Saturday, February 6, 2010

Today's Topic: Beets!

Growing-up, I always thought of beets as an old-fashioned vegetable generally found in grandparents' pantries - pickled - and in a jar. Luckily, just as in fashion, foods also go in and out of style. As we become increasingly aware of the health benefits (and dangers) of what we eat, even beets have a chance at making a hot comeback!

A good rule of thumb to follow when trying to make healthy meal choices is "colour is good". If you look at your plate and only see white - your dinner may very well be a combo of starch and empty carbs. Having said that, does anyone know if white beets are an exception to the rule?

My favourite varieties of beets are red, golden and candy cane. I have used all three in recipes to follow. First on the list: Balsamic beets. I learned this recipe from my mom, who grew up on a farm in southern Ontario and has always appreciated rich hearty foods for what they have to offer. She is a stylish woman with a knack for flare whose shoe and recipe collections reflect her style alike.

Balsamic Beets:

Yield: 4 servings

1 lb of red beets (about 4 small)
1 cup of balsamic vinegar
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

1) Cut stalks off beets about half and inch above the root
2) Rinse and scrub beets under cold water (being careful to not pierce the skin)
3) Bring a medium pot of water to a rolling boil and place beets in the pot
4) Reduce heat to medium-high heat and cook uncovered for at least 45 minutes
5) When beets are cooked, strain and allow to cool before peeling skins and thinly slicing. Wear rubber gloves to avoid red/purple hands!
6) Arrange beet slices evenly in shallow sauce pan and pour balsamic overtop
7) Bring to a light simmer, lightly tossing from time to time until balsamic has reduced to a glaze
8) Season to taste and serve

Balsamic beets make for a delicious side or can be used in salads. I used my balsamic beets in a Blood orange salad with fresh thyme and goat cheese.

Balsamic Beet and Blood Orange Salad:

Yield: 4 servings

2 tbsp balsamic glaze
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 small shallot, finely diced
1 tbsp dijon
1 tsp fresh thyme
3/4 cup of good olive oil
1 lb balsamic beets, thinly sliced
2 blood oranges
100 grams of good goat cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

1) Arrange balsamic beets on each plate
2) Remove skin and slice segments of 1 and a 1/2 blood oranges
3) Arrange on top of beets
4) In a bowl, combine balsamic glaze, balsamic vinegar, shallots, dijon, thyme, juice of 1/2 a blood orange, 1 tsp of zest from the skin and whisk vigorously while drizzling oil in
5) Season with salt and pepper, to taste
6) Drizzle vinaigrette over beets and oranges
7) Top with shaved goat cheese and serve

This salad is sure to be a crowd pleaser in cold winter months!

Roasted beets are also a favourite throughout the fall and winter seasons. Many people love roasted beets because of there naturally sweet flavour.

Roasted Beets:

Yield: 4-6 servings

1 lb. small golden and candy cane beets (similar in size to ensure even cooking time)
Good olive oil
Fresh Thyme sprigs
Sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

1) Set oven to 400 degrees F
2) Line a baking sheet or roasting dish with tinfoil, with enough on both sides to cover beets
3) Arrange cleaned beets on foil evenly
4) Drizzle olive oil evenly on beets
5) Top with thyme, salt and pepper
6) Fold tinfoil over beets and place in oven to roast for about 1 hour
7) Allow to cool, peel and quarter
8) Season to taste and serve

I love adding other root vegetables to roasted beets. My favourite - heirloom carrots! In this case, I would simply add 1 lb. of washed (and never peeled) heirloom carrots to my roasting pan about halfway into my roasting time. (Carrots will only need 1/2 an hour until proper doneness).

If you have left over roasted beets and carrots, why not take advantage of a good situation and make soup?

Roasted Beet and Heirloom Carrot Soup:

Yield: 6-8 servings

1 medium shallot, finely diced
Good olive oil
1 lb roasted beets
1 lb roasted carrots
2 1/2 litres of vegetable stock
2 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated (ginger is optional)
1/5 litre of heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Goat cheese and whole wheat cracker, for garnish

1) In a large soup / stock pot heat olive oil over medium high heat and add shallots
2) Cook shallots until transparent (about 3 minutes)
3) Add roasted beets and carrots, heat through for a couple of minutes (careful not to brown)
4) Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil
5) Add thyme, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper to taste
6) Reduce heat to medium high and simmer covered for about 45 minutes
7) Turn heat off and add cream, stir well and allow to cool
8) Once cooled, use an electric hand mixer to puree soup
9) Ensure that you are happy with the seasoning and texture
10) Serve hot, garnished with shaved goat cheese on a whole wheat cracker and or thyme

Notice the gorgeous ruby and golden colours in the soup!

Hopefully these recipes will inspire you to make the best of beets and beat those winter blues!

Written by: Shelby Flynn

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Introducing Fresh Bites

Well, here we go... my first blog entry. Now that I've read countless blogs, blog reviews and tips on writing blogs - there's nothing left to do but blog! For some reason I feel nervous. I'm not a shy person, that's not what's been keeping me from putting myself out there. It's the writing that makes me nervous. Writing is not a talent of mine by any stretch, however speaking - now that's something I've never seemed to struggle with.

Besides never running out of things to say, I should tell you a little more about myself. The most important things in the world to me are my family, friends and food. I went to culinary school and since have run my own catering business. When I'm home, the food network is on in the background, I almost exclusively surf the net for recipes and food trends, and at night when I go to bed, I curl up with one of my favourite cookbooks (as opposed to a novel like most normal people).

That being said, this blog is meant to be an open conversation amongst those who love all things food. I hope that over time, I will be able to share recipes, tips and tricks of the trade, and culinary experiences with both; local food markets and international travel. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and stories on everything discussed at Fresh Bites!