Monday, September 29, 2008

Capellini with Baby Peppers, Pattypans, Eggplant and Tomatoes

Summer is basically over and I haven't written about all of the things I found at the green market. I made this a couple of months ago, when pattypan squash first made its appearance.

I love pattypan squash. In all honesty, I can't say they taste all that different from regular zucchini, but the texture seems a bit firmer - they hold their shape better than their cylindrical counterparts. Maybe they don't have as much moisture.

When I cook them, I usually just slice them lengthwise, about a quarter-inch thick.

And then I found these sweet peppers at a different stand on the same day. They remind me of white asparagus, like they were covered to keep them from getting any sunlight. They smelled sweet and peppery. I had bought baby bells the season before last and made this Musgovian Stew (because I kept them around too long). I learned from that last time to remove the seeds from the peppers this time, and then I just basically quartered or halved them (depending on size). The last item I found was a beautiful baby eggplant.

I thought the squash and peppers would work well with some grape tomatoes I also got at the green market (I'm making up for my non-market broccoli, orange and tomato salad). They were so firm and red that I didn't want to just throw them into a salad - I wanted to incorporate them into a dish that would let them shine.

While we're on the subject of cherry and grape tomatoes, there's something that's been bugging me ever since I saw it a couple of weeks ago. There's a new show on the Food Network called "Ask Aida" (turn your volume off before you click if you don't want an earful of Bobby Flay or some other celebrity chef). It's an interactive show where Aida Mollenkamp prepares a few recipes much like any other cooking show; the twist is that she also responds to questions that viewers send in via email and video. The questions usually relate specifically to the recipes she is creating, techniques she is using to create the recipes, or the ingredients themselves.

She does have decent credentials, having graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. But I find myself frequently dissatisfied with the answers she gives to the questions she receives. For one thing, she told one viewer that hangar steak is the same thing as flank steak and it's not. They're similar, but come from differet parts of the animal and do taste different (now that I've had hangar steak at Mado I can say that for sure). She told another viewer that it was not necessary to rinse every variety of rice, but did not mention that all varieties of brown rice should be rinsed (at least according to this source). She could at least have said it depended on what kind of rice the user was using and suggest that she either read the package instructions or do a little research. When she made flank steak she did say to cut it against the grain so it would be more tender but she did not say why.

It's not that her answers are wrong; they're just incomplete. And maybe I'm so critical because what she is doing is very similar to where I have been heading with this blog - trying to demystify processes, techniques, and ingredients and then sharing what I have learned with other untrained cooks who want to learn more without having to invest a lot of time and money into the process. But there is one thing she said that really bugs me and turned me off to her show completely.

A viewer emailed that she had an abundance of cherry tomatoes in her garden and asked Aida what she could do with them other than throwing them into a salad. Aida smiled and said they really were best in salads, and the viewer should basically just suck it up and make a bunch of salads.

Well, she didn't use those words exactly, but that was the gist. She did not suggest any other uses for those tomatoes, and I think that's a sin, to discourage someone from trying to find new uses for any ingredient. She could have said that you can pretty much use them the same way you would use any other tomato. She could have suggested different kinds of salads the viewer might try. Right off the bat she could have suggested putting them on skewers with onions, green peppers, and lamb or beef cubes for kabobs, and she could have suggested what many other Food Network chefs have done, that the viewer cook them up with pasta, as I have done here.

Which brings us back to my dish. I have been experimenting with whole wheat spaghetti, cappellini and fettuccine, which I avoided after my first disastrous attempt back in the early '80s. It might be because I've eaten so much short whole wheat pasta that I have become used to it, or maybe it's a little better now that they've had twenty years to improve upon it, but I don't find it that much different to regular wheat pasta. Whatever the reason, I really like it now and it was the perfect pasta to use with this sauce, which is really more of a vegetable saute than a sauce.

It's the perfect dinner for a warm summer day.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes


1 lb whole wheat cappellini angel hair pasta, cooked two minutes less than package directions

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 pint pattypan squash, sliced 1/8" thick
1 pint baby peppers, seeded, quartered or halved (depending on size)
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 baby eggplant, chopped into 1/4" pieces
4-6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 chp vegetable or chicken broth
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmagiana Reggiano

Set a pot of water on the stove to boil. If it comes to a boil before the sauce is ready, lower the heat. Do not start the pasta until the sauce has reduced down to where you want it.

Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add peppers and squash and cook until softened, about two to three minutes. Add garlic, salt, and pepper and cook three minutes more.

Add eggplant and cook until well browned. You might need to add more oil because eggplant absorbs it quickly, but be careful not to add too much. It's ok to let the bottom of the pan get dry and dark brown (just don't let it burn - you can tell by the smell); that will be lifted off with the liquids.

When the eggplant is browned and the squash and peppers are soft, add the wine and the broth. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and let it continue to simmer until the liquid has reduced by about half. Bring the pot of water back to a boil, add salt, and cook the pasta two minutes less than the package directions.

When pasta is done drain, reserving some of the liquid if the sauce gets too thick, and add it to the skillet with the vegetables. Add the basil, parsley, and tomatoes and cook about two minutes more to allow the herbs and tomatoes to soften. If it is too dry add some of the pasta water.

Serve imediately, using a vegetable peeler to grate slivers of parmagiana reggiano over each plate.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Broccoli, Tomato and Orange Salad

Ok, none of the items in this salad came from the green market. But the broccoli was on sale at the grocery store and it looked really good, so I brought some home with me. Actually, now that I think about it the tomatoes probably did come from the market, but the orange and red onion also came from the store. The basil came from the basil plant I bought from a Michigan farmer at the French Market down the street at the beginning of the summer (which has since died, alas; not from too little water but too much, I am sad to report. Who knew?).

I did not start out with the intention of making a broccoli, tomato and orange salad. It was the synergistic result of all the beets I was buying, and the beet and orange salads I made, and the fact that I find broccoli to be somewhat boring these days and really needed something to shake it up.

And guess what? Oranges really do shake the broccoli tree.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Broccoli, Tomato and Orange Salad
Serves 4

3 bunches of broccoli florets (app. 4 cups)
2 oranges, supremed, juice reserved
2-3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
reserved orange juice
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, mashed with salt into a paste, plus more to taste if necessary
pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, then salt liberally (approximately one heaping tablespoon). In the meantime, fill a large bowl with cold water (ice helps, but is not necessary).

Gently add the broccoli florets into the boiling water. Turn off the heat, cover tightly, and let sit for four to five minutes. Drain and immiately immerse in the cold water to stop the cooking process and keep the broccoli green.

Place the broccoli, oranges, tomatoes, onion, basil and parsley in a large serving bowl. Mix well.

Put the white wine vinegar, orange juice, and mustard into a bowl. Whisk vigorously until well blended. Add olive oil slowly, whisking continuously; it should thicken slightly. Add garlic, more salt if necesseary and pepper. Pour over salad and mix well.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pork Chops Braised in Red Wine

Remember my Pork Chops Braised in Bock Beer? They're just as good braised in Red Wine. I used the same technique and substituted Charles Smith Wines' "Holy Cow Merlot".
Sweet cherry, pipe tobacco, and spice. Cool stone, smooth as velvet, TASTY AS HELL!
In this case, you can believe the hype. This is one good wine, in a glass or on your plate.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Garlic Scapes, Sugar Snap Peas and Mozzarella with Cavatappi

Summer is almost over and I haven't written about all of the goodies I found at the Green Market this season. I have tried to find one thing each visit with which I am unfamiliar, or that I haven't tried before.

The year before last, I bought this beauty. I'd never seen anything like it before. This year, they had bunches of just the top part and it turns out they're called scapes. Scapes are flowering stems that grow out of the tip or the root of a plant. With garlic, you want to cut it as soon as it starts growing because it can drain resources away from the bulb. The greens taste similar to garlic greens, and the little bulb-let tastes like garlic, without the bite. If they're picked early enough, you can eat them raw.

When I saw them at the market I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them, but I brought them home anyway. Apparently, most people grill them and eat them as is. I don't have a grill, though, and I thought they might work well with pasta and some of the sugar snap peas I also bought.
The resultant dish wasn't exactly what I had envisioned when I started out. It tasted good, but as you can see, it was watery. I forgot the first rule of making pasta: the sauce can wait for the pasta but the pasta can't wait for the sauce.

