Beet and Feta Galette

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My girlfriend gifts me wonderful cookbooks, and one of the last ones I received from her was Falastin, by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, published in 2020.

Sami Tamimi is well known for his co-authoring of many Ottolenghi cookbooks. At least that’s how I became familiar with him. In fact, Falastin’s foreword was written by Yotam Ottolenghi, sighting that the authors “have picked up the baton where it was left after Jerusalem.”

On the back cover, it’s written: “This is a cookbook about Palestine. About its food, its people, and their voices. It is a book about the common themes that all these elements share, and how Palestine weaves stories and cooking into the fabric of its identity.”

Falastin reminds me of the Ottolenghi-Tamimi cookbooks, in the size and heft, the beautiful photos, and fascinating stories. The recipe I chose to make is called Beet and Feta Galette with Za’atar and Honey.

It’s so easy to pull out puff pastry for a savory or sweet galette, but I was attracted to this recipe because a delicious, oregano- and thyme-laden dough is used for the crust. A nice change from puff pastry, or a plain pie crust.

Beet and Feta Galette with Za’atar and Honey
Serves 4

2 small purple beets
1 small golden beet
Salt
Black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

Crust
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon oregano leaves, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cut into 1/2” cubes
1/4 ice-cold water

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 1/2 teaspoon
1 large red onion, cut into 1/4” slices
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt
1 tablespoon za’atar
1/4 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup oregano leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup ricotta
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Black pepper
3 1/4 ounces feta, crumbled
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Wrap the beets individually in foil and bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until completely soft and cooked through. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then use an old dish towel to gently rub away the skins.

Slice each beet into 1/8” slices and place in separate bowls, to keep the purple away from the golden beets. Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt a good grind of black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of oil to the golden beets. (I only had purple beets.) Combine the purple beets with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a good grind of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon oil. Set both aside until needed.

To make the crust, put both flours into a large bowl along with the sugar, salt, and herbs. Add the butter and use your fingers to rub it into the flour. Don’t overwork the butter – you want chunks of it throughout the dough. Add the water and use your hands to gather the dough together. Transfer to a well-floured surface and roll out into a rough rectangle, about 11 x 7”. The dough here is fairly wet and sticky, so you’ll need to flour your hands, rolling pin, and work surface often.

Fold the shorter ends in toward each other so that they meet at the center, then fold the dough in half, like a book. Roll out the dough once with a rolling pin and then just fold once in half again. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

Put the 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil into a medium sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned. Add the sugar, vinegar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook for 1 minute, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes, then stir in 1 teaspoon of za’atar, the parsley, and the oregano.

Put the ricotta, garlic, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper into a bowl and set aside. (I happened to have leftover creme fraiche, so I used that.)

Generously flour a 12” square of parchment paper. Transfer the crust dough to the prepared parchment paper and roll out to form a rough circle. It will have uneven edges but should be about 11” wide. Lifting up both the baking parchment and the dough, transfer to a baking sheet; you don’t want to be lifting it onto the sheet once filled.

Spread the ricotta mixture over the base of the dough, leaving a 1/2” rim clear around the edges. Top with half the feta, then the onions. Next, and this time leaving a 1 1/2” rim clear around the outside, top with the beets, alternating between purple and golden, with a little overlap between each piece. Wash your hands well, then scatter the remaining feta on top.

Using a knife, make 3/4” incisions spaced about 3 1/4” apart around the edge of the galette. Creating these “strips” will allow for the beets and cheese to be encased. Take a resulting dough strip and fold it over the beet, in toward the center of the galette. Repeat with the next strip, pulling gently to slightly overlap and seal the last fold. Continue this way with the rest of the strips, then refrigerate the galette for 30 minutes, or up to 6 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg and bake for 30 minutes, or until deeply golden and cooked through.

Drizzle with the honey and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon of oil, then scatter with the remaining 2 teaspoons za’atar.

Transfer to a wire rack so that the bottom remains crisp and let cool for about 15 minutes.

Garnish with thyme leaves.

Slice once set, and serve.

And that crust?! Flaky, tender, and herby!

Salmagundi

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A while back I received a newsletter from Sous Vide Supreme, where I’d purchased my sous vide, and this was the name of the newsletter – Sous Vide Salmagundi! So I had to google salmagundi.

