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

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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

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 simmmering 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 alll 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 crispig 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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Roasted Beets

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There have been times that, when commenting on recipe posts in which beets are roasted, that the beets aren’t really roasted. We’ve all done it – we place whole, trimmed beets in a foil package with a little olive oil and salt, steam-cook them till tenderness, remove the peels, and voila! But they’re not really roasted, are they?!!

So I set out to actually roast beets, as one would potatoes or broccoli. I know they will be good, like all roasted goodies. My husband claims that roasted broccoli is better than candy!
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So here’s what I did.

Really Roasted Beets

3 beets
Olive oil
Black pepper
Salt

Preheat oven to 375 degree roast setting, or 400 degrees.

Trim tops and bottoms of beets.

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Peel the beets completely.

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Chop the beets into 12ths. Or just make fairly uniform pieces of the beets, any shape you prefer. Place the beets in a baking dish, and drizzle some olive oil over them. Sprinkle them generously with pepper and salt.

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Place the baking dish in the oven. After about 15 minutes, use a spoon and toss them around to brown the pieces on different sides. Continue roasting for 10 or so minutes. They should be nicely browned, but also piece a chunk to test for tenderness.

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If they’re still firm, turn off the oven and let the baking dish sit in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

I used them in a salad so as to let the roasted beets really “shine.”

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For the vinaigrette, I used some beet juice strained from a can of beets, along with an equal part of leftover Riesling and reduced it. I then added red wine vinegar, olive oil, a little heavy cream, and a pinch of salt.

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If you want recipes for other “reduction” vinaigrettes, check out Beet Vinaigrette, or Beet Apple Vinaigrette.

The roasted beets are exactly what roasted beets should be. Tender beets with a lovely roasted exterior!

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Chopped Brussels Sprouts Salad

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Recently I had brunch at a restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, and I was so intrigued by their Brussels sprouts salad, that it ended up being my brunch meal. I surprised myself, because I typically get something breakfasty for brunch, but the interesting-sounding salad won me over.

I was smart enough to snap a couple iPhone photos, shown below, so I would remember the ingredients, all of which were chopped into similar sizes except for the cheese.


So today I’m “copying” this salad to enjoy again and calling it a “chopped” salad. But I’m making one change. I’m cooking the Brussels sprouts. My pieces in the salad were at the most parboiled, and as a result, hard and bitter. It almost ruined the salad for me.

I’m still glad I ordered this unique salad, though, and was excited to try it out at home!
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Chopped Brussels Sprouts Salad

1 pound Brussels sprouts
8 ounces, approximately, grilled chicken
6 small, whole cooked beets
4 hard-boiled eggs
2 good-sized avocados
Handful of golden raisins
8 ounces Manchego or Idiazabal
4 ounces Marcona almonds

To begin, trim the ends off of the Brussels sprouts. Cut the larger ones in half, if necessary, so that they are fairly uniform in size. Place them in a steamer pan and steam them until just tender. I prefer steaming over boiling because I feel they’re less water logged.
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Place the Brussels sprouts in a large bowl and let cool. Meanwhile, cut the chicken, beets, eggs and avocado into similarly-sized pieces.

Add the chicken, beets, eggs, and avocado.



Add the raisins and the cheese. I cut the cheese in smaller pieces than the other main ingredients.

Then add the almonds. Make a light dressing of your choice. I used some olive oil and a champagne vinegar.

This is the champagne vinegar I used. If you see it, don’t buy it. I had never used it until I made this salad. As I was sprinkling it on the salad I got a whiff of it. Nasty stuff. Terrible aftertaste. I’m pretty sure I got it at Central Market.
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I quickly switched to a white balsamic vinegar, and I’m really glad I did. I actually poured that awful vinegar down the drain.

Toss the salad gently and serve at room temperature.

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You can sprinkle some finely ground almonds on the top if you wish.

This salad was even better than I remember it.
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The beets are a little problematic because they want to color the other ingredients purple. And the hard boiled eggs are impossible to cut neatly and keep from crumbling.