I chopped the stems of the scapes and used them like green onions. They were more tough, so I cooked them longer. I kept the small bulbs intact. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to capture any of them in the photo, but they were in there. I also used fresh tomatoes, which might have something to do with how watery the sauce turned out. I added the sugar snaps toward the end of the cooking process; they taste better the closer to they are to raw. At the end, I cut smaller balls of fresh mozzarella and tossed them in, along with fresh basil and parsley and finished it off with some freshly-squeezed lemon juice, then served it over whole wheat cavatappi. At the very end, I shaved slivers of parmasiana reggiano over the whole thing.

And that's it. Not the best pasta dish I've made, but certainly not the worst. I will most likely re-create it in the future with more success.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Potatoes Annabella with Cheese

I forgot that I had taken this picture of my Potatoes Annabella with cheese melted over the top. It was truly delicious.

I wish I could remember what cheese this is. I got it at Treasure Island, so I hope I can find it again. I thought it would make a good melting cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches. I was right - it's a great cheese for melting, with a mild, nutty taste.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Potatoes Annabella

I bought a lovely selection of medium-sized red and yukon gold potatoes at the green market the last time I was there, which I'm sorry to say was three weeks ago. (And I'm working this Saturday morning so I can't go again this weekend. Damn.)

I did not have a specific plan for them, other than some vague notion of attempting a Shepherd's Pie. But it's not really the right weather for such a hearty dish. I had some pork chops defrosting in the refrigerator, so I thought I would bake up the potatoes as a side dish.

And I remembered a recipe from my old standby, the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. Something called Potatoes Anna, which is basically potato slices arranged in a pie plate and baked with a little butter. When they come out of the oven you invert the pie plate over a serving plate and serve it in wedges. It's a simple recipe, but tasty.

But of course I thought I might make it tastier. I simply added some onions, garlic, and fresh thyme I had on hand. And it was, indeed, tastier. The only snag was that the slices didn't cook together into one piece, but I think that was more because I used waxy potatoes instead of russet than because of the addition of the onions and garlic.

And then the next night, I melted some cheese over them. In a word: heaven.

I am calling them Potatoes Annabella.
After preheating the oven to 425 degrees F., I heated a tablespoon or so of canola oil in a small non-stick skillet. I added half of a thinly-sliced onion and 6 cloves of garlic, also thinly sliced. I kept the heat on medium low; I just wanted to sweat the onion and garlic until it was translucent.

Then, while the onion and garlic were sweating, I sliced 4 medium potatoes and arranged them in a layer in a greased pie plate.

When the onions and garlic were soft, I poured them over the layer of potato slices. I added about a tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme and then covered it up with another layer of potatoes. I melted two tablespoons of butter with a teaspoon of salt in the skillet I cooked the onions and garlic, then poured it over the potatoes.

I tightly covered the pie pan with aluminum foil and put it in the oven, letting it bake covered for twenty minutes.
After the twenty minutes, I took the foil off and baked it uncovered for another fifty minutes.

Here's how it looked when it came out of the oven. It kind of fell apart when I inverted it onto the plate, as you can see in the picture at the top of the post, but it was delicious. The onions and garlic were lusciously soft and complemented the potatoes perfectly.

Adapted from the recipe for Potatoes Anna in The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, edited by Zoe Coulson (Hearst Books, 19890)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Corn, Edamame and Tomato Salad

A couple of weeks ago I met a knitting friend at the green market, where we wandered around, bought some stuff, and then sat and knit for a little while. She was going out of town and I had a busy week ahead so neither of us could buy much. It's always hard to resist the temptation to buy more than I can use, but I was proud of myself. I came away with a melon, five ears of corn, a beautiful bag of salad greens, a pint of pear tomatoes, a handful of beautiful heirlooms, and a pint of fresh edamame. I was thrilled to see the edamame; I'd never seen it before outside of the frozen bags I used to buy on a regular basis from the grocery store.

"Look," I said to my friend as we sat down on a bench near the market. I held out the edamame. "They had fresh edamame. I had to grab some of that."

I could tell she didn't want to dampen my enthusiasm, but her husband was a farm boy and she knows her produce. "You know," she said, "it's just soybeans."

And I have to admit, I felt a little deflated, not to mention a little stupid. Of course I knew edamame was just soybeans, but I hadn't ever had access to it fresh before and I got carried away.