According to Serious Eats, “Salmagundi is more of a concept than a recipe. Essentially, it is a large composed salad that incorporates meat, seafood, cooked vegetables, raw vegetables, fruits, and nuts and is arranged in an elaborate way. Think of it as the British answer to Salad Niçoise.”

Well, it isn’t exactly like a Niçoise salad, if it contains meat, fruits, and nuts, but I was intrigued, and googled more.

From Wikipedia, “It seems to appear in English for the first time in the 17th century as a dish of cooked meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit, leaves, nuts and flowers and dressed with oil, vinegar and spices.”

Isn’t that fascinating?!!

Furthermore from Wikipedia, “In English culture the term does not refer to a single recipe, but describes the grand presentation of a large plated salad comprising many disparate ingredients. These can be arranged in layers or geometrical designs on a plate or mixed. The ingredients are then drizzled with a dressing. The dish aims to produce wide range of flavours and colours and textures on a single plate.”

Well, I immediately thought, party food! What a fabulous way to serve a meal, on a giant platter, like a whole buffet on a platter. Guests can create their own plates and, it would work for both vegetarians as well as nons.

Here are a couple of photos I found online, the left being from Serious Eats, the right one from The Boston Globe.

I told my husband about salmagundi, and he also said – party food! Surprisingly there is no cheese mentioned, but I added cheese!

Options for Salmagundi:

Roasted chicken legs
Boiled shrimp
Hot-smoked salmon
Corn on the cob halves, roasted
Salami
Potatoes
Hard-boiled eggs
Green beans
Steamed beets
Cornichons
Fruits
Nuts
Tomatoes or roasted tomatoes on a vine
Radishes
Edible flowers

This was a lot of fun to put together, as you can imagine!

I would have had people over but the flies are so bad when I did it. In fact, my husband stood guard for me, waving away flies while I photographed.

I didn’t cut up all of the cheese, or provide any dips, but you get the idea. So much more can be done with this salgagundi concept!

Creamy Beet Potato Gratin

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The combination of beets and potatoes have been a favorite ever since I had a creamy potato salad with beets in the Cayman Islands. I recreated this salad in a post last year.

This gratin shows off beets and potatoes both, baked in cream with cheese and a little rosemary. I think this would be a great side dish any time of year! And look how pink it turned out!

From the look of the print on this copied, cut and pasted recipe, I most likely got it from a library cookbook. When I couldn’t afford cookbooks I would check them out from the library and copy recipes I liked. I never thought to record the sources, sadly.

I’m so glad I finally made this gratin. It’s fabulous, and pretty!

Creamy Beet and Potato Gratin

3 pounds beets, unpeeled (I used 6)
1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, unpeeled (I used 3)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated Gruyère
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup fine dried bread crumbs, preferably homemade

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the beets on a steamer rack over boiling water, cover, and steam until tender when pierced with a knife, 30-40 minutes. Remove from the rack and set aside. Steam the potatoes separately in the same way; they should also be tender in 20-30 minutes.

When the beets and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1/4” thick slices, still keeping them separated. A friend taught me how to remove beet peels using a paper towel years ago, and it works so well.

Select a gratin dish just large enough to hold three layers of the sliced vegetables. Grease it with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Arrange half of the beets on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 each of the Parmesan and Gruyere, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Dot with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

Arrange all of the potatoes in a layer atop the beets. Sprinkle with half to the remaining cheeses, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Dot with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

Layer the remaining beet slices on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, salt, pepper, and rosemary.

In a vessel with a spout, combine the cream and milk and pour the mixture evenly over the top. Strew the bread crumbs over the surface and dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Place in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, 30-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm, scooping out portions with a spoon.

Pair this fabulous gratin with a roasted chicken, or shrimp skewers. Obviously, I roasted chicken.

What a fabulous combination. I think any grilled meat would be good, as well as white fish and shrimp.

Salmon with Pickled Strawberries

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In July of 2020, my husband and I visited Glacier National Park in Montana. It was a dream trip that we considered cancelling because of the international pandemic. Cancelling would have involved losing money, but mostly, after not leaving the house for months, we just wanted and needed to get to Montana.

We stayed at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, in Whitefish, Montana. Because of the pandemic, our hotel experience wasn’t what we had anticipated, but we understood the issues with which the hotel dealt. On our first night at the hotel, we ate dinner at the hotel’s “fancier” restaurant, called the Boat Bar.

I ordered a salmon dish. It was described as “House-smoked salt-cured seared salmon over kohlrabi purée, charred asparagus, beets, fava beans, and pickled strawberry vinaigrette” on the menu, photographed below.