But flavor-wise, the salad is wonderful. I especially love the almonds and golden raisins! I will make this again!

Easy Beet Salad

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There are a few canned products that I love, and that can definitely save some time in the kitchen when necessary. For once I won’t mention canned beans, but instead, canned beets! You can also find them jarred. And they’re good.

If you prefer to cook your own beets, that’s fine. But in the case of this salad, I just want to show you how easy it is to create a pretty, delicious, and really fast salad – no cooking involved!

It took me a while to learn to love beets. They tasted like dirt to me initially, but I now embrace that earthiness. And a beet salad, especially with feta added, is to die for in my book.

If you noticed the photos, you can see that I used a spiralizer on the whole beets, and of course the curly cues don’t enhance the flavor of the salad. To really make this a quick salad, just some bite-size cubing of the canned beets would work perfectly. I was just trying to make the salad a little prettier!
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Easy Beet Salad

1 – 16 ounce can whole beets, to make two salads
Vinegar, I used champagne vinegar
Olive oil
Crumbled feta
Chopped parsley, optional

Drain the beets, saving all of the beet liquid* from the can. Then let them dry on paper towels.


Chop or spiralize the beets and set aside.

Pour some vinegar and olive oil in a medium-sized bowl, then add the beets and toss them gently.
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Place in serving dishes and sprinkle with feta and parsley, if using.

Black pepper would also be good, but not salt, because the feta is salty.
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Chives are another possibility instead of the parsley.
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* If you love the flavor of beets, use the leftover beet juice to make a vinaigrette. I made one for the blog in the fall – a beet apple vinaigrette. Today I reduced the beet juice along with some cherry juice, then after it cooled down, added some vinegar, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Beet juice makes a fabulous-tasting vinaigrette!


note: I’ve obviously never had canned whole beets before; I typically buy them sliced. So I was a bit shocked when I discovered how small they were in the can. As a result, they were not easy to spiralize. I suggest that if you want pretty, spiralized beets, buy them raw, cook them, then spiralize them. Larger beets just work better in a spiralizer.

Beet Hummus

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Firstly, I have to clarify that this recipe is not a true hummus. Personally, I don’t really love hummus. I mean, it can be good, but there are a lot of bad ones out there – at restaurants and pre-packaged at stores like Central Market and Whole Foods. Some are too lemony, some are tasteless, and sometimes the hummus is mealy. I prefer a softer, smoother texture that I get from using white beans instead of garbanzos.

So this recipe is actually a white bean dip recipe made with beets. There is no lemon and no tahini and no garbanzos. It’s just sometimes easier to say or write hummus, rather than white bean dip!

I recently made beet ravioli again, and this time I used canned whole beets to see if there was a difference in the beet filling, as compared to using roasted beets. As it turns out, that there wasn’t any difference.

With all of the many different variation of white bean dip I’ve made over the years, I’ve never included beets, and I decided to change that immediately!

For the beet ravioli filling, the cooked beets are finely processed, placed in cheesecloth in a colander over a bowl, and weighted down. This serves two purposes – the juice is collected for a reduction, and the beets dry out to create a denser filling. So keep in mind that these beets have been squeezed “dry.”

So this is what I did today:
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White Bean and Beet Dip

1 – 15 ounce can Great Northern white beans
1/4 cup minced cooked beets
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
Pinch of salt
Olive oil, about 1/4 cup
Olive oil for drizzling
Valbreso, or other feta cheese, optional

Drain the white beans well in a colander. I give mine a rinse as well.
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Place the beans in the jar of a food processor. Add the beets*, garlic, cumin, and salt.
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Process, pouring in a little olive oil at a time until the mixture is fairly smooth. Scrape down, and process until the bean dip is smooth.
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Serve immediately, with pita triangles or crackers. If desired, drizzle a little olive oil on top of the dip.

