Pantry Staples: Roasted Beets and Pickled Beet Greens

Beets are a year-round veggie staple here in California. The varieties available to us vary throughout the year, but beets in some form are available at just about every farmers market around, not to mention the big grocery chains. And like potatoes, they’re crazy adaptable, perfect in spring salads, earthy breakfast hashes, and chocolate cake. They’re better roasted than boiled. We scrub them clean, trim their greens and wrap them in foil to roast in a hot oven. Roasted beets are easy to peel once they cool a bit. They’ll keep in the fridge for a week in a sealed container.

Garden variety red beets are sweet and delicious. But if you’re able to get your hands on some beautiful golden or variegated varieties like chioggia beets, buy them. Their colors are beautiful and less likely to “bleed” than dark red varieties like Bulls Blood. We’ve roasted beets that look like jewels after roasting, with beautiful golds and pinks swirling around in them. They’re a fun way to play with color and texture in all kinds of dishes.

When we’re on our game, we buy beets with greens, rather than trimmed bulk beets, because the greens are delicious and they’re nutritious, long stalks and all. They’re tender enough to eat raw, but their mild flavor makes them endlessly useful in any recipe that calls for fresh greens. We use them in soups and risottos for added color and bite. We really love these pickled beet greens. They’re crunchy, vinegary and a little spicy, the perfect partner to anything you’d embellish with hot sauce or salsa or pickles. Of course, you can pickle just about any green, but if you’re looking to put a bunch of beet greens to better use than building compost, pickle them.

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Roasted Beet Roots

A bunch of beets (4-5 beet roots) with the greens intact
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the stems from roots, setting the stems and leaves aside in cold water to clean and hydrate. Scrub the beet roots with a bristly brush to remove all mud and dirt. Dry the beets with paper towels.

On a baking sheet or in a roasting pan, place a large piece of aluminum foil in the bottom, enough to fold over the beets. Place the beets in the center of the foil and drizzle about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over them. Sprinkle liberally with salt, 1-2 tablespoons. Seal the beets inside the foil. Put the tray in the oven and roast for 40-60 minutes or until a knife pierces a beet easily. Remove from the oven and let cool for about an hour. Once cool enough to handle, using paper towels, peel the skins off the beets. The skins should easily slip off. Sometimes a paring knife is useful for peeling the beets if you want to take a more fussy approach.

Once the skins are removed, the beets can be sliced, diced, or served quartered. Keep them refrigerated and use in a salad or add to potato hash.

Pickled Beet Greens

Stems and leaves from a bunch of beets, and/or other greens
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
a good pinch of chili flakes
a good pinch of salt
pepper

In a medium pan, fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Meanwhile, clean and hydrate the beet stems and leaves in a bowl of ice water. Spin dry and separate the stems and leaves. Chop the stems into 1/8” pieces. Set aside. Combine all the leaves as tightly as possible, layering leaves on top of one another. Roll tightly, chop into 1/8”-1/4” strips. Chop the strips a few times to get smaller pieces. Set aside.

Add a pinch of salt to the boiling water then add the beet stems. Simmer for 3 minutes, then add the beet leaves. Simmer for 3 more minutes. Drain the stems and leaves (the water can be saved and used to flavor soups). Move the hot greens to a mason jar.

Over medium heat in a small pan, heat the vinegar, sugar, chili flakes, and salt. Heat until it almost comes to a boil. Pour the hot vinegar over the stems and leaves. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature until the stems cool completely. Once cooled, refrigerate for at least three days before using.

Add pickled beet greens to salads, soups, toasted bread, pizza, rice bowls.

Bread 2.0

We are big proponents of no-knead bread recipes. Home cooks can easily and quickly bake fresh breads in their ovens and call it artisanal. Our first adventure in no-knead bread baking was inspired by America’s Test Kitchen and Mark Bitman. This time around, we’re experimenting with the Artisan Bread in Five technique along with a new, easier way to bake the bread, thanks to a little blurb we found in the back of a recent edition of Cook’s Illustrated. We’ve also used our new sourdough starter, which we’ve named Madonna, though we have no idea why we named it after her. We like her music and everything, but, well… it was the first name we thought of and well, when you think about, it sort of works.