The combination of flavors and textures were so good, that on our last night in Montana we ate at the same restaurant and I ordered this same dish. That is not like me!

I have never seen fresh fava beans where I live, so earlier this year, my girlfriend with a greenhouse started some for me! It was so exciting!

Following is more of a guide I used in my attempt to recreate this meal. I couldn’t find kohlrabi, so I subbed potatoes.

Salmon with Pickled Strawberries, Roasted Asparagus, Beets, Fava Beans, over a Potato Puree, and a Creamy Strawberry Vinaigrette
Serves 2

For  the  Fava  Beans: Strip open the pods and remove the beans. Place them in boiling salted water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and cool with ice water. Gently pinch off the peel.

For  the  Potato  Purée: Boil 2 peeled and chopped russet potatoes until tender, put them through a ricer, then add heavy cream until soft.

For  the  Salmon: Heat a little butter in a medium skillet, add 2 uniform thickness salmon filets, seasoned with salt and white pepper, and sautéed them until just cooked.

For  the  Beets: Because these weren’t treated any special way, I simply used canned beets, although at the store I could only find them already sliced. I cut them into little cubes as best I could, and placed them on paper towels to dry.

For  the  Asparagus: Slice about a dozen asparagus into small, uniform pieces, using mostly the tip end halves. Toss the pieces with salted olive oil, and roast them at 400 degrees until obvious browning appears.

For  the  Pickled  Strawberries: Slice about 6 large strawberries crosswise, place them in a jar, add 2 teaspoons of sugar and cover them completely with red wine vinegar. Shake gently and let the jar sit in the refrigerator overnight. Before using, remove them from the vinegar and let them sit on paper towels to dry.

For  the  Strawberry  Vinaigrette: Drain the pickled strawberries and reserved the vinegar in a small blender jar. Add about half of the pickled strawberries to the vinegar. Add olive oil, mayonnaise, about 1 teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth and taste.

I included some sunflower greens, and fresh flowers to use for the presentation.

To put it all together, make sure all of the elements are warm. Spread some potato purée on each plate (I made two servings) and top with the salmon.

Add the roasted asparagus, poached fava beans, beet cubes, and pickled strawberry slices.

Sprinkle the salmon with some flaked salt, if desired, and top with some microgreens of choice.

Taste the vinaigrette for flavor and seasoning before you use it. You don’t want it tart, but also not sweet. Serve extra on the side.

The vinaigrette is really good on the asparagus, beets, and favas. And I really enjoyed the backdrop of the potato purée.

And if you ever have a chance to see Glacier National Park and other parts of Montana, do go! Such spectacular scenery!

Schug

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I’m so excited! I’ve discovered a new condiment called Schug, and my husband even loves it!

It originates from Yemenite cuisine, but has spread in popularity throughout the Middle East, from what I’ve read. It’s typically used over falafel or shawarma, but it can be used on fish, eggs, and just about any meat.

So what is schug? It’s a really bright green mixture of jalapeño peppers, cilantro, parsley, and olive oil. I’ve seen recipes with cumin; some also list cardamom, and some list coriander. I’m using both. If you want to read more about schug this is a good article here.

Schug

8-10 jalapeño peppers
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
10 small cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of ground white pepper
1/4 olive oil

First remove the stems of the jalapeños. Holding them vertically with a latex-gloved hand, slice the flesh of the jalapeños downward, avoiding the inner seeds. This technique works well with all kinds of peppers if you want to avoid seeds as well as the membrane.

Place the jalapeño slices, the cilantro, parsley, garlic, and all of the spices in a food processor.

Add the olive oil and process with the pulse button. Add a little more olive oil if necessary. Leave some texture in the sauce.

Place the mixture in jars; it can be frozen.

When you’re about to use it, it can be thinned with a little more olive oil first.

What I’m doing with the schug today is drizzling it on a salad of tomatoes, beets, and fresh mozzarella.

Tomato, Beet and Mozzarella Salad with Schug
Serves 2-4

3 medium-sized tomatoes, sliced
Equal number of beet slices, from a jar, drained well
Equal number of fresh mozzarella slices
Schug, thinned with some olive oil

Layer the tomato, beet, and mozzarella slices on a serving plate.

Generously drizzle the salad with schug.

Sprinkle the salad generously with flaked salt.

