what to eat

A conversation about food

Tofu & Vegetable Stew

There are few times of year I love better than that moment when the temperature (or at least the night temperature) drops just enough to pull out the old Dutch oven and start making soups and stews. They’re probably my favorite thing to cook—low-pressure, hard to screw up, one-pot recipes that yield leftovers for days (and as a bonus, the leftovers usually taste better the longer they sit).

This one is one of my favorites for when I feel like I need to inject more vegetables and, well, more health into my diet. It’s a really fragrant mixture of coconut, lemongrass, ginger, and soy sauce, chock full of vibrant, tasty veggies and silky tofu. You can mix and match ingredients depending on what’s in your fridge (and what you like), so don’t be put off by the long ingredient list. Take it more as a list of suggestions. And while I love the texture of extra-soft tofu in this, chicken, seafood, or even lean, thinly sliced beef would be great too.

This is a winding-down recipe—a leisurely process of chopping lots of vegetables, not a 30-minute meal. I like to chop while catching up on DVRed TV episodes, but if you don’t live in a little apartment where you can see your TV from your kitchen counter, just turn on some good music and take your time. Once you’ve got all your veggies chopped, it comes together in no time.

Tofu & Vegetable Stew

  • A few lugs vegetable or canola oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, slashed randomly with a knife (just to release juices) OR 2-3 kaffir lime leaves for a different but equally intoxicating fragrance (I keep both in my freezer)
  • 1 knob of ginger (however big you like), peeled roughly and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 serrano or thai chili, sliced thinly (de-seed if you don’t want too much heat)
  • 1 head bok choy, most of the white stalk removed, sliced into thick ribbons
  • 2 small (or 1 large) eggplant, sliced into half moons or small discs
  • 1 bunch radishes (any variety), sliced into small discs
  • 2 big handfuls of okra (I like to use the baby kind when I can—no knife work required. Otherwise, slice each okra pod into 3-4 equalish pieces. If you’re slicing your okra, you’ll need to up your liquids to compensate for its thickening properties—start with an extra cup of water and go from there, adding more if it still looks thick to you.)
  • 2-3 carrots, sliced into small discs
  • 1 handful shiitake mushrooms, stalks removed, sliced (I use dried mushrooms if I don’t have fresh ones around. Just soak in boiling water for 15 minutes to reconstitute. Bonus: use the soaking water in place of regular water in your stew—just strain when you pour it in to remove any grit.)
  • 2-3 cubanelle peppers (the smaller, oblong bell peppers) or 1 large bell pepper, sliced
  • 2-3 tomatoes, sliced into small wedges
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 2 cups water (or mushroom soaking liquid—see above)
  • 1/2 cup (or to taste) soy sauce
  • 1 container extra-soft tofu
  • 1 large handful basil, chiffonaded or just roughly torn
  • 3-4 scallions, sliced
  • Fresh lime for garnish
  • Sesame oil for garnish

Start by heating the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Saute your aromatics (garlic, lemongrass, ginger, chili) slowly, until they soften. Add your hardiest vegetables (carrots, eggplant, radishes, okra) and let cook for 5-10 minutes, until starting to soften.

Add the softer veggies (mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers) and saute 3-5 minutes more, until everything is softening together. Add your liquids and up the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.

Add your tofu by simply crumbling it into the pan with your hands. Don’t be precise about it. Stir in the basil and scallions. Let simmer gently for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors come together. Adjust seasoning with a bit more soy sauce if needed.

Serve with rice (I like brown or wild rice), garnished with lime slices and a tiny kiss of sesame oil.

linguini with “pesto”

pasta

So, I actually love pesto, especially using the basil from the garden but for some reason I decided that getting out the food processor warranted to much energy. With the sauce I wanted to be able to taste the individual ingredients. It’s exciting to find a pine nut or two in your forkful if pasta.

“Pesto”

serves 2

1/8-1/4 c extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp pine nuts 1 stem of rosemary

Handful of basil leaves

6 cloves if fresh garlic, sliced thin

Grated Parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper

250g linguine

On low heat, put the pine nuts in a heavy pan to roast on the stove. Probably will take 10-15 minutes to turn golden. Pour the nuts into a bowl for later and return the pan to the heat.

