Raw Beet Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

I spent this past weekend down in Baltimore, where the heat index was in the triple digits. Baltimoreans are a hardy lot. And so I joined them in a series of outdoor concerts, cookouts and stoopside dance parties. At some point I gave up on apologizing as another kiss landed on my glistening cheek. Best to focus my energies on hydration.

Adequate sleep was not among the activities I managed to cram into my weekend. I dozed fitfully–my sweaty, sun-baked body lolling into the aisle as the Bolt But hurtled up I-95–and arrived home just in time to down some takeout before collapsing into bed.

The temperature dropped a bit today, but my body has yet to catch up. What is ordinarily a 10-minute walk to pick up my CSA share took me nearly double. By the time I got home, bags laden with green vegetables, I had lost all ambition to cook. Luckily, Farmer Fred excels when it comes to lettuce and I still had the beets from last week’s share. The salad below came together in less time that it took to eat it.

Raw Beet Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup whole milk yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 preserved lemon
  • 3 medium beets
  • 2 tablespoons walnut pieces
  • 1 small head green leaf lettuce
  • 3 scallions
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  1. Whisk the first four ingredient together in a medium bowl and then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Finely chop the preserved lemon and add to the dressing.
  2. Using a mandoline, slice beets to 3/16″ thick. (If you don’t have a mandoline and your beets are small enough, a vegetable peeler will also do the trick.) Toss the beets with your dressing and let sit.
  3. Toast the walnut pieces, stirring frequently, in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  4. Rinse and dry the lettuce. Thinly slice the scallions. Mince the cilantro. Toss everything together in a salad bowl and grab yourself a fork.

Raw Beet Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Pickled ‘n Deviled

Saturday night Sarah hosted the third annual Holiday Oyster Extravaganza, in which we prepare and consume 100 oysters (along with a liberal dose of booze). Shucking 100 oysters is no easy feat, but Mark once again rose to the occasion. As usual, I was in charge of the oyster accoutrement. This year’s raw oysters got a toasted fennel mignonette and a beet and horseradish relish.

Raw Oysters with Fixin's

The roasted version featured a fennel-saffron cream.Roasted Oysters with Fennel-Saffron Cream

The Blue Points were delicious, but I’m here to talk eggs. Much as I love eggs in all their forms, I’ve had trouble keeping up with the share I get from my CSA, so I had resolved to prepare deviled eggs for Saturday’s party.

On Thursday night I wrapped up my third semester in NYU’s Food Studies program and went out with friends to toast a month of pleasure reading. I got home late and tipsy, but determined to get a head start on prepping for the party. Rooting through the fridge for a snack while my eggs cooked, I stumbled on some beets that were looking a little worse for the wear. This got me thinking.

A few years back a friend and I spent a weekend checking out Pennsylvania’s Amish Country. We had occasion to dine at a smorgasbord, where I stumbled on the delight that is a beet-pickled boiled egg. As previously confessed, I am a sucker for a hard-boiled egg. Throw in tangy flavor and an outlandish pink hue and I am putty in your hands.