I can also see the sauce mixed with mayo or sour cream, or even a bechamel to create creamy schug!

Tarragon-Marinated Vegetables

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This is a recipe I jotted down decades ago, but it somehow got lost, which isn’t what typically happens considering my extreme organizational skills. I’m not Marie Whatshername, but I do know where my recipes are and how to keep track of them. Or so I thought…

A while back I decided to make marinated vegetables as part of an hors d’oeuvres spread for family, after remembering this old recipe. It was February, and all I could find were basic vegetables – broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and red bell peppers. Everyone loved them.

It’s very easy to marinate vegetables. Use what’s in season, of course, raw or par-boiled if necessary, and then marinate them. I use a mixture of tarragon vinegar and white balsamic. Tarragon isn’t my favorite herb, but it adds a wonderful sweetness to the vegetables.

You could of course add fresh tarragon to infuse a vinegar, but my tarragon hadn’t really thrived yet.

The marinade is basically a vinaigrette, but with more oil than vinegar, because the vegetables shouldn’t be “pickled.” Plus a little sugar is added.

The veggies are great served with bread, butter, cheese, charcuterie… just about anything. And, they’re healthy!

Tarragon White Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup tarragon vinegar, strained if necessary
1/2 cup white balsamic
1 tablespoon sugar, or more if you prefer
1 teaspoon salt
4-5 cloves garlic, germ removed if necessary, smashed

Add the above ingredients to a jar with a tight lid. Shake well, then refrigerate for at least a day to let the flavors mingle.

See the tarragon in the tarragon vinegar?

The next step is to prepare the veggies. They all work, but some need to be cooked, like potatoes and beets, and some can be blanched, like asparagus and cauliflower. I prefer the carrots and cucumbers raw.

Cut lengths of vegetables like celery, red chard stems, and carrots, but think about using bell peppers in ring shapes. Then place the prepped veggies in bags and add the vinaigrette. Refrigerate.

Give them at least 24 hours to marinate. About 2 hours before you want to serve them, remove the bags from the refrigerator and let the marinade warm a bit.

Then have fun. Arrange anyway you want. You can use bowls for the baby potatoes and pickled onions (which I had prepared sous vide on a previous day), and glasses for longer vegetables like celery, cucumbers, and carrots.

I’m no stylist, but it’s hard to mess up when the vegetables are so pretty. I especially love purple cauliflower and carrot varieties.

I threw some whole grape tomatoes on the platter for some color.

But seriously, if all you have are basic vegetables, trust me, they are also delicious. You don’t have to get fancy at Sprouts, like I did!

Potato Beet Salad

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In 1992, we took our young children to Grand Cayman island in the Caribbean. As all tourists do there, one day we took a boat out to swim with stingrays at Stingray City, followed by picnic on a beach of a local island.

So, what do I remember from this adventure? The creamy potato and beet salad. As well as fresh conch.

I have no Caribbean cuisine resources, so I decided to just make up the recipe. And it’s good.

What I enjoyed on that tropical beach was a tangy, earthy, creamy mixture of potatoes and beets. And now I can have that again, without the beach.

Potato and Beet Salad

6 medium-sized white potatoes, peeled or not
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup good mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 cans whole beets, lightly rinsed and well drained
2 shallots, minced
Chives, for serving
Hard-boiled egg halves, optional

Cut the potatoes into fairly uniform 1/2 – 3/4” size cubes. Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove. Toss in the potato cubes and salt. Cook until just tender, about 6 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let cool in the colander.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon, lemon juice, salt, and white pepper. Whisk until smooth and set aside.

Place the somewhat cooled potato cubes in the bowl with the mayo mixture and stir gently to combine. This allows the potatoes to absorb some of the creamy mixture.

Cube the beets into similar sized cubes as much as is possible, and toss into potato salad. I also let them sit on paper towels until I used them.

then add the shallots and fold in. Pinkness is okay, and will happen, but don’t overstir.

I actually used a ring to make the salad look less than it is – a creamy mess of a salad!

To serve, sprinkle the salad with chives.

Encircle the salad with egg halves, if desired.

I always think potato=based salads need more salt, so serve it as well.

Think of this salad with grilled shrimp, or chicken or sausage… just about anything.

Even beet haters, or people who think they dislike beets would love this salad. There’s nothing not to love!

I know it was almost 30 years ago when we took this vacation, but why do I look alien to myself?!! Who is that??!!!