Pour in the oil and add the Rosemary whole. Let it sit in the oil for 15-20 minutes to impart it’s flavor to the oil.

Prepare the pasta and let it cook while you are adding the garlic to the oil. You’ll need to start boiling the water while the Rosemary is in the oil.

Remove the Rosemary and add the garlic. Allow it to simmer for 5-10 minutes until soft but not burnt. Salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Using a spatula, scrape all the oil into the pot with the pasta and stir to coat.

Serve the pasta, topping with the basil and Parmesan.

Austin Food Bloggers Hunger Awareness Blog Project: Spicy Chili Chicken Soup with Coriander

While reading about hunger in the area the Capital Area Food Bank serves, one of the things that struck me the most was that almost half the families it serves have to choose between buying food and paying utilities. I consider myself on a “tight budget” when I can’t eat out and need to stretch my food dollars at the grocery store instead. I can’t imagine not even having food dollars—or needing to choose between electricity and dinner, not just once but all the time. 

I felt inspired to look through my pantry, my freezer, and my fridge, and find out exactly what I have stashed away that I never use—but that a family like the ones described above would take full advantage of to get from one paycheck to the next. What I found was twofold:

1. I have a lot of food in my kitchen. When I think there’s nothing to eat in the house, there actually is; and when I think I need to go to the grocery store, I probably don’t (and I definitely don’t need to buy as much as I do).
2. I waste a lot of food. There was a lot—particularly in the produce drawers—that was about to turn or had already gone bad. Sure, it means I’ve wasted my money, but it also means that I wasted food that would make a huge difference to someone else.

Time to get creative. I have a few clean-out-the-fridge recipes in my arsenal, and soup is probably my favorite. It’s inexpensive (a great way to use up those bits of produce that would have gone bad otherwise), economical (one big pot can feed a family for several days, and leftovers freeze well), easy (you really can’t screw up soup), and it’s a great way to be creative in the kitchen (what flavors have you never tried together? Throw them into your soup!).

This soup was made using two bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (part of the meat item provided by the food bank—one whole chicken for me), which I boiled for half an hour to make a rich chicken broth, then pulled out and shredded up at the end, returning the meat to the pot. I also used one dried chili pepper—a virtually no-cost item that can found at HEB or most other stores and imparts a ton of flavor—as well as the stems of the cilantro bunch I bought for my spring onion pancakes (the stems are often discarded, but they have a ton of flavor), a half-full bag of rice and assorted spices from my pantry, and languishing veggies from my crisper. I spent no extra money on this dish, and it will feed my house until we’re sick of eating it (which is why I froze half right away—I’ll be glad I did on a rainy day in the future when I don’t feel like cooking).

Spicy Chili Chicken Soup with Coriander
Time: 45 minutes
Serves 12-14 people (or more)

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (I also like to throw the neck and any giblets in for extra flavor and remove them before eating)
  • 1 dried guajillo pepper (chipotle would also be wonderful here)
  • 2 cups chopped veggies (whatever you have in your fridge: I used carrots, tomatoes, and a few spring onions; celery, potato, and spinach are just a few other options that would be great)
  • 1 large handful cilantro stems, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup rice, barley, or any other hearty grain you have on hand
  • 1 tbsp. cumin seed (or ground cumin)
  • 1 tbsp. caraway seed (or ground caraway)
  • 2 tbsp. coriander seeds (or ground coriander)
  • Any other spices you’d like to use or substitute for the above
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Generous handful of salt (to taste)
  • Cilantro leaves for garnish

Add water, chicken, and dried chili pepper to a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, chop your veggies and bash up your spices in a mortar and pestle (if you’re using whole seeds, like I do—I think they hold their flavor longer than ground spices, making them a better value).

After 30 minutes, remove the chicken and chili (which should now be soft) and add your veggies, spices, and grain to the pot. Continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes more, or until the grains are cooked. While the soup simmers, pull the chicken meat off the bone and shred (this should be really easy—just give it a few minutes to cool after coming out of the pot), and chop your chili pepper.

