Last year we got our vegetables from a local organic Community Supported Agriculture farm program at Timberwood Farms. We loved it: only the time committment of my new job (no time to cook till now!) prevented us from renewing. I’ve belonged to a CSA before and always enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what to do with my weekly assortment ofvegetables. Or even the challenge of an over abundance of something like leeks, or cabbage, as I’ve dealt with in years past. We are still adjusting to the North Carolina growing season; it starts early and goes long, some cooler weather veggies (i.e. later
summer/fall in the Midwest) appear in the spring and then again in the late fall. And the greens. Oh so many greens. Thankfully we love collards, spinach, kale, and salad. Throw some smoked pork product in any of those things and it’s gone before you can blink.
But then there’s the chard and the beets.
Now, I love chard. We’ve had it sautéed with garlic and olive oil, in soups, tossed in stir fries, and even layered in lasagna (My Italian Great-grandfather would be so proud).
There is some in the freezer so we can have it during the hot dry months. Beets on the other hand are more of a love/hate thing. Cold beets sitting there in a dish? Boiled beets? No way. Roasted with winter vegetables? Warm in a goat cheese and bitter green salad sitting at the bar of Crooks Corner? In my mom’s Russian salad paired up with potatoes and carrots and mayo? Oh yea.
But here’s another idea from the folks at the Central/Eastern European eatery J. Betski’s in Raleigh: beet vodka.
The drinks menu at this restaurant impressed me from the first visit. It changes seasonally; I believe there was a drink with caraway infused vodka a while back in the winter, now there is the “Polhito” polish vodka and mint for in the summer. Last year’s menu had an Elderberry Rickey (pronounced delightful by my friend Sarah). I was intrigued by the “Beet Jammer”: beet vodka, apple juice, Blenheim’s Spicy Gingerale. (Mind you not intrigued enough to pass up on the Schneider Weisse beer; but enough to ask the bartender and waitress how they were infusing their beet vodka.) My mind already envisioning another use for those two bunches of beets in my veggie bin.
So here is the beet vodka recipe I put together with their advice:
1 qt or so of fresh beets, stems removed
3 dried black peppercorns, slightly crushed
4 cups of vodka
Wash beets and trim of greens (fresh greens can be used as a vegetable). Place beets in a roasting pan with a ½ cup of water and cover tightly with foil. Roast the beets in a 375 degree oven until tender (40 min to an hour). Cool until they can be handled. Peel off skins (when still slightly warm this can often be done by slipping them off with your fingers). Note that beets will stain your fingers pink. Cut beets into halves and place in glass jar with an airtight lid. Add peppercorns and vodka. Set in a cool dry (preferably dark) place for at least 4 days. The longer it sits the stronger the flavor will be.
I’ll let you know how things turn out and make some suggestions about what to pair it with…
[Note: we made “Beet Jammer” cocktails last summer with our beet vodka, apple juice and Hanes Diet Ginger Ale. Awesome. But you need to like beets. Seriously, try it. The current J. Betski’s drink menu is here. ]
Swiss Chard Tart
I started with a recipe from “Outstanding in the Field.” These folks cross the country putting on dinners literally where the food is grown. They were back in North Carolina last September, but given that I was unemployed, the price for dinner was a bit out of my range. It’s too bad because their mission speaks to everything I love doing with food: cooking interesting things, bringing folks together to eat, emphasizing the growing/producing of foods in communities, trying new foods and the challenge of using what is fresh and on hand as the basis of a meal. In that light, I’ve adapted their recipe for what I had on hand. Sharp white cheddar cheese makes me think of buying white Vermont cheddar on New England visits to take home to Wisconsin, and of pimento cheese and cheese biscuits in the south. I think this makes it a more “homey” dish.
1.5 cup of low carb flour blend (*KevinPA’s version – see below) or 1.5 cups of your favorite flour or flour blend
¼ cup of poppyseeds
5 T butter
¼ cup olive oil
2 T of ice water
Pinch of salt
Egg yolk (for glazing the crust)
1 big bunch of Swiss chard, perhaps 1 pound (mine was mixed white and red). Because they cook at different rates: Leaves should be chopped, but not too fine and stems cut smaller, about ¼ inch “C” shaped slices.
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 clove of garlic chopped fine
2T olive oil
Sprig of rosemary chopped (chopped around 1t) or some other herb that compliments the chard and cheddar such as thyme, or tarragon, or dill.
3 eggs + the leftover egg white
1 cup of sharp white cheddar
1/3-1/2 cup of heavy cream (I think it needed a bit more)
I make my tart dough in the food processor. If you don’t have one, go out and get one right now – how do you cook without it? Ok, you can cut the butter into the four and poppy seed mix with a pastry cutter or by hand. Check out a book or website on making tart crusts and pastry for more expert advice.
Put flour, poppy seeds, and salt in bowl of food processor. Cut butter into tablespoon sized chunks and put into bowl, cover and pulse until butter is in “pea sized” chunks. Add olive oil and ice water. Pulse again. Dough should be somewhat loose and crumbly but fully mixed. Grease a 10 inch tart pan. Distribute the dough crumbs over the pan: the goal is to press the crumbs into a crust evenly distributed up the sides and across the bottom of the pan. Do your best. Chill in fridge until firm, about 20-30 minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake crust for 15 minutes in 350 degree oven. Brush with egg yolk and return to the oven to bake for 5-10 more minutes. The yolk helps keep the crust from getting soggy when filled.
Low carb and low gluten flours often take less time to bake than regular flours, and tend to brown easily. You may need to test the crust for doneness instead of relying on time. If you press your finger against it, it should spring back. Neither too soft (finger leaves dent) not too hard (no resistance when pressed). Its going back in the oven with the filling, so you can risk under baking a bit.
Sauté the onion in the olive oil for about 10 minutes on a medium heat setting, add the garlic and cook for 3-5 more minutes. They should be cooked, but not brown. Add the
chard and cook about 5 minutes more. Cool somewhat and drain any liquids from the pan.
In a mixing bowl, wisk the eggs with the cream. Add the grated cheddar, chard mixture, chopped herbs, salt and pepper. Place tart crust pan onto a baking sheet (this will make it easier to move in and out of oven). Pour liquid chard mixture into pre-baked crust. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until firm and lightly browned.
*KevinPA’s Low carb Cookie or Cake Flour Mix – 2 cup equivalent
1 cup Carbquick
1/2 cup Wheat Protien Isolate 5000
2 Tablespoons Wheat Protien Isolate 8000
1/4 cup almond flour (almond meal)
2 Tablespoons Resistant Wheat Starch
2 teaspoons low carb thickener (such as Not Sugar or Thicken Thin)