Beet-Pickled Deviled Eggs 

  • 2 large beets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar (Bragg if you can get it)
  • 3-4 tablespoons assorted pickling spices (I used black and red peppercorns, coriander, fennel, allspice, torn bay leaves, and probably something else I’m not thinking of at the moment.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon dried mustard powder
  • salt, pepper and whatever your taste buds tell you to add
  • 2 scallions, greens thinly sliced and white portion reserved for another use
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400. Rinse the beets, toss them with the olive oil in a small pan and stick in the oven. Cook until tender (about 45 minutes).
  2. Boil the eggs using your own technique or according to my interpretation of Betty Crocker’s failsafe recipe.
  3. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and slice them. Add these to a large jar or a bowl along with the vinegar, salt, sugar and spices.
  4. Peel the eggs and add them to your brine, taking care not to splash the fuchsia liquid all over your white tank top.Eggs Pickling
  5. Place a lid or some plastic wrap over the top and pop it in the refrigerator. Let these sit for 12 to 24 hours, stirring at least once to make sure they take the color evenly. I left mine in the brine until I got home from my office holiday party the following night and this is what they looked like.Pickled Eggs
  6. Fish the eggs out, pop them in the fridge to dry, and snack on the pickled beets. Still not a good time for a white tank top.
  7. Carefully slice your eggs in half lengthwise and pop the yolks into a bowl. If you’ve left them in for the full 24 hours, the yolks will be quite a sight, as will the paper towel where you set the halved eggs.Sunset Egg YolksBeet Stains and a Lemon
  8. Using a fork, mash the yolks roughly with the mayonnaise, mustard, mustard powder, salt, plenty of freshly-ground pepper and anything else that strikes your fancy. Press the mixture through a sieve for a refined, creamy filling. Or don’t. Taste the mixture and tweak as you see fit. I added a pinch of sugar and probably some other stuff I can’t recall.
  9. Let the filling chill until just before you are ready to serve. Spoon it into a freezer-worthy plastic bag, snip the corner and pipe the filling directly into the egg (not so) whites. Or just glob it in with a spoon.
  10. Garnish with the scallion greens because none of the crappy stores you went to had chives and a little green makes the eggs look more like food and less like some sort of alien life form.

Beet-Pickled Deviled EggsThe eggs were a smashing success, as was the party. The guests laughed. The Christmas tree twinkled. The yule log crackled on the flat-screen television. At some point in the night, Prosecco and oysters gave way to rum and hunks of leftover cheese. Eventually, I was forced to brave the elements. A daylong snowfall had turned into freezing rain. The streets were slushy and abandoned.

Mouse HatMy newly acquired hat and I got home a little before 3:00am. I had a devilishly good time at this year’s Oyster Holiday Party, but will confess to feeling a bit pickled come Sunday morning.

Beet, Apple and Arugula Salad

I just got back from an indulgent long weekend in Baltimore. Vacation eating included fried catfish and collards, crab cakes, oysters, half a bacon cheeseburger, dim sum, and shrimp and grits–washed down with a Bloody Mary, several bottles of Natty Boh and a whole lot of red wine. I had just one day to recover before today’s lunchtime tasting at The Four Seasons Restaurant for an upcoming gala. Somehow I managed to power through the afternoon despite having sampled five wines, six appetizers, six entrees and six desserts.

I worked late and still wasn’t all that hungry by the time I got home, which is good because there wasn’t much left in the cupboard. I had some arugula that had miraculously survived the two weeks since the roast chicken dinner I made for my sister. And I had plenty of apples and root vegetables from my winter CSA share.

Beet Apple Arugula Salad

Beet, Apple and Arugula Salad

  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon creamy Dijon mustard
  • 1 pinch salt
  • black pepper
  • 5 small beets (The Chioggias pictured above were lovely, but regular beets will taste just as good.)
  • 2 small, firm apples
  • 4 cups arugula

Combine first seven ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously. Arrange arugula in a wooden bowl. Peel and rinse beets. Using your peeler (or a mandoline if you’re fancy like that), shave the beets into the salad bowl. Quarter your apples, slice out the core, and use the peeler to shave thin slices into the bowl. Give the dressing one last shake, drizzle it over you salad, and toss to combine.

I suspect that this salad would be great with orange or grapefruit pieces that had been supremed, but the desiccated clementines on my dining table didn’t make the cut. Goat cheese or burrata would give it some heft. Whatever variation you choose, this salad would be a lovely way to start a romantic dinner for two. It also makes a fine meal for someone recovering from serious gluttony.

Provencal Roast Chicken

I adopted Jezebel around 1999. She was so small that I quite reasonably assumed she was a kitten. But the vet put her at about three years old. Jezebel remains a delightful companion, despite her recent propensity for late night yowling. (The internet suggests that dementia is likely.) As you can see, whatever’s happening in her brain, she’s managed to hold onto her good looks.

As tiny as she was when she found me, Jezebel is now down under five pounds, so I tend to feed her whatever she wants. She and I only made our way through a small bit of this truly scrumptious Provencal-style roast chicken tonight, but I am confident that it will be just as good throughout the week.