Asparagus with Beet-Lemon Dressing

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It’s finally spring, and asparagus is abundant. Like many of you as well, I love asparagus. Simply steamed or packed into a savory pie, it’s a lovely vegetable with a punch of flavor.

Asparagus of course works well as a side vegetable, with a little olive oil and salt, but it also lends itself to a dressing or vinaigrette.

I posted on warm leeks with a spicy Creole dressing on the blog. It just shows that just about any vegetable can also be a salad.

For the salad, I decided to use a dressing made with beet juice and lemons. I use beets a lot in my cooking, and when I use canned beets, I always save the beet juice. That way, I can reduce the juice and create a fabulous beet syrup that can be turned into a number of things, like the beet-lemon dressing below.

Asparagus with a Beet and Lemon Dressing

Strained juice from 1 can (15 ounces) of beets, about 1/3 cup
Juice of 1 lemon, strained
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Generous pinch of salt
Few grindings of pepper
1 pound fresh asparagus
1 diced shallot, optional

Place the beet juice in a small pan and begin reducing it over very low heat. It’s best not to leave the kitchen during this process because it can happen quickly towards the end.

When only about 2 tablespoons of the reduced juice remains, remove the syrup from the heat and let it cool.

Whisk in the lemon juice and oil well, then add the salt and pepper.

If you don’t like the look of the syrup separating from the oil, place the mixture in a mini blender. If you prefer it a little creamier, add a 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise or cream, but know it will be pink! Set aside.

Meanwhile, clean the asparagus, which means removing the hard, woody ends. I simply snap off the ends where they snap.

Some people prefer to shave the ends, using a vegetable peeler. There’s really no right or wrong here. When you have a pile of asparagus ends, use them to make asparagus broth using a little onion and garlic, and use that for asparagus soup! It just adds a deeper flavor.

For this asparagus salad, I steamed the asparagus. They can be steamed with any kind of contraption, as long as the asparagus is sitting above water, in the steam, and the pan has a lid. Once the steaming begins, I don’t ever go beyond 5 minutes, but you’ll have to play with this time.

Once cooked, place the warm asparagus on a plate, and add some of the beet-lemon dressing. Sprinkle with some extra salt, if you like.

If you like shallots, sprinkle some on top.

Also, a bit of crumbled goat cheese or chopped toasted walnuts or chopped hard-boiled egg would also be good on this salad. It would make a fabulous first course.

Note: I know some people try to pick out the skinniest of asparagus, thinking that they are more tender, but they all come out of the ground in varying thickness, and are all tender, as long as the weather hasn’t gotten too hot.

Layered Salmon Spread

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One day I was searching on Epicurious.com and came across a recipe that got my attention. The recipe is “Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip.”

The name befuddled me at first, because when I think of layered dips my mind goes directly to Mexican-inspired dips with beans, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa, and so forth. Although I have presented a Mediterranean version of a layered dip on my blog. But still, smoked salmon?

Furthermore, it’s not lox in this dip – it’s hot-smoked salmon. I was truly curious.

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Before I could put the spread together, I hot-smoked salmon steaks. My Cameron stove-top smoker is so useful for salmon. In fact, it’s primarily why I use it.

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If you want to know how I hot-smoked salmon with this smoker, please refer to the post here.

You can change up the wood you use for the smoke, but it’s essential to not overcook the salmon. Like in the tutorial, I smoked these steaks for 15 minutes, timed from when the smoking begins.

Here is the recipe as I adapted it:

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Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip

2 salmon steaks, seasoned with salt and pepper
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 small cooked beets
2-3 tablespoons creamy horseradish, depending on your taste
4 tablespoons sour cream
4 radishes, trimmed, finely chopped
Drained capers, about 1/3 cup
Chopped green onions
Zest from 1 lemon
Pumpernickel bread

After smoking the salmon, remove it from the skin, flake it, and divide in half. From the beautiful photograph of this spread online, it’s obvious that the salmon was more finely chopped. It’s another option.

Beat together the cream cheese, goat cheese, and butter in a medium bowl; set aside

Make the beet horseradish by combining the beets, horseradish and sour cream in a small blender. The texture should be spreadable.

Have the radishes, capers, and green onions on hand. I had intended on including shallots but I simply forgot.

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This spread could be made in a springform pan lined with plastic wrap and flipped over when ready to be served, but I simply used the 6″ greased form without the bottom to mimic a ring mold. Place the form, if you’re using one, on a serving plate.

