i am always up for trying new things–especially when it comes to food. we had a few folks coming over for dinner so i decided to try my hand at developing a few new skills this weekend. i know, i know, you are not supposed to try new recipes or dishes out when you are having company but we have a few good friends that are, thankfully, willing and eager to participate in my culinary experiments.
i searched high and low at the farmer’s market over the weekend for beets because i wanted to attempt to roast them for a pretty and healthful salad. they always look so beautiful and appeared simple to prepare, yet it was something i had never done. apparently, however, i was too early for them locally. my market had some already from a local farmer (and on sale!) so i got lucky on that front. i am so totally amazed that these:
gorgeous! and really simple. peeling and slicing them does require some patience, however. i roasted them at 375, unpeeled and untrimmed, drizzled with a touch of olive oil and salt and pepper. i staggered the roasting time by size, i.e. putting the larger ones in first, then adding medium ones after 20 minutes, then the smallest 20 minutes after that. i had started them on a jelly roll pan lined with foil–i was nervous about the beets ‘bleeding out’ all over the oven. i ended up pulling the foil up all around them like a package once the little ones were in, effectively steaming them for the last 20 minutes or so to soften them up. all told total cooking time was about an hour. they have a reputation for staining everything in site, especially the red ones so, being a nurse, i just happen to keep rubber gloves around the house that i use for just this type of thing. i also washed my cutting board and knife right away after slicing just in case. then i just added the little jewels to a salad of mixed greens and toasted walnuts with a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil drizzled around. fantastic.
my other newly acquired skill was steaming mussels. i cannot resist them and they are something we order in a restaurant whenever it is on the menu. it is actually pretty strange that i had never attempted them, given how much houston and i love them.
they were shockingly simple to make. the set up is reminiscent of stir fry. everything happens so fast that having everything ‘mise en place’ is critical. the actually cooking time was about 10-12 minutes. served with a fresh baguette and some decent wine and hoppy beer, a good time was had by all.
adapted from tyler florence
- 3 pounds mussels
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 leeks, white parts only, finely chopped*
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 bunch fresh thyme
- 1 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Rinse the mussels under cold running water while scrubbing with a vegetable brush. Remove the stringy mussel beards with your thumb and index finger as you wash them. Discard any mussels with broken shells.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic, and thyme and cook until the vegetables cook down to a pulp, about 5 minutes. Add the mussels and give everything a good toss. Add the white wine. Cover and steam over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, until the mussels open. Stir occasionally so that all the mussels are in contact with the heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and a drizzle of olive oil to the sauce remaining in the pot and swirl to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.
*i added 3 sliced shallots and a few bay leaves to the garlic and thyme and substituted 1/2 bulb of very thinly sliced fennel for the leeks because i had purchased some cauliflower fennel soup at the farmer’s market to round out the meal and it turned out nicely to bring all the flavors together. not to be wasteful, i also added some of the fennel fronds to the parsley and a squeeze of lemon to finish off the mussels. the fresh herbs really added some brightness to the whole dish. i fried some panko covered fennel in a bit of olive oil to doctor up the soup a bit. you can’t go wrong if you deep fry it!