Sunday, July 26, 2009
At the Farmers’ Market the other day, somebody asked, “What do you do with beets. Nobody seems to know what to do with them. They seem to be the forgotten vegetable, and they’re so GOOD if you know how.”
I didn’t say that there was no excuse for not knowing what to do with them! Didn’t I write a whole column about them a couple of years back? I bit my tongue instead. So here’s a recap, about them and some other things too.
Just... buy a bunch of gorgeous beets from a farmer, take them home, cut off the stems an inch or two from the beet, swish them through some cold water – they don't need to be immaculate – put them in a pan, cover with cold water, salt the water with a teaspoon of salt, bring to a medium boil and low-boil them least a half an hour with a cover aslant over them before testing them with a table fork. If they are tender, not mushy, drain them and let them cool a bit before sliding the skins and stems off with your hands. If you can’t push that fork firmly into them, cook a bit more. At 45 minutes they’re probably done whether you think so or not. You can serve them warm with just butter or you can slice them and add... yes, the proverbial three – olive oil, vinegar – in this case balsamic, I would think – and sliced garlic, as much as you want. If you don’t have balsamic don’t go out and buy some just for this – the beets are sweet enough as it is. They make sugar out of them, don’t they? Salt and pepper. You can go on from there with sliced onion or chives. You could add dill? or basil. You could even add some broken toasted walnuts, if you like, and sprinkle each serving with feta or chèvre. Umm.
That’s just the beginning, of course.
Just... toss a red pepper on the grill and singe that skin until it’s black, then rub it off. Slice the pepper in strips (save those thick juices, but flick out the seeds with the point of a knife) and anoint with oil, garlic, and vinegar.
Or if you find those small heart-shaped sweet red peppers – I think they're called lipstick – you can stuff them (after they’ve been skinned) with fresh goat cheese, chèvre, that’s been mixed with something sweet like raisins and something crisp like toasted pine nuts, put them back on the (warm) grill for just a few minutes, carefully – want to keep that sweet cheese inside. Serve with forks. A drop of balsamic vinegar as a finish would not be out of place. (Idea from Tapas by Joyce Goldstein)
Just... cucumbers, fresh off the vine, as good as anything: slice them thin, cover them with cold water with a few ice cubes, add some dill heads to this cold stew and put them in the fridge for awhile. The edges pucker up a bit to make a scoop. They’re crisp, and dill-scented.
Or make Asian-flavored Cucumbers. Slice one or two cukes into irregular slabs, cover with cold salted water for an hour or two in the fridge, drain them, dry well in a clean towel, put them into a bowl with a knob of ginger that’s been julienned (cut into thin strips), and add a tablespoon of sugar, 2 of rice wine vinegar, a teaspoon of dark sesame oil and 2 roughly chopped garlic cloves. Yummy. (Smashed Cucumbers with Ginger from Saveur, Issue #113)
Just... cook dried fava beans (cover with water, bring to a boil, turn to a simmer, about 45 minutes, adding more hot water as needed not to burn, salt to taste during the last ten minutes), spread them out on a plate, top with lots of olive oil and garlic, a strew of chopped jalapenos, and dip up with robust young celery, dark green and positively sweet. I am enamored of the Farmers’ Market celery – who knew it could even be grown here, much less so er, ah, tastefully. I would almost treat it like the cucumber chips – cut into leafy sticks and refresh in icy water for awhile. Then crunch away.
Just... tiny new tomatoes eaten plain, of course, at first, then halved and fried with garlic in olive oil while you blanch those first new green beans in boiling, salted water for 2 minutes. Drain them (the beans), plunge them into cold water, and chop a clove or two of garlic and add to the tomatoes, which should be browning on the cut side. Stir and fry until you can smell the garlic, drain the beans again and add them to the tomatoes. Turn the heat to high and stir-fry everything until tender enough. Not too long. Tear some basil leaves over them for the last minute, turn off the heat, season with salt and pepper and maybe another drizzle of olive oil. You could serve these with soft scrambled eggs for a simplified version of a dish called piperade. Now I'm thinking – serve them with bits of chèvre sprinkled over the top. I've just finished a plain omelet sided with cut cherry tomatoes and chèvre and it was delicious, so sweet and so good.
