The outdoor market in my neighborhood is now open for the season, and I have been enjoying the undeniable pleasures of fresh locally grown produce. So far in Northern Indiana that means sweet teensy strawberries, leafy salad greens, rainbows of beets, and “hand-snapped” (one farmer tells me each time) bundles of asparagus. My roasted red beet and spring green asparagus recipe comes together perfectly this time of year. Minimal dishes required for maximum flavors in one roasting pan: sweet/smoky/earthy/smooth/crunchy.
Serves 1 or 2 depending on the situation. I imagine this dish as a beautiful accompaniment to grilled salmon or an oven-poached white fish.
3 small red beets
12 green asparagus spears
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon pine nuts
Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
Scrub beets and slice into coins. Place in roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 8 minutes, turning once.
Meanwhile, rinse asparagus and chop off the woody ends. Place asparagus on top of the roasted beets and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt & pepper. Bake together for 10 minutes more, turning once. At the end of ten minutes you should be able to smell the roasted asparagus and see a slight browning on the stems. If needed, keep the pan in the oven a few minutes longer.
While the asparagus and beets are roasting in the oven, toast the pine nuts in a medium skillet for about five minutes. Toss them frequently or they will quickly scorch. Set aside to cool.
Top the warm roasted red beets and spring green asparagus with slices of fresh mozzarella and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice never hurts either.
It all starts with a crock of split peas on Sunday and eventually evolves into my favorite silky soup by the time Tuesday rolls around. Bonus transition time snack: split pea sweet potato dip. I am convinced the in between days are what makes this soup a promisingly tasty journey from start to finish. My steps are loosely recorded below.
Day 1: Toss in a few cups of split peas, a few cups of vegetable stock, a little water, and seasonings (salt, pepper, I switch up between cumin & ground coriander) in a crock pot. Either cook on high for 2 hours or low for about 6 hours. Roast some sweet potatoes and bacon in the oven (do it together if there are no vegetarians on the premises and by all means throw in some garlic cloves): sweet potatoes tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, sometimes cumin, and bacon sprinkled with your preferred sweet granules. Bake for 20 minutes in 350-degree oven, remove bacon, bump heat up to 400-degrees, and finish roasting sweet potatoes for an additional 15 minutes. I like to eat all of these things together with arborio rice.
Day 2: Synthesize the left over split peas and roasted sweet potatoes in your blending mechanism with the amount of olive oil necessary to achieve a spreadable or dippable consistency. Black bean chipotle chips are recommended utensils, though carrots and celery maintain their respective merits.
Day 3: Use leftover dip to create a silky soup. Thin the dip down by adding hot water or stock. Crème fraîche or sour cream also slides in a tangy edge. A bacon garnish never hurt either.
Last week my mom spent a day researching the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington at the library where I work, so we had a lunch date downtown! We walked to a sit-down restaurant where I ordered a falafel with a side dish of celery salad. I enjoyed so much of that chunky crunch that I made up my own salad at home based on the combination of flavors on my lunch plate that day. It’s a great dish to prepare on a night when you crave the catharsis that accompanies chopping vegetables, and now every time I eat it I will remember the intrigue of Mary Custis Lee and that fun lunch.
For the salad:
Chop up celery, dates, and red onions.
Whisk together apple cider vinegar and honey.
Toss it all real good.
Sprinkle crumbled feta over top.
Turn a side dish into a meal:
Add crispy bacon and/or roasted chickpeas to the pile.
When the players take the grass on center court in England, it is 9am here in the States. We turn the TV set on, and John McEnroe welcomes us to breakfast at Wimbledon. But where’s the grub, Johnny Mac?
One year during the tournament I was staying with my aunt and uncle who are also tennis fans. I will never forget my Uncle George bringing eggs, bacon, and orange juice out to us in the living room during the championship match. “It’s breakfast at Wimbledon, dummy,” he said. Yes it is!
Most years for me, it’s coffee at Wimbledon, but this year I put together a breakfast for my folks (not to mention that they get ESPN, so I can actually watch the sportscast). I baked everything in a 350-degree oven, and the results were nearly trophy worthy.
Nutty Zucchini Boats w/o Nuts
Start with halved zucchini (thank you Mary for sharing your abundance!) and scoop out the middle. Lightly coat in olive oil, sprinkle with raw sunflower seeds, shredded pecorino romano cheese, and a pinch of salt & pepper. Bakes about 35 minutes.
Bacon Wrapped Figs & Pineapple Chunks
Halve raw figs (I used California Mission Figs this time) and chop up chunks of fresh pineapple. Get the best bacon strips you can find and cut them in thirds. Wrap each fig half and pineapple chunk in bacon and secure with a toothpick. Sprinkle smoked demerara sugar (ordered some from 240Sweet) over the tops. Brown sugar will substitute. Bakes about 30 minutes.
Ramekin Baked Eggs
Sautee onions, mushrooms, and spinach in olive oil over low heat until the spinach wilts. Place this mix (or whatever mix you like: add peppers, ham, etc) in the bottom of a ramekin. Crack 1-2 eggs over the mix. Spoon 1 teaspoon of heavy cream over each egg. Sprinkle shredded pecorino romano (or your fav. cheese) over the tops, dot with olive oil, and a pinch of salt & pepper. I put my ramekins in a casserole dish and filled the bottom of the dish with water. This step may not be necessary. If you prefer a runny yolk, watch the oven. Bakes about 25 minutes.
Serve with toast, jam, and beverages. CONGRATULATIONS SERENA & ROGER. Hooray over 30 club; looking forward to the Olympics!
I have a thing for cumin right now. I cannot get enough of it with beans, rice, soup, and sweet potatoes. My recipe for baked cumin sweet potato strips is simple, spicy, tangy, sweet, and healthful all at once. Enjoy them hot or at room temperature as a rustic snack in a mug or as a side dish on your plate.
3 medium sweet potatoes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 400-degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix together olive oil, vinegar, and cumin with a pastry brush.
Lightly brush parchment paper with cumin mixture.
Wash, dry, and slice sweet potatoes to desired thickness.
Place sweet potato slices on parchment paper.
Brush tops with remaining cumin mixture and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt.
Bake 25-40 minutes depending on thickness of strips and your crunchiness preference.
I realize that homemade chocolate chunk fudge rounds are far more desired baked goods than muffins made from mashed up pickled beets. You probably either detest pickled beets or devour them (like I do). I am spoiled by the fact that every summer my grandma cans several batches of homemade pickled beets grown by local Amish farmers. She stores them in her cellar and will often give them as gifts to neighbors and relatives. My packed lunches often include a short stack of these beets alongside cottage cheese. The tangy pickled flavor is cut by the creamy curds, with a pinch of ground black pepper to round it out (I also think it is fun to watch the cottage cheese turn a glowing rosy scarlet color as the two mingle).
If you have made it this far, then you will probably be interested in the recipe that I came up with that was inspired by these flavors.
Red Beet and Ricotta Lunch Muffins
Preheat oven 350-degrees.
2 C self rising flour
1 t cloves
2 eggs @ room temp
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1/2 C ricotta cheese + more for serving
1/2 C mashed beets*
Sift together flour and cloves (or cinnamon, depending on your taste). Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk eggs together and add the sugar in several steps. Whisk in melted butter. Add ricotta cheese and mashed beets alternately until combined.
Fold flour mixture into batter just until incorporated. Scoop out into muffin tins.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until toothpick test comes out clean.
Serve with ricotta cheese.
*I used pickled beets. They were quite tangy! I imagine straight roasted beets to be more mild and probably more appropriate with cinnamon.