Outdoor farmer’s market season is winding down. This is the equivalent of snatching crack away from a toddler — me, of course, being the toddler. In the Bay Area, we have outdoor farmer’s markets at least four days a week, most of which run year-round. For me, the worst part of returning to Hanover is that suddenly all the produce labeled “California-grown” ceases to be virtuously local, and instead becomes Bad and Unseasonal. It’s traumatic.
But we haven’t quite depleted the bounty of summer yet. These meal ideas bridge the gap between the freshness of summer and the heartiness of fall, and give you something to do with those slightly-forlorn looking greens you took pity on at the last outdoor farmer’s market of the season. Sigh.
For this column, I’ll need to introduce one of my staple ingredients: beets. Now, I was scared of beets, too, when I came to Dartmouth. But in my time living with sustainably-minded people, there was no way beets wouldn’t grace the menu in the fall and winter. They’re local and they keep. Real beets are nothing like the fuschia monstrosities you’ve seen at salad bars.
They’re naturally quite sweet — they’re like candy in root-vegetable form. They’re also beautiful. My favorites are yellow beets, because they look like a sunrise when you cut them open (I swear, I’m completely sober as I write this. Beets are just that good.)
Beet and Goat Cheese salad— a dish you’ll see on many a restaurant menu, including Murphy’s, Canoe Club, and Market Table, but you can make it much more cheaply at home.Courtesy of evernewrecipes.com
- Whatever in-season salad greens look best — I like spinach.
- Nuts — I like almonds, but whatever you have around or like best will work (pecans, walnuts, ect). Skip them if you don’t like them.
- Goat cheese — Ideally a soft chevre with a lot of flavor, as opposed to a precrumbled variety. They generally come in cylinders, wrapped delicately in clear plastic.
- Your favorite salad dressing — I’m not a dressing person. It’s part of being picky. But what dressing-minded people tell me is best for this salad is a simple mix of good olive oil and vinegar.
- Beets — one fist-sized beet will provide enough for one huge salad or two appetizer-size salads. If the beet you find is smaller, purchase more of them. They keep forever, so overbuying isn’t a disaster.
You’ll use these basic steps for cooking and preparing beets quite frequently from now on, if I have my way. Wash the beet, or beets, then pull out either a knife or your trusty vegetable peeler. I used knives my first few years at Dartmouth, but my subsequent investment in a vegetable peeler from Main Street Kitchens is one I’ve never regretted. Cut off the top of the beet (the end with the greens sticking out), then peel the rest of the beet. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s a foolproof way of removing all the dirt from the beet, and it makes for a more delicate beet experience once on the plate. Cut the beet into bite-size chunks — I like ones that are maybe ¾ of an inch, squared, but choose the beet size and shape that’s best for you. The smaller pieces you make, the faster the beets will cook.
Now you have a choice: cook the beets in oil or water? I prefer oil, but if you’re watching your weight, water works fine. Beets can also be roasted, something I’ll go over in a later column, but sautéing them is faster. Add a few tablespoons of oil or water to a frying pan and turn on the heat to medium. Allow it to warm for about a minute, then add the beets. Cover the pan and cook for at least fifteen minutes, checking occasionally and stirring to ensure the beets don’t stick. You want the beets to be tender. If there’s liquid left over in the pan once the beets are cooked, drain it out.
While the beets are cooking, cut the nuts of your choice into nice garnish-sized pieces. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet or square of tinfoil, and bake them or toast them in a toaster oven. For a full-sized oven, I’d say about 400 degrees and five minutes of baking time, then check every subsequent two minutes. Remove the nuts when they are toasted to your liking.
Wash the greens and combine with the beets and the nuts. Add goat cheese in chunks—if you’ve got very creamy goat cheese, make slices, cut them in half, and add the globs to the salad. Toss with dressing, if desired.
Tags: beets, cooking, food, goat cheese, Laura Bryn Sisson, off campus kitchen, Recipe