Add the chicken and chili back into the pot, squeeze in the lemon juice, and add salt. Taste for seasoning, adjusting as you like. Serve garnished with cilantro leaves.

With the grains, protein, and hearty vegetables in this soup, it’s a filling and healthy meal. Freeze half the soup (try freezing in separate ziplocs if you can, so you can thaw one serving at a time), and sock the rest away in the fridge to work on throughout the week. The flavor will improve the longer it sits.

Austin Food Bloggers Hunger Awareness Blog Project: Spring Onion Pancakes

As a food blogger, I’m someone who cooks at least 3-4 times a week, visits the farmers’ market once a week, regularly shops at 3-4 different grocery stores, and writes about my kitchen experiences for fun. I devote a healthy portion of my budget to shopping for food, and I spend much of my free time reading food blogs, obsessively filing away recipes for future use, and dreaming up menus. In other words, I think about food a lot.

This week, the Austin Food Bloggers Hunger Awareness Blog Project has me thinking about food in a whole new way. A collaborative effort with the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB), the project aims to raise hunger awareness by giving food bloggers a list of the foods typically found in a monthly supply from the food bank, as well as a standard maximum allotment of food stamps, based on household size. The directive? Cook within these constraints for a week—and write about the experience.

Here’s the list for one family for a month (not just a week):

2 cans spaghetti sauce
4 cans veggies (choice of green beans and/or corn)
4 fruit cans (choice of sliced pears and/or mixed fruit)
1 meat selection, typically a whole chickens, fryer, or package of pork chops
3 drink items: choice of large bottle of cranberry apple juice and/or powdered milk (shelf-stable milk) boxes and/or apple juice boxes
1 bag spaghetti or egg noodles
1 bag pinto beans or white navy beans
1 bag white rice
1 package jalapeno slices
1 ready-made dinner (Hamburger Helper)
1 bag/container rolled oats
1 bag Cheerios
5lb. bag potatoes

I can use a selection of these ingredients (keeping in mind I’d have to make it stretch for a month), as well as anything already in my cabinets. I also have up to $80 to spend anywhere food stamps are accepted (the maximum monthly allotment for a two-person household is $367, or about $80 per week). Luckily, the Sustainable Food Center (which runs Austin’s three major farmers’ markets) supports food stamps, and since the food bank supplies mostly nonperishable items, I decided to devote most of my food stamp allotment to fresh foods. I volunteer for the Sustainable Food Center, so shopping at the farmers’ market was a no-brainer. It also allowed me to anchor most of my meals with local, sustainable ingredients—and prove that’s possible even within a budget.

My first meal doesn’t use anything from the CAFB list—just ingredients I always have in my pantry, plus some spring onions and cilantro ($2 for each bundle) from the farmers’ market. The great thing about these spring onion (or scallion/green onion) pancakes is that they’re filling, easy to make, and stretch easily (it’s exactly the same effort and cost to double or triple the recipe, since one recipe uses half a bundle or less of each fresh ingredient).  I usually make them as a party food, but they fit beautifully into this unique challenge as a satisfying dinner for two, and everyone from discerning eaters to picky kids will love them.

Spring Onion Pancakes
Time: 20 minutes
Serves 2 for dinner, 4 as an appetizer or side dish

  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil or vegetable/canola oil, divided
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3-4 thinly sliced spring onions
  • 1 handful finely chopped cilantro
  • Soy sauce for dipping—here’s a good reason to save those little packets of soy sauce from Asian takeout or the mall food court (I like to add a little Sriracha or other hot sauce to mine)

In a food processor (or bowl), blend (or whisk) the egg, water, 1 tsp. oil, and salt until well combined. Add the flour slowly, mixing constantly until the batter is soupy but coats a spoon (or a fingertip). Then stir in the spring onions (or scallions/green onions) and cilantro.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat, and add the remaining 1 tsp. oil, using a paper towel to spread it over the entire pan. Pour half the batter into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes on the other side. Remove to a plate, and repeat until all batter is gone.

To serve, slice the pancakes into wedges and dip in soy sauce or chili sauce (or a combination). Serve alongside a simple salad of your choice; a head of Romaine can be had for around $2 at the grocery store, and half a pound of amazing salad greens from the farmers’ market goes for about $4.