Just... silken, buttery cabbage, technique from Simon Hopkinson. For 2 people use 1 of those football-shaped cabbages, quarter it lengthwise leaving the core in. Plunge it into boiling salted water and cook until very tender. Drain it well, remove the core, melt a sufficient amount of butter in the empty pan (please, not too little, you’ll spoil the dish), don’t let it brown, add the cabbage to it, grind salt and white pepper over it, turn and turn until it is a buttery mass and then turn it out onto plates or into bowls. If you like, a sprinkle of vinegar – I’d say cider or sherry – to finish it off.
I heard someone ask Paul Horton at Foggy Meadow Farm what he had been eating that had, up to now, called themselves carrots – certainly not these fresh, bright, sweet, crunchy things. Yvonne Brunot from her Wallingford Right Mind Farm (don’t you love the name), a new vendor, made a Moroccan Carrot Salad to sample hers, serving them with The Foreign Kitchen’s lovely crackers to dip it up with, and a little bowl of sheep’s milk yogurt to drizzle over each bite. She gave me the recipe to pass on to you, so here you go.
Just... cook 1 pound of scrubbed new carrots – mix and match yellow, orange, purple, pink, for visual fun – until just crisp/tender – you don’t want mush – in boiling, salted water, drain and chop them rather finely and toss with 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, and salt to taste. Let sit around to marry the tastes. Serve as a salad or as a dip with crackers. Don’t forget the yogurt. Delish! (Exigencies: I used Sherry vinegar, added a scattering of green cilantro seeds, and used ancho pepper because that’s what I had).
Just... make a whole meal of fresh corn on the cob with just butter and salt and pepper. Or mix a quarter pound of butter with lime juice, lime zest, garlic, salt and pepper, hot pepper flakes or powder or chopped fresh hot pepper... chopped cilantro... anything that strikes your fancy.
Leftover butter can be used when you next bake some of those lovely russet potatoes to be found at Heleba’s market stall.
Just... make thin-leaved, spiky Frissée (a curly endive) from Boardman Hill into a classic poached egg salad in the style of Simon Hopkinson in his Roast Chicken and Other Stories, my newest acquisition in the way of Cookbooks. For Salade Frissée aux Lardons everything has to be done at once – the bacon fried, the egg poached, the vinegar heated. The fewer people, the easier it is.
It basically involves cleaning the frissée, maybe half a head for two people, and putting it into a heatproof bowl. Season it lightly with salt and pepper. Make some croutons by rubbing a couple of slices of bread with a cut clove of garlic, cutting them into cubes, and frying them in olive oil. Set aside. Put two eggs into simmering vinegared water to set them poaching. Fry 3 thick bacon strips, cut into pieces, in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until crisp and golden. Toss bacon and fats onto the frissée and toss. Put the pan back on the heat, add 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar to it, swirl around, add to the frissée, which should be wilted, and toss. Add the croutons and toss. Arrange the frissée mixture on plates, top with a poached egg, sprinkle with sea salt and a grinding of pepper, and............. EAT!
I used to think this seemed to be a winter salad, but it always gets chilled around the edges. So now I think it’s a summer salad – perfect for a cool night. Oh, right, you could sprinkle all this with chopped parsley if you like.
Just... substitute garlic scapes for basil in your favorite pesto. Into the food processor go, say, 10 garlic scapes, ½ cup each of toasted walnuts, parmesan, and olive oil... chop it up good, amalgamate, add more olive oil if it needs to be loosened, salt, spoon it over pasta, or tomatoes, or spread it on bread.
These are just a few of the fresh new vegetables we’re gloriously JUST keeping up with these days, and along with a handful of berries – the latest is blackcaps mixed with fresh, unpasteurized Jersey cream and frozen – provide most of our meals these days.
...from marble to merlot...
is an event to benefit Dimensions of Marble and Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) where you can, for $10, sample all these foods – wines from Neshobe River Winery, produce and cheeses from Rutland area farms and producers. It’ll be held at the Vermont Marble Museum on Wednesday, August 5, from 5 to 7. 802-459-2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org .