The bread bakes in a Dutch oven placed in a cold oven for almost 90 minutes. One unfortunate side effect comes as the oven gets hotter and the aroma of freshly baked bread fills the kitchen. Then when the lid is removed for the final 30 minutes of baking, the whole house literally smells like a french bakery. Quelle horreur!

A traditional round, or French boule, is a loaf made of nothing but all-purpose flour, yeast, salt, and water. This technique requires no kneading, so prep time is the time it takes to measure and mix with a spoon or a fancy, but cool, bread whisk. And then you wait. The wet dough proofs in a large container in the refrigerator 24-48 hours. It will age well and can proof for as long as two weeks. The perfect type of bread for the procrastinator in all of us.

The idea here is to prepare enough dough that you’re able to pull it out as needed, which then is shaped and baked while the rest of the dough waits patiently in the fridge until you’re ready for your next loaf. This recipe gives you enough dough for about 4 small loaves, or two large loaves with enough to start another batch. Instead of cleaning out the container, add more homemade starter with water and whip it together with an emersion blender.

It’s a great idea for those of us who believe crusty bread is a daily requirement. Even better if you care about your food budget. And for the busy home cook, you get a huge reward for not a lot of effort.

Once the loaves are cooled, they can be sliced and stored in the freezer until you’re ready to toast them, which is the superior method to making toast, according to the New York Times (and we agree).

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Bread

Adapted from: The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Makes two loaves, approximately 2 pounds each.

Recipe can be halved or doubled.
1 lb. 8 ounces water, room temperature
8 ounces homemade starter
1 lb. all-purpose flour
1 lb. whole wheat flour (or a combination of flours rye, barley, etc.)
1 tablespoon granulated yeast
1 tablespoon sea salt
Cornmeal and additional flour for the baking pan

In a large 6 quart mixing container add the water and homemade starter. Mix together until blended.

In a large bowl, weigh out the flour(s) then add the yeast and salt. Whisk together. Add the flour to the water and mix with a wooden spoon or baker’s whisk until everything is mixed together. No need to knead the dough.

Place the lid on the container and leave at room temperature for up to 2 hours or straight into the fridge for a slower proofing and more sour flavor when baked.

It will rise and then sink in on itself as it sits in the refrigerator. That’s normal. Just be sure to never punch the dough down as you work with it. It will deflate, resulting in a flatter, denser loaf.

When you’re ready to bake a loaf, uncover the dough, sprinkle top with flour, grab or scoop about a pound, or two of dough (described as about a grapefruit sized piece) out of the container using your hand or a pastry scraper. Be sure to dust your hands with flour to help prevent sticking. Gently pull the edges of the dough into a ball, pinching it closed. Set the dough ball smooth side down into a bread proofing basket lined with a clean muslin cloth and dusted with flour.* Liberally dust the bottom of the bread with cornmeal. Cover with the edges of the cloth and allow to sit at room temperature for 90 minutes.

When ready to bake, uncover the bread and invert a Dutch oven pan over the top of the basket, so that the basket now fits inside of the pan. Quickly and gently flip the basket and pan over. Remove the basket and the cloth. If the cloth sticks to the dough, use a little more flour with the next loaf.** Using a serrated knife, slice three slits across or one long slice down the center. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and place it into a cold oven, then crank up the heat to 425F. It will take 20 to 25 minutes for the oven to come up to temperature, and then once to temperature it needs to bake for 30 minutes. About 50 minutes total. After that time, remove the pot’s lid and continue baking until the bread is a dark golden brown and hollow sounding when thumped, approximately 20 to 30 more minutes.

Turn loaf out onto a wire rack with a kitchen towel under it to catch all the toasted flour and cornmeal. Let it cool completely before cutting, at least 2 hours. The loaf should make a nice crackling sound while it cools and rests.

*this is giving us problems and we haven’t figured out the best method, but we’re hopeful!

**Alternately, as you’ll see in our photos, a piece of parchment paper can be used as a sling.

***we’re currently experimenting with eliminating the parchment all together and instead using just a dusting of cornmeal. The results have been very positive, but we’re lazy fucks and still need to photograph the results.

****if you pull the loaf out of the oven too soon, like we did on our first attempt (as one can see from some of the pictures) and it’s under baked, crank up the heat to 425F and place the loaf in the center of the oven on a rack for 20-30 more minutes, or until nice and toasty (better picture, too).