This is a long overdue post. It’s embarrassing how long it’s been since my last entry, but sometimes “ya just get into a cooking rut.” Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself. The good news is I’ve got an amazing recipe.
Ever since Esalen and Big Sur, I’ve noticed that fresh food - really fresh food – makes a difference on how tasty your meals can be. When I buy lettuces, fruits and vegetables from Whole Foods they are good. They are by far better than Trader Joe’s or Safeway. But I knew there was still something that couldn’t quite put my finger on.
I had been thinking a lot about the salads and the tomatoes from Esalen, and how I could not replicate the taste from any of my produce here. Then it hit me. What I found the true difference between Esalen and my food to be was how close it came from the source. (duh)
The kitchen at Esalen would literally harvest the lettuces and tomatoes that morning for dinner later that night. The concept is so simple and it’s right under our noses, yet many of us overlook our farmer’s markets for the convenience of a one-stop shop at the grocery. Going the extra mile to make sure you have cash and getting your butt to farmer’s market are more than worth it.
Divisadero Farmer’s Market
There is a local farmer’s market less than a mile from our house that takes place on Sundays. This is a pretty ideal farmer’s market because there are not too many purveyors and it has enough variety. The Ferry Building on the Embarcadero has a very famous farmer’s market. Unfortunately, this is located in tourist territory, which raises the prices overall. If you can, find a local neighborhood farmer’s market. A small, intimate setting can have many perks. For example, knowing the seller can get you the best selection for the best price.
I’ve gotten to know some of the vendors. They not only help you with the selection of food, but can also give you a discount on price. For example, one farmer was having a sale for beet tops. I’ve never shopped for beets before and the ones in the box were looking a little….hole-y. He explained to me since they are organic, they can get eaten up buy bugs but not enough to penetrate the vegetable all the way through. You just have to sift through the less hole-y ones. He also explained that since I’m making roasted beets, it would be best to pick out the smaller ones.
So, I came home with a variety of beets:
- Chioggia - A sweet-tasting Italian heirloom with distinct red- and white-striped flesh.
- Detroit Dark Red – A popular deep red, round variety that grows 21/2- to 3-inches in diameter. It can be grown for both greens and roots and grows well in a wide range of soil and temperature conditions.
- Golden – These unusual carrot-colored roots take some getting used to, but they taste exactly like the red beets, and they don’t “bleed.” The greens are also delicious. If your kids don’t like beets, try a golden type and see if they change their minds.
Before you go on ahead and make this dish, there are few things you need to know:
- Beets have an “earthy” taste (read: dirt-like taste). The fresher the beet, the less it will taste like this.
- When I ate this dish, I had a piece of goat cheese, walnut and beet with each bite. A balance of all three flavors is delicious. Beets with just dressing, not so much.
- Don’t get a manicure the day you decide to make beets. Skinning beets with your fingers turns them red.
- Making this salad is time-intensive.
I had an idea for this recipe because of a dish I had at Esalen. Here’s my version or adaptation of what they served:
Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Toasted Walnuts Recipe
Serving size 4; Dressing serves 8
6-8 small beets, variety of you choice
1/3 log of 4oz goat cheese
1 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup picked parsley leaves
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
1 tbsp shallot, minced
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
3/4 tsp mustard
1/4 tsp honey
- Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Scrub the beets, cut off tops/bottom and place on a large sheet of foil, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fold the sides up to make a sealed pouch.
- Bake the beets for approximately 40 minutes, until they are tender when pierced with a knife. Let steam for 10 minutes. When beets are steaming, toast walnuts in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar, mustard, honey and shallots in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and season with salt and pepper. Set vinaigrette aside.
- When the beets are fully cooked, remove from the oven. After steaming…
- Slide the skins off with your hands. Slice the beets and toss with a little bit of the vinaigrette. Eyeball it.
- In a salad bowl, toss together the walnuts, parsley and again, eyeball how much vinaigrette you need to dress the rest of the salad. Save the remaining vinaigrette for later.
- Sprinkle goat cheese on top of the beets just before serving.