Monday, November 21, 2011

UnRecipe: Just Beet It... Just Beet it...

No, I'm not wearing a sparkly glove on one hand and Moonwalking my way through the kitchen. But man, I sure wish I was! Sham-ON! Apropos of nothing beyond the fact that we wound up with some late-season beets, it's yet ANOTHER beet post. I keep hoping there's some subliminal message that will get through to Mr. Wasabi's brain that beets are not, in fact, gross. All we are saaaaaying... is give beets a chaaaaaance!

Beety, not meaty - a tart for your vegetarian friends! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

'Twas the season of beets in this year of our lord two-thousand-and-eleventy. Or more to the point, the season where I wasn't foisting beets onto workmates because I didn't know what to do with them. Seriously, I'd get a bag full of  beets in our CSA deliveries, I'd stare at them blankly for a while and then hit the "bring it to work" button where I'd usually give them to my friend, Ms. Radish and Rose. She was one of the big proponents of beets, and I trust her taste, so I decided to be more persistent with the preparation of the rooty little buggers. Lo and behold, I honed in on a way to prepare them at home that wasn't too fussy, highlighted the sweetness of beets, and made it something I could enjoy eating and not feel like it was a chore to eat my veggies. As seen in previous beet-themed posts, this of course meant calling in the Puff Pastry and Goat Cheese Brigade, totally removing any and all health benefits that beets can provide, but what can I say? The crisp buttery flakiness of pastry with creamy cheese and sweet roasted beets is quite literally, unbeetable. Har har. I know, punch me now, I deserve it.

Hot Pockets, brought back from the Dark Side - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I blame television and mass media for this one. The annoying "Hot Pockets" jingle was stuck in my head one day (just you wait,  it'll get stuck in yours, too) and it ultimately led me towards craving the little crispy devils, but I stopped short of going to the grocery store and buying some over-processed ghost from my college years. Total disclosure, I lived off those things when I was in school, the magical pastry-burrito that you could throw into the microwave, frozen as a Cro-Magnon in the tundra, but somehow the weird coated paper sleeve would both heat and crisp the Pocket to desired Hotness. Move over Dumbledore, this here's real magic. And if you were really lucky, the first bite wouldn't napalm the skin off the insides of your mouth from all the molten cheese inside. Doesn't quite sell the magic of Hot Pockets, but you ask most anyone and those who went to college and had to fend for themselves during some lean times, they'll admit they went through a phase where they ate these bewitching microwavable hand pies morning, noon and night.

Much like people, I don't think foods are born evil. The idea of a little hand-sized pie is not a bad one. It's when it gets seized by the Big Business of Food, mass-produced and frozen for instant gratification that the concept goes to the Dark Side and takes over most of the known universe. I saw there was still good left in Darth Hot Pocket, and restored it to its earlier self, as Anakin Hand Pie, with some roasted beets and goat cheese sandwiched between a layer of puff pastry. I did have to use Darth Puff Pastry, going with frozen store-bought because I don't make my own, so maybe there was still a little bit of the Evil Empire in this. But we'll just call it "flavor," shall we?

Putting together the deliciousness of beet tarts and hand pies - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Of course, any time you make a little stuffed food item, be it hand pie or won ton, you always wind up with extra filling. I anticipated I'd have more beets and cheese than pastry, so I saved a couple of small sheets of dough, lined some mini tins and piled in the rest of the filling to make tarts. While the little faux Hot Pockets were crispy and light snacks, the beet tarts were a full meal, going well with a salad for dinner that night. It was most definitely one of those weeks where I was serving my cravings first and Mr. Wasabi was eating leftovers from another beet-less meal, but he at least eyeballed the tarts with hungry curiosity before slinking away and realizing it was a rainbow of roasted beets. Maybe one of these days, I can finally bring Brock over to the Beet Side.

And now, for something completely different - radish and risotto! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

And on a semi-related but out-of-the-blue note -- along with beets in our CSA box, we did find ourselves with quite a few radishes. It's sort of related, as it's a rooty-tooty vegetable and, like the beets, I was looking for a way to use them up. If I wasn't already worn out on salads, I'd have been thankful, but I wanted a way to use the radishes in a dish that was more exciting and quite frankly, hot. To go with the beet tarts, I found this recipe  for Romano Risotto with Radishes on Epicurious. Radish and risotto? Weird, right? But oddly, the buttery richness of risotto kind of mimics that richness of buttered bread when you have one of those radish tea sandwiches. You don't really cook the radishes into the risotto, it's more like you lightly pickle them and use it as a garnish. But it works well and the pickled radishes become a lovely pink color. It ends up being a nice, if not starchy/carby vegetarian meal, if you're looking for an interesting thing to make for Meatless Monday.

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