Spread half of cream cheese mixture evenly inside the ring mold, smoothing surface with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the cream cheese with half of the salmon.

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Scatter the radishes and capers over the salmon. Drizzle half of the beet horseradish sauce over the top.

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Top with the remaining cream cheese mixture and salmon. I poured the remaining beet horseradish sauce over the salmon.

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Scatter on more radishes and capers.

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Sprinkle the green onions in the middle, and for a little color and zing, I added lemon zest.

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Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To serve, simply slide the springform mold up. I would suggest leaving the spread at room temperature for at least one hour before serving.

The layered spread is absolutely vibrant.

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I served with the spread with pumpernickel triangles. Bagel crisps or pita chips would also be good.

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The spread can be made the morning of, but I wouldn’t make it the day before serving.

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Grilled salmon would work just as well as hot-smoked.

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Note: In the original recipe, the feta-cream cheese and the beet horseradish were all blended together, which made the spread very pretty, but I wanted more actual layers, so I kept those elements separate.

Crispy Beet Risotto Cakes

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Crispy Beet Risotto

My husband and I were dining with friends in Colorado recently, at a restaurant called Justice Snow’s in Aspen. It was quite bustling and busy, which means that for me, it was loud and everyone had to yell to be heard.

I was very excited about the menu, however, and without hesitation I ordered trout. Our friend ordered the roasted chicken served with crispy beet risotto, english peas, charred turnips, carrots, spiced yogurt, and ver jus.

While enjoying our cocktails, we talked at length about how the beets were prepared “crispy” in the risotto, but all of our profound thoughts were put to rest when he got his meal. The beet risotto was made crispy by frying it like a cake. Fortunately I got to taste it, and I knew then I wanted to make it at home.

It was especially tempting to recreate because I’ve never used beets in a risotto, and I thought I’d used about all vegetables, from carrots to pumpkin to zucchini and tomato. It’s probably because my husband doesn’t eat beets, and he’s the big risotto eater in our family.

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So here’s what I did. If you need a more complete risotto tutorial, check our my mushroom risotto. It’s similar to this one because it uses bits of things as well as special liquid – in this case – beet juice.

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Crispy Beet Risotto Cakes

Whole beets from a can, about 5-6 small
Reserved beet juice, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely choppped
1 1/4 cup risotto rice, like arborio or carnaroli
White or red wine, about 1/3 cup
Chicken Broth, about 1 cup
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for frying

Drain the whole beets and save the juice.

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Then finely chop the beets into bits and set aside.

Begin the risotto by heating the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for a few minutes, then add the rice.

Stir well until all of the rice grains are coated with oil. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed. Adjust the heat so there’s simmmring but no burning. Then gradually add 1/4 cup or so of chicken broth and stir until it’s absorbed, and repeat with the remaining broth.

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At this point, add amount of beet juice that suits you; I used about 1/4 cup.

After a few minutes, add the beet bits.

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Continue to stir gently. Once just about all of the liquid is absorbed, add the cream and cheese. Stir to combine, then set the risotto to cool slightly.

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The cakes can be made free-form, but I used a 3 1/2″ ring. Smaller cakes would be really pretty for a dinner party, because they could be re-heated.

Heat a little olive oil (or butter) to a flat skillet. Add some risotto to fill the ring and cook over fairly high heat to get the risotto crispy.

Gently turn over the risotto cake and brown/crisp the other side. This was much more difficult than I anticipated. Although I used a small amount of cheese in this risotto, it was probably still too much and created some sticking in the skillet.

I served the risotto cake with a filet of salmon and roasted Brussels sprouts, just for the spectacular colors!

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Just for fun I added a little Mexican crema to the risotto cake, and sprinkled some chopped chives on top.

In spite of my problems cooking the cakes, they cut into bite-sized pieces nicely, and were delicious.

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If you don’t want to bother making the cakes, I can honestly state that this is one of the best risottos I’ve ever made! And it’s not overwhelmingly beety.

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note: In my memory of our friend’s crispy beet risotto, I think the risotto “cake” was white, with bits of beets. What the chef probably did was omit the beet juice, and add the beet bits at the very last minute before crisping the cakes. Personally, I don’t mind the bright magenta color, and the beet juice probably added more flavor. But if you don’t want hot fuschia risotto cakes, do leave out the beet juice and use some more broth instead.

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