Beef Ragu

Dishes like this are things that I enjoy making on Sundays.  I have the whole day to walk back and forth across the kitchen and occasionally stir and taste.  We recently started buying meat down the street at a local all-natural farm and I have to say, it is amazing.  It is also a good day for making extra large portions so that we have things to eat during the week without having to eat out or spend all night cooking.

At first I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the two cow shanks in the freezer, but the thought of Ragu sounded pretty good.  Unfortunately it is Sunday, which means pretty much everything is closed, but luckily we had stocked up on a few things so our pantry wouldn’t look so barren.

Beef Ragu

  • 1 kg Beef Shanks (includes bone and marrow)
  • 1 cube beef bouillon
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 medium carrots (finely diced)
  • 1 medium bell pepper (chopped)
  • 2 medium onions (chopped)
  • 2 medium celery stalks (finely diced)
  • 3 cans of tomatoes (whole or chopped)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried herbes de provence
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • olive oil

Let the meat come up to room temperature, salt and let stand while chopping up the vegetables.

Heat a large dutch oven with a little oil until the oil begins to smoke.  Drop the shanks in the dutch oven and brown both sides.  Pull them out and set aside.

Add a little more oil and dump in the carrots, onions, celery and bell pepper.  Cook until the carrots and celery are tender, about 15 minutes or so.  Add some salt and pepper and stir.

Pour in the 3 cans of tomatoes, the bouillon, water, and rest of the herbs.

Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.

Uncover and continue cooking on low-medium heat (simmer) for another 1-2 hours depending upon how thick you want the tomato sauce.

Pull out the meat, which at this point should be falling off the bone and tender.  Chop and shred the meat and return it to the sauce.  For the marrow, do what I do and serve it to the wife.  I guess it is about time I try it.

halibut with my favorite tomatillo sauce

I’ve been on a seafood kick lately. There’s no better way to celebrate the return of warm weather in the kitchen than to start getting creative about using as little heat as possible. After last summer, when temps topped 100 degrees in Austin for some crazy number of days in a row (60? 70?), I’m declaring the oven more or less off-limits from now until October. Fish, then, is a great choice—it can often be done on the stovetop, it cooks quickly, and it’s a healthy pick that still feels like a treat.

This recipe is adapted from a long-ago episode of 30 Minute Meals (I know, I know); I’ve been making it for years, and its layered flavor, satisfying spiciness, and ease of preparation outweigh any street cred I lose for posting about a Rachael Ray recipe. I may be hip to the food world, but I’m no snob—good food is good food.

If halibut isn’t available at your market, go for tilapia (always cheap!), cod, or even snapper fillets for this recipe—just pick whatever’s the closest to being local and looks good that day.

Halibut with My Favorite Tomatillo Sauce
Time: 45 minutes
Serves 3-4

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 halibut fillets (about 1.5 pounds)
  • 8-10 tomatillos
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 large or 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (remove the ribs and seeds for less heat)
  • 1 large handful cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 bottle of any pale/light beer
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. smoked or sweet paprika (I like it smoked)
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Garnish (optional): Cilantro, sliced scallion, sliced avocado

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Rub the fish on both sides with salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. When it’s opaque all the way through, it’s done—don’t let it overcook, because there is nothing sadder than biting into a beautiful piece of fish to find that it’s been cooked dry.

Remove the fish from the skillet and set aside. Add the onion, jalapeno, and garlic (along with a tad more olive oil) and saute until softened. Add the tomatillos and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the tomatillos are soft and have released their liquid. Turn down the heat a little if they’re sizzling like crazy.

Add the cilantro, beer, and lime juice, and taste for seasoning, salting as desired. Let simmer for another 5 minutes, then spoon over the fish, garnishing with avocado, scallions, and/or cilantro as you like. Enjoy with the rest of that beer. 

spicy ginger-adobo shrimp

While thinking about what to make for dinner this weekend (a daydream I often get lost in), I hit the cooking-jackpot equivalent of finding a $20 bill in your coat pocket on the first day of winter you get it out to wear it. I remembered a pound of Gulf shrimp from San Miguel Seafood that I’d stowed in the freezer a few months prior. Lucky for me, I had all the makings of one of my favorite Jamie Oliver shrimp recipes, tweaked slightly to my own available ingredients. It’s so easy, quick, and delicious—exactly the kind of dish that’s fun to serve to guests because it looks and tastes so impressive (but really takes very little time or money to make).

