Thursday, May 17, 2012

Creamy Beet Green Pasta

All too often I throw away the green leafy tops of beets.  I have heard rumors that they taste good and can be eaten, so I feel guilty when I toss' em.  Not this time.  I had a TON of beet greens leftover from all the beets I roasted up for eating and cake-making last week, and I was determined to use them in a delicious way.

This recipe comes together so fast.  I swear, after you get the water boiling it takes 10 minutes to get it ready for serving.  And make sure you wait till the last minute to cook if serving to guests.  This pasta is best piping hot fresh off the stove.

Here's all it is:  sauteed beet greens, onions, and garlic mixed with whole wheat pasta and sauced with a small log of fresh goat cheese melted with a little cream.

I tasted it like this and it was good, but throwing in some parmesan and toasted pine nuts really made it great.  So great, I had two servings.  And I don't even really like pasta.

Creamy Beet Green Pasta, adapted from Food Blogga
Serves 4

1/2 cup pine nuts (easily substitute sliced almonds or walnuts)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 pound whole wheat pasta (I used fettuccine)
beet greens from 2 bunches beets, cleaned and chopped
1 small shallot, or 1/2 small onion, diced finely
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt, pepper, and fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz log of goat cheese

Put a large pot of water on to boil and while it gets hot, toast your pine nuts and grate your parmesan. Then chop your onion and garlic (your beet greens should already be chopped but if not, do it now).  Now everything is ready to go.

When the water boils, add a lot of salt and your pasta.  In the same large skillet you used to toast your nuts, heat a couple tablespoons olive oil and saute your shallot and garlic for a minute, then add your beet greens.  Cook and stir until greens are wilted (about 4-5 minutes), then season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Add cream and goat cheese and use tongs to stir together.  The goat cheese will melt.  Scoop out your cooked pasta with a big strainer and add to creamy greens and toss.  Save a cup of hot starchy pasta water in case you need help melting the goat cheese.

Serve with grated parm and toasted nuts.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Asparagus and Goat Cheese Pizza
TWO YEARS AGO:  Avocado Boats
THREE YEARS AGO:  Chicken Palliard

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chocolate Chip Beet Cake

I'm a terrible baker.  I often try to improvise on baked goods, like I would when cooking a meal.  But baking is truly a science and measurements matter, so I've ended up with more than my share of failures.

This experiment to take a red velvet cake recipe and make it all-natural and healthier was a failure on one hand.  It certainly didn't end up red enough to suit me.  I wanted shocking red color without all the artificial food dye that usually goes into red velvet.  But it was a big success on the other hand because it tasted so good!

We're doing a big wellness kick at work and rarely do we have cookies, doughnuts, or other sugary desserts around anymore.  So I thought a free cake would be well-received, even if it was filled with BEET PUREE to bump up the fiber, iron, potassium, and vitamin C.  

I was right, the cake was universally praised, and not just because it was free.  They thought it tasted great.   I even told people it had beets in it, and they still liked it!  If you can make cakes out of carrots, zucchini, and pumpkin, well why not beets too?  The batter is a beautiful fuchsia, but after it comes out of the oven it's pretty much just a chocolate cake.  But with chocolate chips.  And cream cheese frosting.  And a ton of nutrients.

Chocolate Chip Beet Cake, adapted from Bakerella
Makes 1 double layer 9 inch round cake

3 medium beets, roasted, peeled, and pureed (about 1.5 cups puree)
2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk, well shaken
1/2 c. olive oil
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. cocoa powder (important:  NOT Dutch processed)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
2 c. chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease your 9-inch cake pans, and line with parchment.

In a large bowl, mix together your beets, eggs, buttermilk, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.  In another bowl, mix together your flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and soda.

Add dry ingredients slowly to wet and stir to combine.  Fold in chocolate chips.  

Pour batter evenly into cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3 c. powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients together and use to frost cake.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Chocomole
TWO YEARS AGO:  Lemon Yogurt Cake
THREE YEARS AGO:  Green Beans with Almonds

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Quinoa Corn Chowder

Only I would bring you a chowder recipe on the first sunny and 80+ degree day in recent memory.  But now that's it is nice out again, I'm thinking I need to use up last summer's produce before I re-fill my freezer with new stuff.  And actually, a meal made with such fresh summer ingredients tastes great on summer's first real day, even if it's served in the form of a hot soup.

One thing I have excess amounts of from last summer is fresh sweet corn, cut from the cob and vacuum sealed on the same day it was picked.  I have not really been very sure how to use it over the winter months.  But last night I happened to be visiting with a chef from a local restaurant and he provided me with a great idea on how to use up my corn...chow-dah!

To make my summertime corn chowder, I simply sauteed onion, hot pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic in some olive oil, toasted some quinoa in that mixture, then added the frozen corn kernels and vegetable stock.  Once cooked, I added milk and herbs.  Blend a small portion of the mixture for extra creaminess, then mix it all back together before serving with more herbs and milk, goat cheese crumbles, and/or avocado slices.

This chowder ends up with such a great balance of sweet, spicy, and savory flavors.  The sweetness is due entirely to the market fresh corn.  The spiciness comes from a serrano pepper also saved from last year's market (but the heat is cooled somewhat by the milk).  Finally, herbs and cheese are the final touch when serving up bowls of this goodness.

Quinoa Corn Chowder, adapted from a commenter on this post
Serves 4

1 small yellow onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 hot chili pepper, diced (I used serrano)
1/2 cup quinoa, raw
4 cups stock
3 cups (at least) frozen sweet corn kernels
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup whole milk or cream
2 tsp assorted fresh herbs (chives, basil, dill, etc).
Goat cheese and/or avocado for garnish if needed.

In a large dutch oven, heat your onion, garlic, and chili pepper over medium heat with some salt and pepper in some olive oil or butter until soft( about 5 minutes).  Add quinoa and toast in oil/butter mixture for another 2-4 minutes, or until it smells good and nutty.

Add your stock, corn, and paprika.  Increase heat to high, partially cover, and boil gently for about 10 minutes.  Cut the heat, add milk, then remove a couple ladels full of soup to puree.  Return puree to pot and serve topped with extra herbs, goat cheese crumbles, and/or avocado slices.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Sprouted Lentil Tacos
TWO YEARS AGO:  Mango Avocado Salad w/ Grilled Shrimp
THREE YEARS AGO:  Eggs Baked in a Tomato w/ Lettuce Pesto