Monday, October 3, 2011

It's Fall - Break out the Truffle Salt!

The fall veggies are here, the roots are making their appearance, and that precious store of truffle salt has made it's first appearance.

A splurge - YES!*  But a little goes a long way, and if tightly capped in a glass jar, it keeps longer than just about any other luxury item I've ever indulged in.  (Yes, yes, I realize, it is most likely past it's "best by" date that was printed on the package - but it is dried fungus and salt.  Something barely perishable hanging out in a preservative.)

Armed with beets and leeks, chard, parsley and garlic, I was determined to break the beets stalemate.  I admit I wanted no truck with beets until I started cooking them myself.  Large chunks of squishy, weirdly sweet, dirt tasting crimson just scared me.  But like so many other things, I tasted beets treated differently - saw their potential, and have been attempting yummy beets ever since.  I've been repeatedly happy with the results.  Not so much the rest of my family.

Last night's beets entirely disappeared.

Sour, Leeky & a little Sweet 

Roasted Beets Salad over Garlicky Greens

Flat Shallow Pan - with plenty of room for baking beets
Small Baking Dish - the leeks should fit across the bottom tightly
Sharp Knife
Cutting Board
Salad Bowl & Serving Spoons
Fork or Whisk
Saute Pan

Leeks - 1 big or 2 smaller
Butter - 1 Tbs
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Parsley - small handful
Beets - around 8 small or 4 large
Vinegar (white balsamic or cider - suggested) - start with 4 Tbs, divided
Hearty Greens (Chard, Beet Greens, Spinach, Kale or the like) - around 1 lb
Garlic - 3 cloves
Oil - 2 tsp (If you keep bacon drippings in your fridge, they are excellent here)
Truffle Salt*  & Pepper - to taste

Preheat the oven to 425˚F
For the beets; Cut off and discard the pointy root end and almost all of the green tops.  Scrub the beets, and put them on the shallow pan.  If you are using large beets, go ahead and slice them in half, and place them cut side up on the pan.
For the leeks; Cut off and discard the dark green tops and the hairy roots.  Slice the light green and white part in half lengthwise so you can rinse any sand out from between the layers.  Lay the leeks in your small baking dish.  Feel free to cut them to a size that will fit in the pan.
Cut the butter into a few pieces, place them over the leeks.  Sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp of salt.  Add water up to about 2/3 the height of the leeks.

Place both pans in the oven for about 45 minutes.  At about 20 minutes turn the beets and rotate the leeks so they are all submerged in the liquid.  When time is up, lower the temp to 325˚F.

Check the beets - if a knife slides in easily, they are ready.  If they need a little more time they can keep roasting for about 10 more minutes at the lower temperature while the leeks braise.
The leeks will need another 20 minutes at low heat to reduce the liquid and soften them further.  Again make sure the soften leeks are mostly submerged.  After 20 minutes - taste.  You should expect a buttery, melty, delicious nibble.  If there is any crunch or toughness left, give the leeks a little more time.

You can bake these a day or so ahead and refrigerate them for later.  If you are braising a big batch of leeks, you can save leftovers for this recipe.
Or you can get the beets and leeks going, then cook the rest of dinner.

Wash and pat/spin dry your greens, tear leaves off any tough stems, stack the leaves and cut into approx. 1" (2 finger) wide ribbons.
Smash your garlic cloves, peel off the papery skin and cut off the woody bit at the base.  Slice as thin as you can.

Get out the salad bowl.  Coarsely chop the leeks and parsley.  Add the cooking liquid from the leeks and stir/whisk together.  Start by adding 3 Tbs vinegar.

Sort of a thick mess, but you need big flavors to
take on the deep taste of the beets
Slice your beets into half moons about 1/4' thick (slimmer than your pinky).

Cut the chioggia beets first, saved the drippy pink menaces for last.

Toss the beets with the leek/parsley mixture.  Sprinkle on about 1/4 tsp of the Truffle Salt.  Toss again and taste.  It may need more vinegar or Truffle Salt.  Add very carefully to get the taste that makes you say, "Oh!  I didn't know beets could taste like this."  Let that sit while you...

Heat your sauté pan with the 2 tsp of oil over medium low heat.  Add the thinly sliced garlic and a sprinkle of salt, and let your garlic cook down for 8 - 12 minutes, until it is soft and translucent.  Turn up the heat to high.  Add the greens, and sauté until wilted.  Turn the heat back down to medium, and add 1/4 - 1/2 water (or stock if you have some to use up).  Cover up, and cook until tender, 6 - 10 minutes.  Add a Tbs of vinegar.  Taste, and add any salt and pepper if it needs it.

Place a spoonful of the garlicky greens on a plate, and then a large spoonful of the beet salad on top.  This works if both the beets and green are hot - and makes for an even bigger surprise if you have a cold salad on top of the hot greens.

We had this with some smashed red potatoes and some Delicious grilled steaks (nicely marbled rib-eyes, thank you Alec & Double D).  And guess what we are having for leftovers tonight....

Note:  I used the juice that drained off the cooling rib eye as part of the liquids in my greens for extra richness.

*Places to find Truffle salt - your grocery store is a stop-gap, a European Foods store, or even an overpriced specialty kitchen store (Sur La Table, Williams Sonoma or the like).  If you'd like to be overwhelmed by your choices online, check out Amazon.

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