Adjust the chili to your liking, and leave out the adobo seasoning if you don’t have it—it’s still an amazing dish. This is warm-weather finger food at its best, so serve with finger bowls (little bowls of water for rinsing fingers—throw in a few floating flower heads or cucumber slices for presentation).

Spicy Ginger-Adobo Shrimp
Time: 15 minutes
Serves 4

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1lb. large, shell-on shrimp, as local as you can get it
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch (whatever size you like) crushed red pepper flakes OR 1 tsp. Sambal Oelek or Chili Garlic sauce
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 packet Goya Adobo paella seasoning
  • 1 thinly sliced scallion or 1 tsp. sliced chives, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic, ginger, and chili. Stir to coat the shrimp and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the shrimp is pink (if you’re using jumbo shrimp, you’ll need to cook a bit longer). Squeeze the lemon juice over the pan, add the adobo seasoning, and stir to combine. Let cook for 1-2 minutes more, then serve immediately over rice, grains, or with lightly toasted bread rubbed with garlic to sop up the sauce. Scatter scallion or chive slices over the top for color and a subtle onion-y bite. Eat outdoors, with the scent of citronella in the air and a glass of floral white wine or wheat beer.

Roast chicken with cherry tomatoes and marjoram

Am I the last person on earth to discover marjoram? I had no idea how wonderfully fragrant and tasty it was—this is the herb world’s best-kept secret as far as I’m concerned. If you’ve never had marjoram, its flavor is like a cross between thyme and basil, with a little juniper thrown in—resiny, slightly sweet, and very, very green. You can make this dish with any other herb you like, but I highly recommend trying it with marjoram. It can be a little hard to find, but the hunt is worth it, promise.

To revive What to Eat after an embarrassingly long absence (life is unpredictable!), I bring you the easiest, tastiest dish ever, adapted from an old Bon Appetit. It involves six ingredients (including olive oil and salt) and about 5 minutes’ prep time—that’s it. Mark my words: this will become part of your regular dinner rotation, especially when sweet, ripe tomatoes are at their peak in summer.

The key to this dish is the quality of the chicken. I use on-the-bone, skin-on legs and thighs from my local farmer’s market, but breasts would work too (you can always remove the skin when you eat, but leave it on during cooking to impart flavor). If you use boneless skinless breasts, tenders, or thighs, just add more olive oil and salt for moisture and flavor, and shorten the cooking time by about 10-15 minutes.

Roast chicken with cherry tomatoes and marjoram
Time: Just under an hour
Serves 4-6

  • 4-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, thighs, and/or legs (you could even use one whole, broken-down chicken)
  • 2-3lbs. cherry tomatoes (enough to cover the chicken in a single layer)
  • 1 bunch marjoram
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Red pepper flakes

Preheat your oven to 450F. Rub your chicken pieces generously with olive oil and sea salt. Place in an oiled baking pan.

In a separate bowl, combine your cherry tomatoes, marjoram leaves (stripped from stalks), a pinch (whatever size you like) of red pepper flakes, a healthy glug of olive oil, and a large pinch of salt. Mix to coat the tomatoes, then pour over the chicken and spread to form a single layer.

Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until the tomatoes are a deep, bubbling garnet color and the juices from the chicken run clear. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve over rice or couscous, or in a bowl with crusty bread on the side.

autumnal asparagus

This is my absolute favorite way to eat asparagus. It takes some time in the oven, but it turns green, slightly bitter asparagus stalks into vehicles for a deep, meaty, lemony side dish that shines alongside simple roast chicken or pork. With some orzo, rice, or Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Mix (hats off to Anne for introducing that pantry staple into my life), it would be a lovely light supper on its own. I originally found this dish in a Jamie Oliver cookbook, but I make it so often that I no longer need the recipe. It’s simple, delicious, and tastes like fall.

