Vermont Cranberry Bean Salad

August 31, 2011 § 2 Comments

When I was a kid, my father would get a little stir crazy in winter and he’d do the worst thing a man with a 1-acre garden could do: Sit for hours with the Johnny’s Select Seed catalog. Fathers don’t get giddy as a rule, but I swear my dad would get as giddy as any school girl when the … um, somewhat large and heavy … box arrived. Sure, some of the seeds were for the farm: Seeds for 100 combined acres of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and pumpkins are a bit heavy. But then there were the items destined for our garden. Corn. Watermelon. Tomatoes. Peppers. Cucumbers. Zucchini. Squash. Yum. Yum.

But then … then there were the despised seeds: Peas and lima beans. And I swear, every single seed of those two crops came up and produced a bounty. Bleck and ugh … I really don’t like peas and lima beans. Really. Don’t. Like.

The worst part, really, and I don’t know how many of you can relate … the worst part was having to help my mother shell the bushels and bushels of pods these horrid plants would produce. You know how big a bushel is, right? It’s a lot. And now picture lots of lots. And having to take one lima bean pod or one pea pod, slicing it down lengthwise with your thumb nail, and then cajoling each pea or bean out of its home with said finger and into a pan. Pans and pans and pans of peas and beans. And Mom would blanch these mounds and mounds of peas and beans, put them into little plastic baggies, put the baggies in boxes, put the boxes in the freezers (yes, we had multiple freezers to store multiple upon multiple boxes), and then those boxes would come out of the freezer in the deepest, darkest of winter and end up on our plates. And then after dinner Dad would get out his Johnny’s Select Seed catalog and order more for the coming spring …

I really hate peas and lima beans. Really.

What did I find myself doing yesterday pre-lunch during my vacation? Shelling beans. Not a bushel, thankfully; just a gallon ziplock’s worth. The beans in question we grew in our garden this summer. No, not peas and not limas.They are Vermont cranberry beans. Beautiful pink and red speckly things. Gorgeous, really. No, I didn’t snap a pic pre-cooking. Sorry. But yes, we grew them this year—my garden plot neighbor has been growing them for years and loves loves loves them. Easy to grow. I’d tell you more about how to grow them except … well, okay, I’ll tell you. Sow the seeds about 2 inches apart in a row. Water. They will emerge. They’ll keep growing if you keep watering. I can’t even recall if I had to fertilize. It’s seriously that easy, people.

And the process at the other end of the line is just as simple, and way way way delicious. So very not a lima bean.

Vermont cranberry bean salad

Vermont cranberry bean salad

Vermont Cranberry Bean Salad  from Epicurious.com)

Serves 4

  •    1 1/2 pounds fresh cranberry beans in pods
  •    2 tablespoons salt
  •    1/4 cup evoo
  •    1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  •    2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves
  •    ground black pepper

– Shell beans and place in a saucepan of boiling salted water. Salt the water! That way the beans really take in the flavor.Unfortunately, the boiling spoils the beans’ beautiful coloration.

– Boil the beans until they are tender. If all of your beans are picked at the same stage, they should all come along at the same time. Mine, not so lucky. To get the “more done” or more dry beans to a tender stage, the more fresh beans got a tad over-mushy. But, I kinda liked the variety within the dish.

– Drain beans and transfer to a bowl. While beans are still warm, toss with remaining ingredients and season with salt, if needed. Serve still warm for a fabulous flavor, or at room temperature.

I could eat this for days. And luckily, there’s a bunch more beans ripening when we get home.

This Morning’s Harvest, Next Week’s Meals

August 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

Okay, so I’m rushing for two reasons: 1) A big storm’s a-brewin’ and 2) leaving town for a week. What’s that mean? Gotta hit the community garden plot this morning and harvest.

Tomatoes are gonna get whipped in the storm. Pair that with the fact that they look like hell anyway (I think we have blight – that’s like having lice to me), I decided to harvest all the tomatoes except a few very green ones and rip up all the plants except the best two.