A little crumbled feta cheese on top is also tasty!
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* You don’t have to squeeze the liquid from cooked beets for this recipe, but you may not need as much olive oil if you don’t. Just add the oil slowly, until the proper consistency is reached.

note: The next time I make this, which I will, I will use 1/3 of a cup of beets, instead of the 1/4 cup I used. The beet flavor is surprisingly a bit subdued. I could used less garlic and cumin, but I really was after that beet, garlic, and cumin flavor combo!
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If you’re interested in my other white bean dip recipes on which I’ve posted, check out white bean dip, and another white bean dip!

Beet Ravioli

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I’ll probably never dine in London again. Not that I wouldn’t want to, but because our younger daughter lived there for the last four years, we have been lucky enough to visit multiples times, taking advantage of London’s fabulous gastropubs and restaurants.

We visited her this past July, to get our last opportunity to see her in situ before she moved back to the states. So then there was the matter of picking the final restaurant destination for our last meal in London.

The restaurant-choosing burden is always on me, which is probably because I’m controlling when it comes to planning the restaurant itinerary when we travel. Also, no one else in my family understands the concept of making reservations. But in any case, this was a difficult decision.

My daughters had given me a little book called “Where Chefs Eat” for Christmas a while back, and I turned to this book for inspiration.
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And that’s how I came about to choose Bistrot Bruno Loubet for our final London meal.

I had never heard of Bruno Loubet, but his bio is impressive. He opened the restaurant, in the Clerkenwell district, in 2010. After only four years, the restaurant needs some spiffing up and somewhat of an upgrade, but the space itself is really nice, with a beautiful bar and various seating areas, including one outside.

This is a shot from the website of the bar area in its heyday. Now the chairs are pretty scuffed up and fabric is worn.
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Knowing me, it’s probably the shot of those purple bar stools that made me want to go to this restaurant, other than it was recommended by other chefs and the menu looked fabulous.

So Bistrot Bruno Loubet is where I enjoyed Mr. Loubet’s beet ravioli, which turns out is one of his most popular dishes. I discovered this tidbit because after getting home to the states, I ordered his cookbook “Mange Tout,” which translates to eat everything! And there was the beet ravioli recipe in the cookbook. Yay!
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This is the photo of my ravioli at the restaurant that evening. Gorgeous, isn’t it? I started with grilled octopus, and ended with these. Seriously a fabulous menu.

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Now, I know that food bloggers aren’t sitting around wondering why I haven’t had a fresh pasta post on my blog, but I haven’t. And it’s not because I don’t know how to make fresh pasta. Honestly, It’s because I got tired of making it.

When I was a personal cook for a family for 8 years, I made tons of pasta. And I think I burned myself out. Plus, I also lent my pasta maker to a neighbor and never got it back. That didn’t help. Or perhaps I said, “Keep it. I never want to see it again!”

But to prove to you that I actually used to make pasta, I want to show you this photo that my daughter will hopefully not see because she will be mad at me. But she’s 8 years old and making her own pasta. She looks like a cross-eyed nut, but she was a great pasta maker. She loved to choose flavors, like thyme and cayenne.

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I’m so happy that Mr. Loubet’s beet ravioli inspired me to buy another pasta maker, because these ravioli are exquisite. This could be my last meal, if I had a choice in the matter, and hopefully not because I’m on death row.
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The recipe is quite involved. Not difficult, just involved. But because I remember how good these ravioli were, I wanted to follow the recipe as closely as possible, and this is what I did.

Beet-Filled Ravioli
based strongly on Bruno Loubet’s recipe in Mange Tout
makes about 40 ravioli

3 beets, washed, dried, trimmed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 ounces cream cheese (the original recipe called for ricotta)
4 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan (the original recipe called for 2)
Salt
Pepper

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the beets in foil and bake them in the foil package for 2 hours. Let them cool.


Peel the beets, then chop them up.

Place the chopped beets in a food processor and pulse 4-5 times. You want finely diced beet, not mush.
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Place the beets in cheesecloth in a colander over a bowl. Tie up the beets, then weigh down and place in the refrigerator overnight.


The next day you will have about 1/4 cup of beet juice.

