Monday, November 30, 2009

Feelin' Beet?

OK, so not my most glamourous photo, and you can't really tell, but there are six pieces on the platter...maybe too much Horseradish Cream? I don't know. Can I blame it on the new camera?

Beets are so delicious, I can't understand why they get such a bad wrap. My husband hates them, although he did eat one of these gems because I asked him to. I told him if he didn't like it, he didn't have to eat the whole thing, but he did, so it can't have been that bad.
I wonder if it's the pickled variety that gets shoved to the back of the cupboard. But then you think about the Canadian obsession with dill pickles, that it just can't be so. I often wonder if it's because people have forgotten how to cook them, and are really not sure what to do with them. Kind of like turnips and rutabaga, and parsnips, come to think of it.
There's just something so glorious about the colour of beets, that jewel-toned red purplish colour, that screams "eat me". It's almost a fashion statement on your plate. Regarding the colour, a few years ago my friend and I were going to start a paint company and name all our colours after food - beetroot was going to be one of them. You can tell we needed something more interesting in our lives, and it obviously never eventualised. I have a few business ideas that never made it off the ground...hmmm...
Back to beets, they are wonderfully healthy for you too - folic acid (for those of us trying to get, or already are, pregnant), calcium, iron, vitamin A & C, vitamin B6, they keep your liver healthy (metabolising fats properly and helping you lose weight (yay!)), lower colesterol, full of antioxidants and are beneficial against fighting cancer.* Wow, we should be eating these daily!
I have seen some beautiful heirloom varieties that are striped yellow and pink, or white and pink, and star shapes inside. The golden ones and albino ones are really pretty too. You can choose whichever beet you like for this recipe, but I love the ordinary vibrant hued beet here.
Beet & Sweet Potato Rosti (not a real rosti, no, but for the love of a name)
Makes 6 cakes
1 medium sized sweet potato (350g), peeled
4 medium sized beets (600g), peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup canola oil (for cooking rosti)
Shred the sweet potato and place in a large bowl. Shred the beets and before placing in the bowl with the sweet potato, squeeze out the excess juices (using your hands - wash them straight after and they won't stay dyed pink all day). Discard the juice or save for another purpose. I used my food processor for the shredding and I did the sweet potato first, so that the red juices didn't dye everything.
Combine all the other ingredients with the shredded vegetables (except the oil, of course), and mix well. Your hands will go pink again, but wash them straight away and you will be fine.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over med-low heat. Divide the shredded vegetable mixture into six equal portions and kind of squash into a patty-shape. Place in oil and gently press to flatten. You want the oil to be hot enough so that it sizzles, but not too hot that it burns the sugars in the vegetables. And, let me tell you, these are easy to burn because the colour is so dark to begin with. You want to be able to cook the patties about 6-7 minutes on each side. They are fairly delicate, so be careful when you flip them over.
Transfer cooked patties to a baking sheet when done and keep warm in a 350F oven while you cook the rest. Serve warm with horseradish cream - recipe follows.
Horseradish Cream
Makes about 1 cup
3/4 cup sour cream, or creme fraiche
1/4 cup horseradish (or more if you like it spicy)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in a small bowl, mix well. Adjust seasoning to your liking. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
I think these would be amazing at a holiday party, because of their festive colour, made small into little appetisers and topped with some smoked salmon and fresh dill.
*All health information was collected from - I'm not a nutritionist, but I like to know when something is good for me.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shedding Tears

Onions are in season and it's cooling down outside. I won't say it's cold yet, because I can still dash out to the car without a coat or jacket on. When I have to find a coat each time I go out, then, it's cold.

Today was a typical November day - cool and overcast, that gave me a craving for soup. But not just any soup, I wanted onion soup. I would call it French Onion Soup, but I don't know if anything I used today, or the techniques used today resemble anything French. So, it's just Ontario Onion Soup. White onions, leeks, sweet onions and red onions. I like that.

To help stop the tears from streaming while you cut the onions, make sure you have a really sharp knife and I find that if you put your onions in the refrigerator overnight there is hardly any irritation at all. This works the best for me. Even at work, I store 50lb bags of onions in the cooler and I can peel and slice that whole bag without one tear! I have also heard that wearing your sunglasses (or other eye glasses) helps too, I have never done it because I think the minute I did it someone would catch me and I'd look like a complete fool.

Our kitchen, and our whole house, smell amazingly good, the caramelized onions, red wine and beef stock were simmering away for a couple of hours.

The soup is also deceivingly good. I used red wine, instead of white as it calls for in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, because I didn't have any white wine on hand. I actually opened a lovely West Australian Shiraz...mmmmm.....I'm finishing off the bottle right now. When I added the wine is turned a gross purplish-brown colour, so I left it on the stove a while longer hopig for a miracle, and a miracle is what I got. The onions are silky, sweet and soft, the broth is rich both from butter and beef stock and the purple haze has gone. Enjoy!

Ontario Onion Soup
Makes 12-14 cups, depending on how long you leave it on the stove.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 lbs onions, thinly sliced (I used white Spanish onions, leeks, red onions and sweet onions, but you can use whatever you have)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
2 litres beef stock
1 & 1/2 cups red wine
salt and pepper, to taste

10-12 baguette slices, about 3/4" thick

3 cups gruyere cheese (about 375g), shredded - to make it more economical, because Gruyere is insanely expensive, but well worth the price, you could do a blend of 50% gruyere, 50% swiss

In a large pan heat the butter and the oil. Add the onions, stir well and then cover and leave to cook over med-low heat for about 30 minutes. They should be nice and soft, with barely any colour to them. Remove the lid, increase the heat to med-high and add the sugar and the salt, and cook, stirring until onions have turned a glorious rich brown colour. This will take another 30 minutes or so, depending on how big your pot is - the wider the base, the quicker the onions will caramelize. Be careful here, because they can burn quickly, and you don't want to have a "smoked" onion soup to deal with.

Add the flour and stir into the onions. Cook this out for about 5 minutes. Add the beef stock and the wine (beware of the wierd purplish hue) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until soup has thickened slightly, returned to a rich brown colour and tastes sublime.

Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Toast the baguette slices until quite crisp. Portion the soup into ramekins, top with a slice of toasted baguette and sprinkle with cheese. Place under broiler until cheese has melted and is all gooey and bubbly with just a hint of colour. Serve immediately, reminding your loved ones that the bowls are really really hot!

And, apologies for not having a picture - I received a new camera - a Nikon 3000D - and I am still figuring out all the buttons, and how to get a quality picture! Next time, I promise!