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Archive for September, 2009

Mixin’ things up a bit

Being a full-time grad student and a part-time intern does not always lend itself to creativity or time in the kitchen.  Fortunately, about two months ago I was in the break-room at work and noticed a flier advertising an organic and locally grown produce delivery company.  Check it out: Door to Door Organics.  Now, every other Monday, my boyfriend Mike and I have a medium-sized box of locally grown, organic veggies and fruits delivered to our apartment.  This solution offers a few benefits: convenience, the ability to give back to the community by purchasing locally, and last but not least, variety!  I don’t know about you, but if I’m not careful I can find myself buying and cooking the same things over and over again.  This delivery service provides a little surprise for me every other Monday and the fun part is figuring out what to do with it!

In keeping with the recent theme of beets, I recently received some in my produce delivery box.  My initial thought?  “Ughh.  Who likes beets?”  I always think about those canned beets on a salad bar.  However, when I asked Mike what I should do with beets, I found out that he in fact loves them and suggested that I pickle them.

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I didn’t exactly pickle them but I definitely cured them in some cider vinegar, sugar, olive oil, mustard, and peppercorns.

Cured beets:

Boil the beets for 30 minutes with the skins on, let cool, and peel skins off with your hands.  Slice to about 4 mm thickness (just slice thinly with a knife or else pull out your handy mandoline…I just bought one!)

Dressing:
Olive oil
Sugar
Dijon mustard
Peppercorns
Mustard seeds
Salt to taste

Did you know that you can boil unpeeled beets for about half an hour and then easily remove the skins?  They are so beautiful on the inside when you slice them because they have these natural rings that resemble the rings on the inside of a tree trunk.  There are different colors of beets like yellow and the more traditional red beets.  A tip: either serve these on a dark table setting, or don’t be afraid of a little stain or two.  Beets are often used for natural dye because their coloring is so potent.

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Beet It

Ok, worst pun ever.  I know.  But I have been obsessed with Michael Jackson since his death – something about him dying reawakened childhood memories and feelings from deep down inside.  There’s something about the totality of him that embodies joy and sorrow perfectly and at once.  So please, forgive me this silly conceit and don’t leave before I’ve gotten to tell you about the beets.

This dish begins with a grain* – for me, it was quinoa.  I always feel righteous and good – protected by an armour-suit of indisputable Health – when eating quinoa.  It is, after all, a superfood.

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Next come earthy, crimson beets, roasted, peeled, and chopped.  Add rich and salty sheep’s milk feta, chopped red onions – their sharpness honed by a soak in ice water, dill and chives, and toasted walnuts.  Top with lemon juice and a fruity olive oil.  Wait! Don’t mix yet.  Not really for any gastronomical reason, but because you want to take in what this salad looks like before:

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Ok, go ahead and mix.  Check out the after:

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I was inspired to make this salad by Rachael’s photos of some gorgeous multi-colored beets she received in her produce delivery – I, too, had beets on hand from my CSA box that needed using.  This is a delicious, healthy, and simple salad that is striking enough for company and worthy enough to make just for yourself.

Quinoa, Beet, and Feta Salad

Adapted from The Kitchn

Makes about 5 cups

1 cup dry quinoa
2 large beets, tops removed
1/2 medium red onion, minced and soaked in cold water for 1/2 hour
4 ounces (or however much you want!) feta, cut into small squares or crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
salt and pepper to taste
extra chives or dill for garnish

Heat the oven to 450-degrees. Wrap the beets loosely in tin foil and roast in the oven until they are just fork tender–30 – 45 minutes. (Place the beets on a pan or place a pan under them to catch any drippings.) Unwrap beets and let cool.  The skin should peel right off – once peeled, dice  the beets into small cubes.

Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of salted water to a boil. Add the quinoa and reduce to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes or until done – the quinoa will sort of uncurl into a tiny spiral.  Drain the quinoa and reserve until ready to use.

Drain the red onion and combine it with the quinoa, beets, feta, herbs, and walnuts in a large mixing bowl. Add lemon juice and olive oil and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  (Remember that feta is very salty, so you’ll probably need a lot less than you think.)  Serve immediately, slightly warm, or refrigerate and serve later.  Garnish with dill and/or chives.

*Actually, Wikipedia tells me that quinoa is not a grain but a pseudocereal. Go figure!