Autumnal Asparagus
Time: 30 minutes
Count on 2 bundles per person; the following recipe is per bundle

  • 4-5 asparagus stalks, washed, ends snapped off
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 1 slice bacon or prosciutto
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. Gather the asparagus stalks into a bundle with the rosemary sprig and anchovy fillet in the middle. Don’t skip the anchovy; it will melt in the oven, leaving behind not the slightest trace of fishiness but instead a rich, savory saltiness. Wrap the bundle tightly with the slice of bacon or prosciutto. Place on a roasting pan alongside the lemon half and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy around the edges and the asparagus has taken on a deep green, wilted character. Remove from the oven and squeeze the roasted lemon over the asparagus bundle immediately. Salt lightly (remembering that the bacon and anchovy lend most of the saltiness) and finish with a dusting of freshly ground black pepper. Serve to people who claim they hate asparagus and watch the conversion happen before your very eyes.

orange-cardamom beet salad with bucheron cheese

Here in Austin, October and November mean Indian summer. It’s the kind of weather that sends Northeasterners (or anyone accustomed to four seasons, for that matter) flocking to the outdoors for about two weeks in the fall (before it gets cold) and two weeks in the spring (before it gets hot). I do miss the chill of the late fall/early winter, a sure signal of the holidays’ approach, but I’m trying to embrace this new 75-degrees-and-sunny thing when much of the world is digging winter coats, scarves, and hats out of storage.

This salad seemed an appropriate light lunch for the season: full of fall flavors but served chilled to suit the warm temperatures outside. Beets are one of my hands-down favorite vegetables—don’t you dare claim you don’t like them if you’ve only had the canned variety—and I used every part of them in this recipe. The root was roasted, the greens were wilted and tossed with dressing, and the stalks and a slice of root went into the pasta water to color the rotini (which only sort of worked). Aged goat cheese, citrus, and a hint of spicy cardamom complemented the beets’ earthy flavor and gave the dish some brightness. I included whole-wheat pasta to bump up the satiety factor, but I might leave it out next time, especially if using this as more of a side dish.

Orange-Cardamom Beet Salad with Bucheron Cheese

Time: 45 minutes to roast the beets, 10 minutes to assemble
Serves 4 as a main course, or 8 as a side dish

  • 1 bunch fresh beets (3-4 beet roots) with leafy tops
  • 1 orange or tangerine
  • 1 small bunch thyme
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat pasta (if using), any variety (I used rotini, but bowtie pasta would be even better in the ease-of-picking-up-a-forkful department)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed, or 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • Bucheron cheese (or the goat cheese of your choice—I prefer it aged)

Preheat the oven to 400F and disassemble your beets. Chop the stalks and greens roughly. Take the top off one of the beet roots in a thin slice and reserve. Make a foil packet by doubling over a long strip of aluminum foil and gathering it up to hold the ingredients; add the whole beet roots, half the orange or tangerine, and thyme (reserving a few stalks for the dressing). Drizzle in some extra-virgin olive oil, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and gather up the sides of the foil, making sure the packet is tightly closed. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the thickest part of the beet slides in and out easily. Remove to a plate and squeeze the roasted orange or tangerine juice over the beets. Place in the fridge to cool. You can also do this ahead of time and keep the roasted beets covered in the fridge for a few days.

Bring your pasta water to a boil; salt it heavily and add the chopped beet stalks and the top slice of beet root, along with the pasta. Place a metal colander over the boiling pot of pasta and add the beet greens, allowing them to steam (if you’re not using pasta, just bring a pot of water to a boil and steam the greens in the same way). Drain the pasta when just shy of al dente. Add the greens and run cold water over all, cooling them to room temp.

In a small bowl, squeeze in the juice of the other half of the orange or tangerine; add about twice as much olive oil, the cardamom, and the leaves from the reserved thyme stalks. Taste for seasoning. Toss the pasta and greens with the dressing.

To assemble, peel the skin away from the roasted beets and slice into half-inch rounds. Spread the beet rounds onto a plate. Mound a small serving of dressed pasta and greens into the center and top with crumbled Bucheron cheese. This would be excellent with some toasted pine nuts over the top as well. Drizzle with any remaining dressing and serve.