Monday, October 24, 2011

Beet Off: The Results

Last weekend was the Beet Off and it was probably the most creative off we have had to date. Most of us never really cooked with beets or even really liked them. After the event, many minds were changed. " I feel that beets and I really made our peace this weekend .... no longer will you scare me to cook you, beets, no longer will I be scared," said our savory winner Stephanie.  I agree.

There were so many delicious dishes that it was really hard to choose my favorite. The best sweet was a tie at the end of the first round of voting, and we had to do another count between the two to determine the winner. Christine's Beet Mousse took the trophy home in the end and Stephanie's Beet Hummus was the winner of the savory trophy.  This is the second time in a row she's taking home a trophy.   She was our Sweet winner at the Lemon Off.  Needless to say, she better watch it during the next off, we are coming after her.  

photo by Kurt Martig

I was also lucky enough to take a trophy home too: Best Overall.  My Beet Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce pulled through even after I thought I had a total disaster on my hands and there was not enough flour to save it.  I found the recipe on Cake Walk, when I was searching for a recipe that I thought I has seen before.  The recipe I was thinking of was actually a risotto that I will have to eventually try.  Anyway, one of my go to Italian places in Brooklyn makes awesome beet gnocchi and was my inspiration.  It is really simple, although very sticky to make and I will explain more in the steps below.  All in all, it everyone did such an awesome job, I can't wait to see what we come up with next and what the challenge is.  In the mean time, give our winning dishes a go and let us know what you think.  For more pictures, hop over to Melissa's blog: On Board the Gravytrain

Best Over All: Beet Gnocchi With Gorgonzola Sauce

makes 4 main courses or 8 side portions
  • 1 lb. beets
  • 2 lbs. russet potato
  • 2 cups, All Purpose Flour (plus  a lot more for rolling)
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
Gorgonzola Sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white w ine
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Rub beets & potatoes, unpeeled, with olive oil.  The beets will take longer to roast so give them a 20 minute head start.  They should be roasted through and tender to a fork in about 40 minutes. 
  2. Let the potatoes and beets cool slightly so you can handle them and gently rub off their peels with a paper towel.  Then using a fine grater to grate both onto a clean sheet pan and let them cool slightly.
  3. Sprinkle the mass of potato and beet liberally with about a cup of the flour and a pinch of salt, then make a well in the center.  Crack in the egg, and beat well, adding more of the flour to the egg and then mixing it in well with the egg. 
  4. When you have a dough forming, knead it by hand gently into a ball, continuing to add flour as needed, until you have a relatively smooth ball that isn't too sticky.  (This took a lot of flour. In fact I gave up adding flour and made a ball rolled in flour all after adding probably 2 or 3 more cups of flour and it still being sticky as it was to start.) 
  5. Start a large pot of water boiling with a bit of salt now to save time if you are cooking them now. 
  6. Have two sheet pans lined with wax paper or parchment paper ready.  Take small portions of the ball, (recover in flour), and roll into a log, (covered in flour), a little larger than the diameter of your thumb.
  7. Using a sharp knife, cut them into 1 inch portions. Once you have cut and entire log into dumplings, roll them across the tines of a for (or if you have it, a  gnocchi paddle). Place them on the sheet pan and dust with flour if they are sticky.  Keep them in a single layer.  (If you are making them for later, freeze in a single layer, then transfer them to a jar or zip top bag and store in the freezer.)
  8. When the gnocchi is all cut an the water is at a rolling boil, add gnocchi.  Have a  bowl of cold or ice water standing nearby to stop them from cooking as you remove them.  When gnocchi floats to the top, remove them from the boiling water using a slotted spoon and plunge them into the cold water  Let them sit there for a minute, and then drain. 
  9. While the gnocchi is cooking make the sauce in a medium saucepan. 
  10. Cook white w ine over high heat until reduced by half. Add cream, reduce heat, and cook until reduced by one-third.  Add parmesan, gorgonzola and nutmeg.  Stir until cheeses melt and sauce is creamy.
  11. Once the gnocchi is drained toss with the sauce and enjoy! 
Best Savory: Beet Hummus
  • 4 beets 
  • 4 Tbsp tahini sesame seed paste 
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice 
  • 2 chopped cloves garlic 
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin 
  • 2 Tbsp smoked paprika 
  • Sea salt to taste 
  1. Scrub beets and cut off greens (but leave 1-2 inches of the top so color doesn't bleed out). 
  2. Cover in water in a saucepan and simmer, cooking for about 30 minutes. Let cool, then peel and cut into cubes. 
  3. Blend all ingredients in food processor until smooth and chill in refrigerator. 
  4. Serve on sweet potato chips or crackers/bagel chips.