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Hey y’all (no, I do not use this greeting on a regular basis, in fact I only use it when I am back home) ~

I would first like to say, as my sister can confirm for you, I am incapable of articulating myself quickly and efficiently.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Rach…what’s the point?” after a long drawn out attempt at explaining something.  I won’t name names, but it’s someone whose name starts with the letter J, and ends with a Y, and is good at faking her enthusiasm for football!  What can I say, I guess it’s a Southern thing.  And so, I hope you like to listen!  That’s the great thing about blogging: I get to tell a story, and it can meander in any direction.  And the great thing about this blog is that my stories can all be centered around something I love – food.

So, what do cantaloupes and Gone with the Wind have to do with one another?

Two weeks ago, my boyfriend and I decided ride a Harley through the mountains to enjoy the three-day weekend.  Colorado is a bit of a Mecca for bikers (which he likes to consider himself in training to be) and September is a great time to ride.  We began  our trip in Leadville, where we stayed at the flying-fishing cabin of the man I call my “Colorado Dad.”

Ham, my Colorado Dad, is from Atlanta and so out here in Colorado, where everyone seems to be a transplant from somewhere other than the South, I find him refreshiBelle Watlingng.  And he just has the neatest stories.  For instance, he tells a story about his great-grandfather that is quite close to his heart (because his dad only told it to him when he was dying).  Ham’s great grandfather (like his father) was a prominent attorney in Atlanta.  For those of you who don’t know, Gone with the Wind is an American classic that is set in and around Atlanta and tells the story of a young woman’s life during the Civil War (the time period during which Ham’s great-grandfather was a practicing attorney).  Ham tells me that most of the characters in Gone with the Wind are based on real people with fictional names for fear of libel, save one Belle Watling who shares the same name as the real person.  Because Belle was considered a bastard child, she had no rights to sue Margaret Mitchell (the author) who, in turn, did not feel the need to conceal Belle’s identity.  As Ham likes to say, Belle was in the business of “horizontal refreshments” and accordingly she posted a sign outside her business establishment that said one thing: $3.  This enraged the town and so the issue went to court.  Ham’s great-grandfather represented Belle and ultimately she won!  As a gesture of appreciation, Belle Watling gave Ham’s great grandfather a gold pocket-watch that was enscribed “To (I forgot his name!) from Belle Watling” and the date.  That watch has been passed from Ham’s great grandfather, to Ham’s father, and now to Ham who carries it around every day.  I mean, how cool is that!  I won’t begin to speculate about the relationship between Ham’s great grandfather and Belle…

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So here’s where the cantaloupes come in.  Between fly-fishing nad Harley-riding, Ham served us Rocky Ford cantaloupes for breakfast.  Apparently Rocky Ford cantaloupes are in season now, and considered highly desirable.  I can attest to this!  Ham served them just like his mom and dad served them: with fresh lime juice and fresh ground salt and pepper. Delicious.  I immediately bought three cantaloupes for us, and then three more, and we (and by we I really mean I) have not been able to stop eating them since.

This particular combo of cantaloupe with lime juice and s & p reminds me of a time when I was in Mexico on the beach and this local approached me with a mango, lime juice, and hot sauce all for a dollar!  What an interesting and simple combo. These are the types foods, and stories in my life that draw my attention; things that are simple with an interesting twist.  Thanks Ham for sharing your stories, and thanks for sharing your cantaloupes.

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Tail-gating

Being from the South, where football is a not-optional part of life, I had a hard time during the season, which seemed to last all year. I couldn’t care less and grew tired of the blank stares when I explained that I wasn’t rooting for one side or the other. After a while, I just picked a side and tried to fake it – luckily, football season brings with it a stream of parties, food, and libations, so most folks weren’t sober enough to notice my lack of enthusiasm or to care. I am getting to a point, which is this: if I had to choose a favorite part of the Southern football tradition, I would go with tail-gating. That’s the part where you hang out before the game in muddy aisles between the opened-up back ends of trucks loaded with beer and food, pumping out loud music, in anticipation of the event.

This post is a bit of a tail-gate – it’s a celebratory moment before the real thing begins. Thank you for joining me, and please pass the beer.

My sister and I have started this thing and we’re not sure exactly what it will be. We mainly just want to share our cooking attempts and successes with each other. A cell-phone photo of the amazing peach galette you just baked only goes so far. You see, reader, my sister and are two of the few in our family who’ve left the nest in North Florida. Atlanta is home for me now, and little sister Rachael is in Boulder. This will be a place we share recipes and daydreams with each other and anyone else who’s interested. These days, most of my daydreams involve food. Who knows where all of this will lead, but thank you for joining us and: Go ‘Noles!

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