What else is on the list? Here it is:

Harvest it all! A hurricane's a-comin'!

  • Cherry and slicing tomatoes in all stages of ripe- and unripeness
  • Vermont cranberry beans
  • Green bean
  • Lettuce
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Yellow and green chard
  • A cabbage
  • A big ol’ purple carrot
  • A zucchini – full disclosure: It’s not mine – another gardener gave it to me.

*Missing from this list are a handful of Hungarian wax peppers and a yellow squash. They were camera shy.

All of this will be processed in some form or another – along with a boat load of beets I harvested last week – in the coming week. Stay tuned!

Any suggestions? Anyone have experience frying sage leaves? What should I do with a huge purple carrot? Leave a comment, let me know.

Grilled Pizza

August 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Summertime … and the grilling is easy. Cheese is melting, and the pizza is fine.

Okay, I’m no George Gershwin, but what I’m trying to say is this: Pizza on the grill is not only easy, it’s one of the quickest summertime grilled meals possible. What do I like about it most? The fact that I don’t have to deal with my smoke alarms going off. Yeah, that happens whenever we cook pizza inside. The super-heated oven ends up burning the corn meal that remains on our pizza stone. Pizza in January usually means both our front and back doors are open to prevent smoke buildup. No. Kidding.

So, when we can slap that pizza dough on a hot grill, we go there.

And you can go there, too.

I’m not going to tell you what kind of pizza to make. Your toppings are your toppings. You want pepperoni? Have pepperoni. You want smoked salmon? Go for it. Sauce? Yes, please—but don’t go overboard. A little dab will do ya (I’m showing my age with that quote).

My assorted pizza toppings, minus a bowl full of kale-ricotta mixture.

Plus, I’m not the pizza maker. Jennifer is the star when it comes to assemblage. I make the dough, I’ll make sauce. I’ll sous, but she chefs when it comes to pizza time. We’re practiced at this, but the following are our tips, not our must dos. Also, p.s., our grilling is done on a gas grill. Charcoal? A slightly different animal, so adjust as you see fit.

Grilled Pizza Tips

A hot hot grill is good. 500F is good. Clean it really well, not leftover burnt chicken skin, please.

Prep your toppings. I can’t emphasize that enough. Slice, dice, chop, stir. Get ’em ready. AND, pour a small bowl – maybe 1/3 to a 1/2 cup? – of olive oil to have on hand. Put ’em all on a big cutting board or tray to carry out to the grill.

Roll out a nice flat but not too thin dough. Round, square, oblong, whatever.

Here’s a great trick: Lightly oil a section of aluminum foil. Take that dough you just rolled out and put it down on the foil. Now, lightly swab the top of the dough with oil.

Okay, maybe I over-oiled this one. Swab off any extra oil!

Grill’s good and hot. Your toppings are ready to go. Your dough is ready to go. So, go out to the grill and … Quickly flip that dough, oiled top side down, on top searing-hot grill, and peel back the foil.  There’ll be some “yikes!” and “oh, sh*t” moments, I’m not gonna lie to you. Pull the dough one way or the other, make your tweaks QUICKLY, and then close that grill cover. And fast. The sooner heat completely surrounds the dough, the quicker that dough is going to turn into a pizza crust. Right? Right.

Two-three minutes. Peek once or twice to make sure the underside is not burning. Oh, it’ll burn. Believe you me.

Oh damn, I burned the first one. These things happen.

NOTE: The first dough got kinda … well … crispy. I started another. Much, much better.

Get your mise en place in place, ready to go. Open the grill, flip that crust over.

Not using a sauce? Then give a quick brush all over the top with evoo. Using a sauce? Spread it thinly and quickly. Layer everything else on as you see fit. And be quick about it!