Best Sweet: Beet Mousse with Cardamom 

serves 6
  • 1 pound of peeled beets, boiled and cooking water reserved
  • 1 tsp of agar agar or gelatin
  • 1 1/2 tsp of ground cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons of juice from a blood orange
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 6 dark chocolate cups
For the garnish:
  • 1/2 cup of whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon of agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon of blood orange juice (optional)
  • Shaved dark chocolate
  1. Transfer cooked beets to a blender. 
  2. Take 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and put in a small saucepan with the agar agar. Bring to a boil and whisk until well combined. This will take about 5 minutes. 
  3. Transfer with the beets and blend together until creamy and smooth. Add the cardamom, blood orange juice and agave nectar. Blend a little more. 
  4. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until mixture has cooled completely (about 1-2 hours).
  5. In a mixer, whip the heavy cream until strong peaks form. With a spatula, incorporate the beet mixture gently into the cream and refrigerate for 8 hours or more.
  6. To make dark chocolate cups, use 1 bag of any brand of semisweet chocolate chips.  Melt chocolate in a saucepan over low heat and transfer to muffin pan lined with cupcake papers.  Cover the bottom and sides of the cupcake liners with chocolate using a pastry brush or spoon; make sure the chocolate layer is thick enough to avoid breakage. Refrigerate until solid (about 1 hour.) 
  7. Fill each cup with the mousse.
  8. Prepare some more whipped cream in a mixer.  When peaks form add agave nectar and blood orange juice (if using). Garnish each mousse cup with whipped cream and some shaved dark chocolate.
    Our winners: Stephanie, Jennifer, Christine

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Korean Meatballs

Serve everything over white rice

I continue my experiments with ground turkey with this post. I am really starting to like it and it is really easy to use in lieu of ground beef or chicken. The only concern I have is making sure it is cooked through without over cooking and drying it out. It doesn't help that my oven thermometer must clearly be incorrect. Things tend to always take much longer to cook then the recipe says. Maybe its time to ask for a new one... such a renters dream.

On to the recipe itself, which was ripped out of an issue of Cooking Light. The recipe is suppose to be made with chicken breast that you grind up in a food processor. Since my attempts to use my blender as a food processor have mostly failed in the past (another kitchen wish list item) and I had some ground turkey in the fridge, I figured a substitution should be no problem. It really was no problem. Instead of processing anything I just finely chopped the garlic and mixed everything with a fork, it worked great. Interestingly, this recipe did not call for any cracker or bread crumbs to help soak up excess moisture, so they were a little sticky and didn't want to form nice, neat balls. Either way they were really tasty.

The recipe suggests serving them with kimchi and quick pickled cucumbers. The only way I have found to enjoy kimchi is in a fried dumpling and I had no cucumber to quickly pickle. I did have some zucchini, red pepper and onion waiting for use, so once the meatballs were transfered to the oven, i sauteed them in the leftover oils with some salt and pepper. It all worked together well, I was a bit concerned it wouldn't.

Korean Meatballs (serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 2 teaspoons chili oil 
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 pound ground turkey 
  • Cooking spray 
  1. Preheat oven to 400°. 
  2. 2. Combine brown sugar, sunflower and chili oil, and garlic in a medium mixing bowl.  Add soy sauce, salt, and turkey; mix with fork until will mixed.  
  3. With moist hands, shape mixture into 20 to 25 meatballs.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 10 meatballs to pan; sauté 4 minutes, turning to brown meatballs on all sides.  Arrange browned meatballs on a pan with sides coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining meatballs. 
  5. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes or until done.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shepherd's Pie in a Hurry

I needed something quick and easy to make this weekend. Even though it was a long weekend, I spent it cleaning and organizing.  I nerded out and drew my room in CAD to figure out how I could rearrange the furniture.  It's definitely faster than when I was little drawing it with a crayon and completely out of scale.  So anyway, I wanted something quick and tasty. 

 I was kind of unsure about this recipe.  I love Real Simple, but I haven't really been much of a fan of their "Fake it" recipes that I have tried before.  This one was really good though and super quick.  Exactly what I was looking for on a lazy night.  Plus the leftovers got me through the weekend.  I highly recommend it.
Look at all those veggies! 
  Shepherd's Pie
  • 4 servings 
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 8 ounces frozen mixed vegetables, thawed (I used Trader Joe's Vegetable Melody with carrots, peas, corn and cauliflower. Then I picked out the cauliflower when it was done.)
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded Cheddar
  • 16-ounce package mashed potatoes, refrigerated or frozen and thawed
  1. Heat oven to 400° F.
  2. Place the beef in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat until no trace of pink remains, about 5 minutes.
  3. Spoon off and discard any fat. Stir in the ketchup and Worcestershire. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Spoon into a baking dish.
  4. Mix the cheese (if desired) with the potatoes in a bowl. Spread over the beef and bake until heated through, 10 minutes. Divide among plates.