of 1/2 lime

Salt and pepper

1 small roasted beet, trimmed, peeled and grated

Directions

In a medium bowl, mash the avocados with the garlic and lime juice, using a fork

Season with the salt and pepper

Fold in the beet. Do not overmix. 

Season again with salt and pepper to taste. 

Bechamel Cheese Sauce

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk 

8 ounces melting cheese of your choice, shredded (about 2 cups)

Salt and pepper

Directions

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. 

Add the flour and stir until a smooth paste forms, 5 to 6 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat the milk until it is just about to boil. Be careful not to burn the milk. Burnt milk is cringe-worthy. 

Gradually add the hot milk to the butter mixture, and whisk continually until smooth. Bring the sauce to a boil. 

Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat, immediately add the shredded cheese, and stir together until evenly incorporated. 

Season the cheese sauce with salt and pepper to taste. 

Second Annual Cambridge Guac Off

The competition was fierce at the Second Annual Cambridge Guac Off this past weekend. I was lucky enough to be invited back to help judge the competition, and what a contest it was! There were a dozen different entries for guests and contestants to sample, and a stock pot full of some of the most potent sangria I have ever overindulged in. Food processors whirled and mortar and pestles ground away at the ripe green fruits that had been tossed with cilantro, garlic and lime juice.

Secret ingredients abounded this year. Some, like the Rick Bayless-inspired pepitas, queso fresco and jalapeno entry, used traditional Mexican flavors. Less so was the blue cheese which found its way into the second place entry. And while some protested the awarding of first place to a pesto-infused guacamole, I for one embraced this next step in dip evolution. Rounding out the entries was a fresh mango salsa and a tequila-spiked avocado sorbet.

The Guac Off winners were kind enough to share their recipes with Cheap Beets. In the style of so many great home cooks, measuring spoons were set aside and the final dips were done to taste. I’ve assured Matt, Calvin, Rachel and Isabelle not to worry about those details, and that the recipes will speak for themselves.

For more pictures of the event, check out Calvin’s Flickr page.

First place: Pesto-Guacamole by Matt Frank

Ingredients

4 Ripe avocados

1 unripe avocado

1 medium red onion

Paprika

Sea Salt

Pepper

Cilantro flakes

Basil flakes

Lime juice

Tabasco sauce

Jalapeno paste (they sell it in a tube)

Fresh garlic

Garlic powder

Onion powder

Olive oil

Notes on the pesto: Trader Joe’s brand or homemade will work. (The winning recipe had homemade, but the trial run used Trader Joe’s) Any traditional pesto should do.

Directions

Peel and cut the unripe avocado into one inch pieces. Halve the red onion, and dice one half into small pieces.  Peel the garlic clove. Toss all three in a mix of light olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, basil flakes, cilantro flakes, tabasco sauce, lime juice, sea salt and pepper. Bake on the top rack of a 475 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes.

Fork mash the baked avocado and garlic clove into a paste. In a separate bowl, fork mash the four ripe avocados, and then add the mashed avocado paste and the jalapeno paste. Mix. Add some Tabasco sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, lime juice and basil flakes and mix. Add a tablespoon of basil pesto. Mix. Taste, add more pesto and tabasco sauce as needed, taking care not to offset the balance. Additional spicing should be done judiciously.

Once the guacamole is properly flavored, add the baked red onion, and half of the other remaining raw onion. Gently fold into the guacamole, making sure to distribute evenly without breaking it up.

Second Place: Simple Guacamole (with a secret ingredient) by Rachel Linso and Calvin Metcalf
In a large bowl, mix together

4 very ripe avocados

1/2 can roasted diced jalapenos (approximately 1/2 Tablespoon)

1/2 yellow onion, diced

Nice-sized hunk of blue cheese

Pepper to taste

Third Place: Roasted Jalapeno and Roasted Corn Guacamole by Isabelle Weyl

The night before you want to serve this guacamole, roast a jalapeno pepper, deseed, and slice into thin strips. Shuck two ears of corn, salt and coat in olive oil. Wrap in tinfoil and roast in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Remove corn from the cob and add to the bowl containing the strips of roasted jalapeno. Refrigerate overnight.

When ready to prepare and serve the guacamole, bring the corn and pepper mix to room temperature, mash 5 smallish avocados with 3 dashes of Tabasco sauce and a hearty spoonful of sour cream.