But that didn't dampen my enjoyment of it. I cooked up the corn, chopped up some of the heirloom tomatoes, boiled the soybeans, and created this wonderfully delicious and refreshing salad. You can too.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes


1 cup shelled edamame (soybeans)
2 cups corn, cut from kernel or frozen
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 small tomato, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, mashed to a paste
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Place first five ingredients into mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Chill for at least two hours. Let come to room temperature before serving.

Created 8/31/08

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

When I took the flank steak out to defrost I had no idea what would be accompanying it. I'm just hell bent on cleaning out my freezer and that seemed like the next good thing to eat.

Instead of going to the green market last Saturday I opted for the little French-style open market that is also held every Saturday morning at the Nettlehorst School that is just around the corner from me. It is not my favorite market, because the largest fruit and vegetable stand does not seem to be local and consistently has a suspicious number of out-of-season items in stock, but every once in a while I will spend some time there because for whatever reason I did not make it down to the green market. In all fairness, I should say that there are a few other fruit and vegetable folks that are local, but there's not much variety there.

The larger fruit stand did have some fresh brussels sprouts, which I have not purchased since I was in London in '85. They looked good, and I was struck by the impulse so I bought them, not having a really clear idea how I was going to prepare them.

I did remember a recipe from the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook that calls for bacon, which sounded mighty fine to me. But I didn't think I needed a pound of bacon, and any that didn't get used in the recipe would be immediately consumed (I have no will power where bacon is concerned), so I thought I might be a little daring and go for some pancetta.

If you watch the Food Network at all, then most likely you have had pancetta offered up by just about every chef on the network, especially Giada De Laurentiis on her show "Everyday Italian
" (warning - there's sound on this site). I knew I could buy it in a smaller quantity in the Treasure Island deli, so I thought it might be a good time to try some. I bought just a couple of slices and brought them home.

I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted to prepare this, so I did a quick search and actually found a recipe of Giada's on the Food Network. I took a look at it, decided on a few adjustments, and got started.

And hit a home run on the first try. I will be bringing home more brussels sprouts in the future, that's for sure. The pancetta brings a lovely ham undertone to the sprouts, and combined with the subtle sweetness of the shallots make for a delicious dish indeed. And as much as I love all things flavored smoke, I think the pancetta makes for a more subtle, complex dish than if I had used bacon.
Home Cookin Chapter: Beans and Vegetables


1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 slices pancetta, 1/8" thick, diced
2 shallots, diced
1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup chicken broth

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cut a cross at the base of each sprout. When water is boiling, add the sprouts, cover, turn off the heat, and let sit for 4 minutes. Shock in cold water. (Can be cooked ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.)

Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add pancetta and cook until rendered, about 5 minutes. Add shallots and cook a few minutes more. Cut sprounts in half and add them to the skillet, along with salt and pepper.

Cook until sprouts are well browned. Add the chicken stock and cook until the liquid has reduced by half, about ten minutes.

Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis' "Everyday Italian."

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (

Monday, September 08, 2008

Best Beet Salad So Far

I believe I may have mentioned that I have been all about the beets this summer. They are beautiful and sweet and I just can't get enough of them. I have put them into stir frys and sauteed them with radishes and green beans, but once summer came into full swing I have been putting them into salads, with much success. I have played with all kinds of combinations, using all of the great finds I have made at the green market.

I generally use the same basic ingredients - greens, celery, green or red onion, and of course, the beets. And while I can say that they were all delicious, some were more successful than others.

Like this one. This is one of the ways I utilized the apricots that have been so bountiful. Celery adds a nice crisp counterpoint to the soft sweetness of the beets, and the cherry tomatoes add a burst of flavor.

A nice vinaigrette finished off this salad beautifully.

And this salad, that I already wrote about here, really highlighted the beets. The onion and celery flavors blended in flavor as much as they did color, and the walnuts added a nice soft undertone of flavor.

Several years before I started blogging I made a salad using blood oranges and goat cheese that I found in a book called Great Greens. That was about the same time I discovered blood oranges and I was happy to have found a recipe that specifically called for them. The recipe included a blood orange vinaigrette, which I think is what inspired me to adapt my weekly vinaigrette recipe to incorporate the blood orange vinegar and infused olive oil that I discovered a couple of years ago.

I think that's also what gave me the idea of combining beets and oranges again. That, plus I happened to have a couple of mineolas in the refrigerator for which I needed to find a use. I knew they would be good together, but I wasn't sure what else should go with them.

