Beet Salad Three Ways

This post combines the larder, fermentation, simple oven roasted beets, and a few other finds.

IMG_1895.JPGBeets are an amazing vegetable with many uses: thinly shredded to complement a salad, sautéed greens for a side dish, and roasted beets that can be their own salad. A salad featuring beets can be transformed to something amazing with a couple of beet preparations. A mixture of red and orange beets adds a lot of pop to a plate.

Fermented beets: I shredded some beets and fresh horseradish, a black radish and and salt. This all went in a very clean mason jar and sat on the counter for about a week with a very loose lid. It did bubble over a few times…. (You could also use shredded beets that aren’t fermented.) The Wedge Table often has fermentation classes, and Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation is a go-to print resource.

Pickled beets: There are a lot of pickling recipes on the Internet, and beets are one of the few things I prefer to pickle for long term storage versus refrigerator pickle to be able to always have them on hand. Traditional pickling (some people call it canning but that isn’t quite accurate) leaves cucumbers and red onions – two staples in our house – a little soggy for my taste.

Roasted beets: I will typically wrap them in foil and put them in the oven until they are soft. When I am using my Big Green Egg I will also throw them on when smoking something or even cook them afterwards as the grill maintains its temperature for at least an hour after putting out the fire.

The dressing is about two parts olive oil to one part vinegar with a little salt and pepper. I use a sherry vinegar and a fully flavored olive oil but almost anything will add its own flavor.

Micro greens are a lot of fun. They add color, a little flavor, and a lot of pop to a dish. When I can find them I like Weed’s Greens.

Whenever I am in Midtown Global Market – often to attend a cooking class featuring a local chef at Kitchen in the Market – I usually stop by Salty Tart for bread and or treats as well as Grassroots Gourmet. One of the best things Grassroots Gourmet has is Marieke Gouda from Wisconsin. Nettled and truffled gouda are some of my favorites. This time a thin slice of the nettled gouda is nested on top of the beets and dressing.

Presentation is important, especially with vegetables. Slicing, layering, and making sure that everything is placed on the plate  on a way that is visually appealing. That’s about it.

 

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A Proper Larder

Over time, a home cook builds ingredients. I started by buying spices. Then interesting olive oils and vinegars. Mustards – not as many as Wisconsin’s zany Mustard Museum, but quite a few none the less.  A second freezer comes into the equation. Friends will occasionally offer game they have harvested. Stock gets made, and frozen. Mushroom ends and carcasses are frozen for “stock day”. Spicy mayo is discovered. Making preserved lemons is really easy, and they are incredibly versatile. Experiments in pickling and fermentation. Learning how much I like refrigerator pickling, and how much I have to learn about fermentation. One year, the gas company relocated our gas meter from an inside closet to outside our home. For my birthday, my wife put in shelving to supplement the other places in the house that I stash the components of the larder. Within a few months it was full.

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Here are my essentials. While some are expensive, only a little is used at a time and these ingredients can represent some of the best bang for your buck in home cooking.

  • Home made stock
  • Preserved lemons, which are better after a few months of rest (lots of recipes are available on line – the simplest are quartered Meyer lemons packed in salt and the juices from the lemons, possibly with a little fresh lemon juice and a pinch of sugar to top off your clean mason jar)
  • Refrigerator pickled red onions
  • Fermentation experiments
  • Pickled beets
  • XO sauce, Momofuku style, or chopped cured ham ends.
  • Hot sauce. Current favorites are Mazi Piri Piri and Co-op Hot Sauce . The perennial classic that I grew up with (and always have on hand) with is Clancy’s Fancy, which has been made in Ann Arbor MI since the 1970s.
  • A nice assortment of spices. Recently I have been using a lot of sumac; aleppo pepper has been a long time favorite, and I keep a few blends on hand.
  • Honey. There are many great local purveyors, and Beez Kneez has a very cool zip code series and they are great advocates for honey bees.
  • Interesting olive oil and vinegars. We haven’t purchased salad dressing in a long, long time. Two or three olive oils with different flavor profiles on hand (peppery and sharp, full bodied, or soft and smooth) can dramatically enhance a dish or some simple greens. A white wine or champagne vinegar is my go to for salad dressing, and the best bang for your buck is probably a sherry vinegar. Balsamic is a nice treat and can really range in flavor profiles.

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When watching Mind of a Chef Season 2 in my basement during a cold winter on a stationary bike Sean Brock pronounced that “he who dies with the biggest larder wins”. To modify his statement, “s/he who dies with the most interesting, and highest utilized, larder definately wins.”

It goes without saying that the freezer is a natural extension of the larder. Check out Mark Bittman‘s brilliant overview of the power of the freezer.

More to come in how I use these. They are the foundation for my cooking.

 

 

Winter Root Vegetables from the St. Paul Farmer’s Market

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Winters are long in Minnesota. To thrive here, it is important to embrace winter. For me, this means cross country skiing, playing with our daughter in the snow, and walks around Lake Harriet with a stew in the oven that will be ready when we arrive home. It also means limited fresh vegetables. The easy answer to limited vegetables is to buy from other climates. Leafy greens like chard and spinach are a fixture at coops and our winter table.

It is also still possible to find good local root vegetables in the winter, and a fixture at the winter market in St. Paul is Schwartz Family Farm. The owners of the farm have figured out how to preserve their harvest throughout the winter by keeping it in soil. While we’re seeing signs of winter departing, this year’s root vegetables are still months ahead of us. They also brave the weather on Saturday mornings to provide access to their pristine produce in the dead of winter.  On Saturday mornings at the St Paul Farmer’s Market, you will find a variety of food treasure, including amazing sheep milk cheese from Love Tree, fresh root vegetables from Schwartz, and a variety of meat and eggs from Bar 5.

Schwarz Family Farm.jpgBy limiting focus to what Schwartz has available, I have learned to love turnips this winter. Baked in thick slices, pan fried in cubes or smoked in planks or half moons. Piccolo,  a champion of seasonal cooking, often has smoked turnips on their menu in the winter, which has been a great inspiration. Schwartz also has beets, carrots, potatoes and rutabaga throughout the winter.

IMG_1836.JPGGo simple, and roast some beets, carrots, and turnips covered in olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe some Aleppo pepper at 425 until soft with a slightly charred exterior. This might take a half hour, depending on thickness. You could cube and serve at this point, or mix with a cooked grain and a light dressing (apple cider or champagne vinegar would work well here). Throw in a handful of fresh herbs if you have them. Wheat berries are very inexpensive and add a nice crunch to the experience. For a real treat, smoke half of the vegetables and roast the other half.

What will you be doing with the last of your winter vegetables?