Pour the beet juice into a small pot, and add the balsamic vinegar. I also squeezed out the cheesecloth to get a bit more juice into the pot.
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Over very low heat, reduce the beet-balsamic mixture until it’s almost like a syrup; set aside. It will eventually look like this:
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Empty the cheesecloth and place the beets in a medium bowl.

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Meanwhile, add the cream cheese and grated cheese to the beets and stir well. When the beet-balsamic syrup has cooled, add about 1/3 of the amount, or about 1 tablespoon, to the filling and stir well; set aside.
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The next thing to do is make the pasta dough. I don’t want to have a pasta-making tutorial because it would make this post too long, plus there are plenty out there. Go to Stefan’s blog Stefan Gourmet for his tutorials. He’s got a really light hand when it comes to making pasta – especially filled pasta. Plus it’s really challenging to take photos with dough and flour on your hands.

The pasta dough recipe I made was about 2 cups flour, 2 eggs plus 2 yolks, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Use a little water, if necessary, to make the dough the proper consistency. You can always add flour to dough, but you can’t add water to it.


Stir the egg and olive oil mixture gradually into the flour until the liquid is completely incorporated. Turn out onto a slightly floured board, knead a minute, then wrap up in plastic wrap and let sit at least 30 minutes to rest.

Hook up your pasta maker and make sure it’s stabilized. You don’t want it moving around while you’re rolling out sheets of pasta.

If you’re new to using a pasta maker, it’s important to start with the widest opening, which is typically the #1 position. As you knead the dough and work on it to make it thinner, move the position narrower and narrower by adjusting the number. You don’t have to make the pasta sheets the thinnest possible, but I did because I’m making ravioli.

Have a small bowl of water handy, and a cookie sheet or platter sprinkled with a little bit of flour for your ravioli. Then cut your pasta dough into 4 even pieces; you’ll be using one at a time.

Begin putting your dough through the pasta maker, folding it over, which essentially kneads it and smooths it out. Work the sheet thinner until you’re happy with it. Use a sprinkling of flour if you feel it’s necessary.


Once you’ve made a couple of sheets, and they’re not sticking to your workspace, place evenly-sized blobs of beet filling, evenly spaced, on one length of the pasta sheet.

Dip your 5 fingers into the water bowl, and then tap the water around each beet filling. You can also give the lengths of the pasta edges a little water. This just helps make the pasta stick together. Fold over the sheets lengthwise, and press the dough together, trying to avoid air pockets. You can make square ravioli, but I chose to make round.

I placed the just-cut ravioli on the platter, then continued with the remaining pasta sheet. Half of the dough made about 20 ravioli.

Have a large pot of water on the stove already warming, and now is the time to turn the heat to high. Have a cloth-lined platter nearby for the cooked ravioli, and a spider sieve for catching them.

When the water is at full boil, slip about half of the ravioli into the boiling water. Within 3 minutes they will rise to the surface, at which point you can remove them with the sieve and place them to drain on the platter. Repeat with the remaining ravioli.

I only prepared 20 ravioli, because I’m the only one who eats beets. In fact I shared them with my neighbor. With the other half of the dough I made fettucine for my husband. Isn’t it pretty? I think I have a renewed outlook on making pasta!
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To finish the recipe, here’s what I did (double the amount for all 40 ravioli):

2 ounces butter
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
Finely grated Parmesan
Coarsely grated black pepper
Finely grated Parmesan
Leafy greens
Red wine vinegar
Truffle oil, or olive oil

Melt the butter and brown it in a large skillet. Add the bread crumbs and stir well.

Quickly but gently add some ravioli to the butter mixture and toss them. Place them on a serving plate, and continue with the remaining ravioli.
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Sprinkle them with coarsely grated pepper and some Parmesan.

Because Mr. Loubet’s presentation was so beautiful, I did something similar. I used spinach leaves and chiffonaded them, to produce little ribbons, and put them in a small bowl. I added a few drops of red wine vinegar, and a few drops of truffle oil. Using my fingers, I tossed the ribbons in the vinaigrette, then placed some of them in the middle of the circle of ravioli. And I added salt.

