Recipes with Julie Van Rosendaal: Eat to the beet

In Alberta, beets are always in season, but markets are particularly well-stocked with them in the fall.

They’re more versatile than we tend to give them credit for. If you get into the habit of roasting them (wrap in foil and place directly on the oven rack for about an hour, or boil them on the stovetop, or cook them in the slow cooker with about an inch of water, on low for about 4 hours) you can store them in the fridge, still wrapped in foil (put them in a bowl to prevent drips) and easily peel them with your fingers to slice or grate into salads, muffins, risotto and all kinds of other dishes.

If you’re a fan, here are a few ways you can eat your beet — that you may not have thought of.

Red Velvet Beet Snacking Cake

If you use paler natural cocoa, you’ll get a stronger pink colour. Darker Dutch-processed cocoa isn’t as acidic, and tends to mask the pink of the beets, which will also tone down as it bakes.

Regardless, it’s a delicious snacking cake, with or without the cream cheese frosting.

Cake ingredients:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk or thin plain yogurt
  • 1 large beet, peeled and coarsely grated (about 1 cup)

Cream cheese frosting:

  • ½ cup (4 oz) cream cheese
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 1½–2 cups icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp milk or cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 F. 

In a large bowl, stir together the sugars, oil and egg. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

Stir half into the sugar-oil mixture, then stir in the buttermilk or yogurt, then the rest of the dry ingredients, along with the beets.

Pour into a greased or parchment-lined 9×9-inch pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is springy to the touch. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter until lump-free. Beat in the icing sugar and 1 tbsp cream or milk along with the vanilla; beat until creamy, adding a bit more cream or milk or icing sugar to achieve a spreadable consistency. Spread over the cake once it has completely cooled. 

Serves: About 9.

Beetniks, unbaked. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Beetniks or Beetnik Pizza

Beetniks are a Ukrainian dish of yeasted dough wrapped in beet leaves and doused in a creamy dill sauce. The combination also makes a great pizza — stretch out your pizza dough, spread it with the sauce, top with beet greens and some crumbled goat cheese (and some grated mozzarella, if you like) and bake however you would normally bake your pizza. 

Beetniks are delicious doused in a creamy dill sauce. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Bread, bun or pizza dough
Beet greens

Creamy dill sauce — the measurements are approximate and can be easily doubled.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ small onion or shallot, finely chopped
  • salt
  • 1-2 tbsp flour (optional — if using half and half or milk)
  • 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream, half and half or milk
  • a big handful of dill, chopped

Pull pieces of bread dough about the size of a golf ball, and roll them so they’re about the size of your thumb.

Blanch the beet greens in boiling water (or cook them for a minute in the microwave with about an inch of water (just enough to make them more pliable) and wrap a leaf around each piece of dough.

Place in a baking dish that will accommodate as many as you’d like to make. Cover with a tea towel and proof on the countertop for half an hour or so. 

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the beatniks for about 20 minutes, or until golden.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: heat the butter in a skillet until foamy; add the onion, sprinkle with salt and cook for 3-4 minutes, until soft.

If you’re using lighter cream or milk, sprinkle with flour and stir to coat. Add the cream (or milk) and stir until it bubbles and thickens, or if you’re using heavy cream, until it reduces. Stir in as much chopped dill as you like. If it gets too thick, add more cream, milk or even a splash of water. 

Pour the dill sauce over the beetniks. Serves as many as you like. 

Beet risotto. Crumble in the goat cheese for that extra flavour. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Beet Risotto 

You can use roasted beets in risotto, or grate them in raw. As they cook, they’ll turn from brilliant purple to a more muted purply-red.

And though soft goat cheese is a classic pairing, beets pair well with virtually any kind of cheese, so you can rummage through your fridge for whatever needs using. And if your beets come with greens attached, chop and sauté them (stems too!) with the onion at the beginning, or thinly slice and stir in at the end, just to wilt them. 

Ingredients:

  • a drizzle of canola or olive oil
  • 2-4 tbsp butter
  • ½ small onion or 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup short-grain rice (such as Arborio)
  • a splash of wine (optional)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock (or salted water)
  • 1 medium beet, grated
  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese or grated Parmesan

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat a drizzle of oil and a couple tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.

When the butter gets foamy, add the onion and cook for a few minutes, sprinkling with salt, until soft but not browned. If you’re adding beet greens, chop and cook them (and the stems) along with the onion (or keep the leaves to stir in at the end). Add the rice and stir it around for a minute or two, until coated with oil and butter. If you like, add a splash of wine and cook for a minute, until it evaporates. 

Add about a half cup of the stock and cook, stirring often, until your spoon starts leaving a trail through the bottom of the pan. Continue adding the stock about half a cup at a time, stirring frequently, until the rice is just tender, which should take about 20 minutes. Stir in another tablespoon or two of butter, taste, and add salt if needed. Crumble in the goat cheese and stir just to partially melt into the risotto.

Serves: 2-4.

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