While I once confined myself to white meat off the bone (a holdover from my vegetarian upbringing and subsequent squeamishness), I love roasting a whole chicken. The smell permeates the house. It’s economical. It leaves you with bones to make stock. And a whole chicken can be communal–even when it’s just you and your cat.

Roast Chicken with Porcini, Leeks and Root Vegetables

  • One whole chicken (5-7 pounds), rinsed and patted dry
  • 1.5 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 lemon
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence (lavender, savory, fennel, thyme and rosemary or some combination thereof)
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green portions sliced and rinsed thoroughly
  • 4 cups of chopped root vegetables (turnips, carrots, parsnips, beets, potatoes, etc.)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a cup of water to a boil and pour over the dried porcini.
  2. Slice the ends off of the lemon, score the sides and stuff it inside the bird. Combine a tablespoon of kosher salt, a good amount of freshly-ground pepper and a tablespoon of the Herbes de Provence in a small dish. Rub this all over the bird, being sure to get under the skin to massage it into the breast meat. If you’ve got some kitchen twine and you can find a way to access it while your hands are covered in raw chicken, truss the legs. If not, whatever.
  3. Set the bird in a roasting pan breast-side down, drizzle some olive oil over the top and pop it in the oven. After 30 minutes or so, flip the bird over and baste with the pan juices. If the bird hasn’t released much fat, you can use a little more olive oil. You might also sprinkle the top with additional salt, pepper and herbs if you like.
  4. After another 30 minutes, slide the bird to the side and add your leeks and root vegetables. (I went with turnips, carrots, beets and potatoes because that’s what I had on hand.) Stir these with the pan juices and then add 1/2 tablespoon of the Herbes de Provence, salt, pepper and the porcini along with their liquid. Mound the vegetables in the center, flip your chicken so that it is once again breast-side down and place it on top of the vegetables.
  5. Continue cooking, basting the bird with the juices approximately every fifteen minutes and stirring the vegetables if needed. It should take roughly 20 minutes total cooking time per pound, but start checking your chicken whenever you get anxious or when the aroma starts to make you dizzy. I recommend ignoring whatever guidelines your thermometer may suggest and, instead, aim for getting the deepest part of the thigh up around 165 degrees. Be sure to let it rest for about five minutes out of the oven. If you’re worried about the bird getting cold, tent it very loosely–lest you steam that beautiful, crisp skin–with foil.

Were I serving this to a crowd, I would have placed the chicken on a platter, mounded the vegetables around it, and carved at the table. Instead, I hacked off of a leg and got to work.

Living Room Picnic

Last night I was supposed to meet friends in Prospect Park for a screening of The Muppet Movie. Mother Nature had other plans. I’d been prepping for a picnic, but a blanket over the coffee table would have to suffice. On the menu: a Pressed Picnic Sandwich, Quick-Pickled Kale and Beets, Potato Chips (lifted from Thursday’s Prospect Park Alliance fundraiser) and a boatload of rosé.

Pressed Picnic Sandwich

This isn’t so much a recipe as a concept. The idea here is to layer a bunch of tasty ingredients in a logical order and then to press the sandwich with a weight.

I started with a round, day-old olive loaf from BKLYN Larder, but imagine you could use any rustic loaf with a nice crust. I sliced the loaf in half horizontally and scooped out most of the soft stuff with my hand, leaving about 1/2 inch all the way around. I then slathered the inside, top and bottom with a homemade tapenade (oil-cured black olives, anchovies, basil, garlic scapes, almonds, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, capers, and whatever else was lurking in my fridge.). You could use prepared tapenade or pesto or even some herbed mayonnaise. The key is that you need a layer with some fat in it to prevent the bread from getting soggy.

I then added a layer of browned onions followed by strips of grilled summer squash. (I like to do this in a hot cast iron pan and then sprinkle the vegetables with smoked sea salt to give them the depth that comes from outdoor grilling). Next up was an Italian cow’s milk cheese. I’m blanking on the name, but it was creamy and a little tart, which provided a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the veggies. Then layers of hot sopresatta, prosciutto and peppadew peppers.