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There was something about the beet flavors, the browned butter, and the truffle oil that just went fabulously together.
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The filling is very beety and creamy. And it’s pretty.
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Oh – and something else. After you’ve made up your plates with the ravioli, salad, and toppings, drizzle on the remaining beet-balsamic syrup over the ravioli. That’s the piece de resistance!

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note: The recipe calls for wild rocket instead of spinach, but I would have no idea how to get my hands on some. Plus, He also sautés sage leaves to top these ravioli. Since I use sage in a lot of pasta recipes, I decided to see what all this would taste like without the sage. And to me, it’s not necessary.

Beet Vinaigrette

27 Comments

You all know by now that I love vinaigrettes, and I always make them with different ingredients. To me, it’s really fun to mix and match seasonal ingredients and flavors in pairing a salad with a vinaigrette.

Whenever I purchase canned beets, which happens when I run out of my own pickled beets, I always save the beet juice. That’s just a rule. I typically pour it, strained if necessary, into a little pot and reduce it to a syrup-like consistency. Then, it can be added to any basic vinaigrette for that beautiful beet color and earthy flavor.

But today I simply added an equal amount of white wine (red or champagne would have worked as well) to the beet juice and reduced the liquid to a syrup.

Then I poured it into a jar.

I added about 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/3 cup vinegar, in this case red wine vinegar, plus a little salt, and shook the jar. I prefer a more emulsified look of the vinaigrette because of the resulting red color.

Of course, you can get more involved with the vinaigrette and add garlic, cloves, mustard, and so forth, but I like the simplicity of the reduced beet juice in a simple vinaigrette such as this.

My salad was one of those use-what-you have salads which, besides lettuce, included sliced beets, mushrooms, carrots, sprouts, and toasted pumpkin seeds. I used a little bacon and some soft-boiled eggs for protein, as my avocados weren’t behaving properly. And I’d recently picked up a pomegranate, so I decided that the pomegranate seeds would be wonderful with the beet-based vinaigrette.


And it was delicious. I encourage you to save every little bit of everything and use it in a vinaigrette! It always works!

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I’ve posted before on a beet and cider vinaigette, based on a beet juice and apple cider mixture. And I’ve also posted on a pear vinaigrette I made with a fresh pear. Think how creative you can get with different fruits and juices!

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This beet vinaigrette would be fabulous with all types of protein, including salmon, avocados, beef, duck and chicken. It pairs beautifully with walnuts, pecans, pine nuts and sunflower seeds. And of course, ingredients like tomatoes and red bell peppers would be good additions to your salad as well, I just didn’t want them in this particular salad because I feel they would clash with the pomegranate seeds.

Orange-Glazed Beets

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I happen to love beets. But I didn’t always. When I first tasted them, they tasted like dirt to me. Not that I really know what dirt tastes like, mind you. But they have a real earthiness to them that you almost have to force yourself to embrace, sort of like learning to love beer.

There’s nothing quite like the simplicity of roasted beets. They’re sweet and tender. But today I roasted them and then glazed them, with spectacular results.

The original recipe is from a cookbook called The New California Cook, by Diane Rossen Worthington, published in 2006.
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I’m basically a California girl at heart. I’ve lived many different places in my life, both growing up and since marrying. But there’s just something about California. And that’s what the recipes in this book are about. Here’s a quote from the introduction:

“You don’t have to live in California to be a California cook – what you do need is a California spirit.”

The recipe for orange-glazed beets caught my attention because as I said, I love beets. I’ve roasted them, and pickled them, but never glazed them, so I knew I had to try this. It’s a little more involved recipe, because I made it a little more difficult by adding an extra step. I wanted to roast the beets first, which after-the-fact, didn’t really make a difference.

Orange-Glazed Beets
adapted from The New California Cook

3 medium-sized beets
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the stems of the beets. Place the beets in a foil-lined roasting pan. Two of the beets were larger than the third, so I sliced them in half, to make them more uniform in size.
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Drizzle them with a little olive oil, about 3 tablespoons. Season with salt and pepper.
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Cover the whole baking dish with foil, and bake the beets for about 30 minutes.