I didn't really have anything on hand that would add any crunch to the salad, so I knew I wanted nuts. The walnuts had added a lovely depth to the earlier salad, but they are a relatively soft nut and I didn't think they would provide a strong enough crunchy contrast to the softer beet and orange.

I remembered that I had some blanched and peeled hazelnuts in the freezer that I bought when I made the Romesco Sauce. They are a firm nut, and crunchy. I took some out and roasted them. They came out with a lovely golden crunch.

And helped to make what I consider to be the best beet salad I've made so far this summer.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes


2 bunches beets, boiled, peeled and sliced
zest of one orange
2 oranges, supremed, with leftover juices reserved
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
mixed salad greens
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup roasted chopped hazelnuts


1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Reserved orange juice (approxmiately 3 Tbsp)
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, smashed into paste

Combine all of the salad ingredients except for the cheese and hazelnuts and toss well.

Combine the vinegars, orange juice, oregano, salt and pepper. Combine. Add olive oil slowly, whisking constantly. Add the garlic.

Just before serving, add the cheese to the salad. Add the dressing and toss well. Add the hazelnuts to the salad and serve, or garnish each individual plate with the nuts just before serving.

Created July 20, 2008.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Flank Steak

Sometime when I was in high school my father came home with an oddly shaped cut of meat. Long thin and narrow, the boneless cut was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

"What's that?" my mother asked.

"It's called flank steak," my father said. "The guy at the store said to marinate it in soy sauce and broil it for a few minutes on each side. It's cheaper than skirt steak so I thought I'd give it a try."

We were skeptical, but he marinated the meat overnight in the soy sauce. The next night at dinner time he turned on the broiler, put the meat in the broiler pan, and let it cook for a few minutes on each side. It was a tough job for him - every one of us in the family had different tastes in how done they liked their meat, ranging from still moving to shoe leather.

We all watched with some skepticism as he put the meat on the cutting board and sliced into it. He sliced against the grain and the meat piled up on the plate. It looked pretty good.

And tasted even better. In those days the only use we had for soy sauce was when my mother made "pepper steak", an extremely Americanized version of the already Americanized entree we always ordered at the one Chinese restaurant in downtown Houston. For starters, she used a Dutch Oven over a low flame and cooked it for a long time. It was more steamed than stir-fried. What made it Chinese were the La Choy Chow Mein Noodles we lavishly sprinkled over the top (actually, my second favorite part) and the soy sauce with which we seasoned it, and my absolute favorite Chinese ingredient during my childhood - water chestnuts.

But before I wander all along my childhood memories of all things La Choy, let me get back to flank steak. The soy sauce made for a most excellent marinade. In fact, over the years we pretty much marinated everything in it - it works especially well with chicken and celery, and for a while during my college years one of my signature dishes was chicken baked in soy sauce with onions and pineapple.

Ok ok, back to flank steak. Soy sauce marinated flank steak became a part of the regular dinner rotation in our house. After a while, I couldn't imagine it prepared any other way. I would see recipes that called for different marinades and different cooking methods, but I never ventured past our old tried-and-true version. One of those "if it ain't broke don't fix it" kind of things.

So I don't know what got into me this time. I had the flank steak. I had the soy sauce. But I also had a lot of other things in the pantry and the fridge. I got fancy with it, and I am so glad I did. And here's how you can too.

Flank steak is a lean cut, so it needs a little added moisture. That's why it is a good idea to put it in a marinade and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.

There are many recipes for marinades out there. Basically, you want a balance of acid, oil, and spices (or a bunch of soy sauce is mighty tasty, too). This time, I used this formula:
Flank Steak Marinade
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce (Force of habit. I had to put
some in there.)
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 Tbsp chopped ginger
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp honey
several sprigs of fresh thyme
(leave the salt and pepper until just before you cook the steak)

Put the ingredients into a sealable plastic bag. Add the steak, making sure it is well coated with the marinade. Seal the bag, place it on a plate or in an empty dish to catch anything if it leaks, and place it in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours, preferably overnight. Take it out every once in a while and turn it to make sure that all of the meat has its turn in the marinade.

Take the steak out of the refrigerator at least 15-30 minutes before you plan to cook it. Take it out of the bag and shake off any excess marinade.