I wrapped the sandwich in a couple of layers of aluminum foil and placed a cast iron grill pan over the top. Periodically, I would flip the sandwich and apply pressure to the pan until the sandwich looked like a UFO. I would guess that you want this to sit for at least an hour. (Had we been successful in dining outdoors, I would have stuck the sandwich in the bottom of the picnic basket, allowing the weight of the other items to do the pressing.)

As you can see, it sliced beautifully.

Quick-Pickled Kale and Beets

  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 Tbsp combined of whole pickling spices (such as coriander, fennel, allspice, cloves, cumin, fennel, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, mustard seed, etc.)
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 thinly sliced red onion
  • 4 large beets
  • Small bunch kale including stems, roughly chopped

Combine all but the last two ingredients along with ½ cup of water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20-30 minutes to give the spices a change to release their flavor into the brine. In a separate pot, add the beets, cover with water, bring to a boil and cook until they give when pierced with a fork (approximately 30 minutes). Pull the beets out and add the kale, starting with the stem pieces. Let this boil for a few minutes and then drain. When beets have cooled, peel and slice them. Combine beets, kale and brine in a jar or plastic container and let sit for at least one hour, making sure to stir if the brine doesn’t fully cover the vegetables.

The living room picnic continued with a trip to the wine shop for reinforcements, a Barbie styling session and fresh nectarines and rum over salted caramel ice cream. Regrettably, it did not conclude with any efforts to clean up.

Pretty in Pink Borscht

Last week’s CSA share included a handful of beets. I knew they would keep until this week, when I had a hunch I’d be getting some more. Sure enough, Tuesday brought another bunch–along with some of the crispest cucumbers I’ve ever tasted.

That very day, NPR reported that this is the hottest summer on record in the U.S. Roasting the beets was out of the question.

But cold borscht was not. I boiled my beets and eggs while preparing my morning coffee and a garlic, beet greens and egg scramble that I ate with a sliced fresh tomato–the first of the season! With the hot work completed early in the day, dinner preparation would really just be a matter of assembly.

Cold Borscht (serves about four)

  • 2 bunches beets (greens reserved for a nice sauté)
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 whole allspice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp pink peppercorns
  • 1 tsp green peppercorns
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like a little heat)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt (and more to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp prepared horseradish (or to taste)

Clean the beets by soaking them in water and scraping off any lingering dirt. (I recommend using the edge of a teaspoon; three days and a few showers later, I am still trying to dig dirt our from underneath my thumbnail .) Trim the tops, bottoms and any rogue hairy stuff. Add these along with everything above except the horseradish to a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until your beets give easily when pierced with a fork (somewhere between one and two hours). Remove beets and strain liquid into a bowl using a chinoise or other fine mesh sieve. Once beets have cooled, slip peels off with your hands. Add all but one of the beets, reserved liquid and horseradish to the work bowl of your food processor and purée until smooth. You may need to add more water to get the desired consistency. Pour mixture back into the bowl and refrigerate for at least a few hours. (A full day would be fine.)

  • ¼ cup crème fraiche, sour cream or plain yogurt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 cooked beet, diced
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 Tbsp minced dill plus more for garnish
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

Whisk minced dill and crème fraiche, sour cream or plain yogurt into soup and season to taste with fresh-ground black pepper, salt and/or vinegar. Ladle soup into bowls, garnishing with halved eggs, beet and cucumber cubes and sprigs of dill.

It turned out that these were Chioggia beets, which were breathtakingly beautiful, though the dramatic stripes faded a bit during cooking and, ultimately, made for a borscht the color of Molly Ringwald’s prom dress at the end of Pretty in Pink. (Am I alone in having found that dress rather disappointing after all of the buildup?)

Still, it was damn tasty. I served it with a kale, sugar snap pea and pickled red onion salad and toasted pumpernickel bread topped with a crème fraiche spread and some killer smoked salmon that I’d picked up from Josephson’s Smokehouse in Astoria, Oregon. (Astoria is the town where Goonies was filmed, which makes for two ’80s movie references in a single blog post.)

An earthy rosé rounded out our feast, though I suppose that vodka would have been more traditional.