Monday, November 26, 2007

Beets Dont Fail Me Now!

I once said beets freak me out and challenged myself to try them this month, so I did. I made the Autumn Latkes (page 53) with Horseradish-Dill Sour Cream (page 208) from Veganomicon, with a side of Sauteed Beet Greens.

I knew beets would be an adventure from the time I picked them up at Whole Foods: they were wet and muddy and pretty damn gross. I try to use as few plastic bags as possible when I shop, but I had to bag them all by themselves to keep everything else from getting filthy.

Despite their drippy nature, they didn't smell or anything, which was awesome...until I rinsed them off and started to peel them. As soon as the peel broke, I smelled garden (to put it nicely, or dirt if you want to be blunt). That kind of freaked me out because it meant the smell was coming from the beet itself, not the dirt or the peel and they'd therefore taste like shit (logic!). Thankfully, they didn't smell dirty enough to make me give up on my cooking plans for the day.

Autumn Latkes (AKA Beet Cakes): YUM! I don't own a food processor, so I had to shred the beets, carrots and sweet potato and chop the shallots by hand. Ow. Each beet took a little under fifteen minutes to shred and the other things were even faster, but it was still unpleasant. After that, the recipe went smoothly and was done pretty quickly.

This was my first time frying since I started all this cooking stuff and I was shocked by the amount of oil (and paper towels) I used. I ended up having to pour some down the sink when I was done, which made me feel wasteful, but better in the sink than in my belly!

The sweetness of the beets is countered really nicely by the fennel (which I don't think I chopped small enough for my taste) and frying them with the exact timing indicated in the book gave the latkes really crispy edges and nice, chewy centers (just how I like them). I still have one beet and most of the other ingredients left, so I think I may do a half batch baked this weekend.

Horseradish-Dill Sour Cream: Not my favorite thing I've made so far. It's OK, but I think I may not have used enough dill because it had started to turn. Despite the fact that this doesn't really count as giving it a fair chance, I don't think I'll make it again, just because I'm kind of meh about horseradish, like dill and hate sour cream. There's nothing about this recipe that made me jump up and think I needed it ASAP; I just made it because it was recommended with the latkes.

Sauteed Beet Greens: I don't think it's possible to go wrong with greens, garlic, onion and olive oil, do you?

Autumn Latkes, AKA Beet Cakes:

Makes about 2 dozen beet cakes

I serve these with an apple chutney or horse radish sauce but I don’t have those recipes handy, I just wing it so make up an apple sauce (the roasted apple sauce in VwaV will do nicely) or serve with apple sauce or tofu sour cream. I also sauté the beet greens in sherry and garlic. Yums.

2 cups peeled shredded beets, (about 3 average sized beets)
1 cup peeled shredded carrot (about 1 average sized carrot)
1 cup peeled shredded sweet potato (you guessed it, 1 average sized sweet potato)
1 shallot, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)
½ cup flour
¼ cup corn starch
½ teaspoon salt
several dashes fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, chopped
1/4 cup water
Olive oil for pan frying

Combine the shredded veggies in a large mixing bowl and mix them up. Add the onion and combine. Add the corn starch, flour, salt, black pepper and fennel seeds. Use a wooden spoon to combine everything, the flour should coat all the veggies. Add the water and combine again, until all the flour is dissolved.

Preheat a heavy bottomed non-stick or cast iron skillet on the low side of medium high heat. Add about ¼ inch layer of oil. Let the oil heat up for about 2 minutes.

Form the beet mixture into quarter sized balls, then flatten out into 1 ½ inch medallions. Add to the oil, and fry for 5 minutes, flip the beet cake, flatten a bit with the spatula and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel or paper bag to drain. Serve!

Sauteed Beet Greens

1 bunch beet greens
2 tablespoons oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped onion
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onion, and cook for a minute. Tear the beet greens into 2 to 3 inch pieces, and add them to the skillet. Cook and stir until greens are wilted and tender. Season with salt and pepper.

My shredded and chopped vegetables. Oh how stratified!

Shiny, garlicy greens:

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