If you don't have a broiler pan (I don't), line a cookie sheet (one that has sides) or some other shallow oven-proof dish with foil. Place the steak on the foil and let it come to room temperature. About 5 minutes before you're ready to cook it, turn on your broiler. Just before you are ready to cook it, season it with salt and pepper.

Put the steak in the broiler. Be sure to leave the broiler door open a little so the hot air can escape. Flank steak, like other lean meats, stays more tender and has more flavor the less it is cooked. For rare steak, cook it about 3 minutes per side. Be sure to season the other side before you put it back into the oven.

For medium rare (which is what I did here), you want to cook it about 4 minutes per side. It cooks pretty quickly, so even if you want it done I wouldn't cook it for more than five minutes per side. If you want it really well done, you might want to cook a different cut of steak for your dinner.

After you take the meat out of the oven, let it sit for 15 minutes, so the juices can redistribute evenly. This would be a good time to make your salad and put the finishing touches on your side dishes.

Take a sharp knife and cut the meat into thin slices.
As you can see from the bottom part of the uncut steak, I should have honed my knife before I started cutting.

Be sure to cut the meat against the grain. If you cut the meat with the grain on a long-grained cut like flank steak, it is tough and stringy. Cutting against the grain helps keep it tender.

And that's it. Nothing could be simpler. And as delicious as it is the night you cook it, it tastes even better the next day, if there's any left.

Monday, September 01, 2008

How to Peel Cooked Beets

Just take a look at those beautiful beets. I love how richly red they are. This photo doesn't really do justice to how deeply ruby red they are. And I love those concentric rings that run through the body.

And sweet? Sweet as candy. Especially the red ones. The golden and orange beets have a milder, less intense flavor, which includes the sweetness. And while I love the visual charms of mixing up the colors and flavors, I find myself heading for those deep jewel-red sweet reds almost every time.

There is more than one way to cook a beet. When they first show up in the summer I do not feel like turning on the oven so I boil them. If you grill a lot you can cover them with oil, wrap them in foil and throw them on the grill, and when the weather is cooler you can throw them in the oven instead. They are a little less moist and the flavor is a little more intensified when they are roasted, but the heat from the oven is not enough of a trade-off for me. I don't really miss the more intense flavor when I boil them; I just notice it more when I roast them.

The one thing you want to be sure of, regardless of the method you use, is that you get them really clean. Any dirt will cook along with the beets, and the flavor will get into them. I think that is why so people who don't care for them really don't care for them - they got hold of some dirty-tasting ones.

If you are boiling them, don't cut off the ends. Leave about one inch of the stem on, and keep the root intact. This will help keep them from getting waterlogged. I put them in cold water and bring it up to a boil (like you do with potatoes, so the outside doesn't cook faster than the inside), then lower the heat, cover them, and let them cook for about 40 minutes. I know they're done when I stick a paring knife into one and it goes in smoothly and comes out the same way.

When they are done I rinse them in cold water long enough to stop the cooking process. If I am going to use them in a salad, I usually put them in the refrigerator until they are cold, but that is not necessary.

I place the beet on a cutting board and remove the ends.

You want to be careful when you're cutting and peeling beets because they will stain anything they touch that same deep rich beautiful red that makes them so delicious.

After the ends are removed, you can see where the skin puckers away from the beet a little. As you can also see, the water coming out from the beet is bright red. Some people wear those laytex gloves when they are chopping beets. I think that is a little extreme. If you are careful, and wash everything that comes into contact with the beets immediately, you should be fine. They're just beets after all, not some toxic poison.

Once the ends are cut up, just pick up the beet and rub gently where you can feel that the skin is a little buckled. It should come right off. Just keep rubbing, applying pressure where you meet resistance, until all of the skin is off. The beet should feel a little slick in your hands.

And that's it! Nothing could be more easy! Once the beets are peeled you can do whatever you want with them. If I'm using them for salads I will cut them in half and then slice them, as you can see in the picture above. If they are small I might cut them in wedges, and if they are really big then I might cube them.

They are also good added in at the end of a stir-fry or vegetable saute. Even though they have a strong, unmistakable taste, that taste has a subtlety that blends well with other flavors.

The next time you are at the farmers market or wandering down the produce aisle at the grocery store and you see these red gems, put them in your basket and take them home with you. Once you see how easy they are to prepare and how delicious they taste, you will not be able to get enough of them.
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