Remove the foil and roast the beets for 15-20 minutes. They’re not completely tender at this point, but I didn’t want them cooked thoroughly before I went through the glazing process, which cooks the beets further.
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Remove the beets from the oven and let them cool.
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Meanwhile, combine the chicken stock, orange juice and balsamic vinegar in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a light boil, and let reduce for about 15 minutes or so.


When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the peels. I do this by rubbing the skins with paper towels. If all of the peel won’t come off, finish with a peeler. Some people wear gloves handling beets, because your fingers will turn red. But it’s not permanent.
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Slice the beets into lengthwise wedges or, if you prefer, horizontal slices. It depends what shape you want.
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Place the beets into the liquid and maintain a soft simmer. Pour all of the remaining liquid from the roasted beets into the saucepan.
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Continue simmering, occasionally spooning the liquid over the beets, if they are not completely submerged. The liquid will reduce and become a glaze.
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Add the butter, stir in, then remove the saucepan from the stove.
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The original recipe calls for added chopped parsley, but I omitted that. You can taste for salt.

These beets are a lovely side dish. Today I paired them with a pesto-crusted pork tenderloin, and it was a perfect combination. The beets would also be lovely on a composed salad.
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verdict: Delicious! As I mentioned, I don’t think the roasting step improved the beets ultimate flavor and texture, so that step can easily be omitted. Simply peel and chop/slice the beets, and simmer them in liquid. You will have to double up on the liquid ingredients, however, since the whole process will take about 45 minutes before the raw beets become tender.

note: I will make these beets again in the fall, with some apple cider and maple syrup. They really are fabulous glazed!

Asparagus with a Vinaigrette

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

Since my blog is written primarily for people who are beginning cooks, or just trying out new foods, I’m doing a very simple post on asparagus, served as a salad.

Asparagus of course works well as a side vegetable, perhaps with a little olive oil and salt, or a tab of butter. But it really lends itself to a vinaigrette as well.

I use beets a lot in my cooking, including canned beets, and I always save the leftover beet juice. That way, I can reduce the juice and create a fabulous beet syrup that can be turned into a number of things, including this beet-apple vinaigrette I made in last fall.

Since it’s spring, I decided to lighten the vinaigrette up a little. I’m still calling it a vinaigrette, because I don’t like the word dressing, but there’s actually no vinegar in it. Just lemon juice.

So here’s what I did:

Asparagus with a Beet-Lemon Vinaigrette

Strained juice from 1 can (15 ounces) of beets
Juice of 1/2 lemon, strained
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
Few grindings of pepper
1 pound fresh asparagus

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.

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I estimate about 1/3 cup of beet juice, originally, which reduces to about 2 tablespoons at the most. At this point, remove the syrup from the heat and immediately whisk in the lemon juice and oil. Whisk well, then add the salt and pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile, clean the asparagus, which means removing the stiff, woody ends, which are the ones that were closest to the dirt. I simply snap off the ends. Some people prefer to shave the ends, using a vegetable peeler. There’s really no right or wrong here. However, when you have a pile of asparagus ends, you can use them to make an asparagus broth using a little onion and garlic, and then use that for asparagus soup! It just adds a deeper flavor. Otherwise, the compost pile will enjoy them as well.

Personally, I only steam my asparagus. They can be steamed with any kind of contraption, as long as the asparagus is sitting over water, 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. Asparagus just isn’t good overcooked.

Place the warm asparagus on a plate, and add some of the beet-lemon dressing. Sprinkle with some extra pepper, if you like.

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Also, a bit of crumbled goat cheese or chopped toasted walnuts would also be good on this salad. Or both! This would make a fabulous first course.

If you don’t like the look of the syrup separating from the oil, place the mixture first in a mini blender and emulsify it. If you prefer it a little creamier, add a 1/2 teaspoon of mayonnaise or cream.

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