Close the lid for another couple of minutes. Keep an eye on the bottom, making sure it’s not burning. When the cheese (if you’re using) and the sauce look melty and hot, it’s time to take it off the heat.

Let sit for three minutes to let the sauce and toppings set. And then cut yourself a slice.

Worth it all, huh?

Basil Pesto: Can’t be Easier

August 23, 2011 § 3 Comments

Basil pesto ingredients

All the fixin's for basil pesto

Think of all the good things in life.

Basil. Mmmm … Parmesan cheese … Olive oil … Garlic … Nuts … Chocolate … Okay, wait, drop that last one. All these are tasty on their own, very tasty. But whir them up together in a yummy pasty sauce and you have heaven on a spoon—basil pesto.

Basil is just one of the pesto varieties we make in the Dainty household. There are others. Oh, there are others. But typically, basil pesto is the shining star in so many dishes. A couple of dollops on pasta for a quick on-the-go meal. Spread it cautiously as a pizza topping. And schmear it on some rye bread for a tomato-provolone-pesto grilled cheese. Oh, yeah, I went there. Grilled. Cheese.

The secrets to good basil pesto are two-fold: Great-quality ingredients and a nice ratio of basil:parm:pine nuts:evoo. The amount of garlic, honestly, depends on your tastes. The recipe I use is from an old, back-‘n-the-day Moosewood cookbook called the Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden. Not too much cheese. Not too saucy. Plenty of basil flavor.

Pesto Genovese (from Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden)

  • 3 cups loosely packed basil (avoid stems)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup evoo
  • salt/pepper

-Place the basil, pine nuts parm and garlic in a food processor. I like to put in half of all the ingredients, give it a whir, and then add the other half and give it a whir. That’s just the best way in my machine – things don’t get jammed in there that way. Be sure everything is chopped evenly. Give it a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

-With the food processor on, sloooooowly add the olive oil in a steady stream. It’ll slowly become paste-like. It may bunch up on the bottom—stop the machine and get all the good stuff from the corners. DON’T add all the oil. Stop the machine, give it a tasty. Good? Needs salt and pepper? Add some. Is the consistency kinda rough and thick and you like it? Then stop. Like it a bit more smooth? Keep whirring and add the remaining oil.

NOTE: The beauty of pesto is this: It can be any way you want it to be. Chunky. Rough. Pasty. Saucy. Hey, you’re the one eating it. Eat what you like.

-When it’s whirred to your liking, use what you intended it for right away.

Basil pesto

Basil pesto

OR—and this is the important part—take action to keep the pesto’s vibrant, fresh-green color. Here’s how:

-Place the pesto in an airtight food storage container (glass, plastic, whatever) that is large enough to allow some room on top. Smooth the top into a flat layer.

-Drizzle a thin layer of evoo on top so it completely covers the pesto. You don’t need to much but you do need to make sure all the pesto is covered.

This keeps the air from oxidizing the basil and keeps the bright green color. But you’re smaht, I’m sure you already knew that.

Enjoy. And maybe when it’s time to harvest our parsley before the first frost, I’ll share my super-secret recipe for parsley pesto.

Food Trucks: Lefty’s, Bon Me & Roxy’s

August 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Our neighborhood has this gem of a Sunday market—the Sowa Open Market. With our summer travel schedule – both work and pleasure –  it’s a not a place we get to a whole heck of a lot. And that’s a darn shame. We definitely are able to get there during the “shoulder seasons” – spring and fall. And if you like to explore all the artsy-craftsy stuff going on in Boston and New England, this really has been the place to go for the last eight years.

More recently – maybe in the last couple? – they’ve also had a pretty nice array of food trucks. I put a question mark down there because, like I said, we don’t get there a whole heckuva lot. With the food truck craze that’s traveling in the left lane nowadays, it’s probably one of the major draws of the Market.

And considering that one of their usual food trucks is participating in the second season of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, we decided to take one of our atypical in-town weekends are check out Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, among the other dozen or so trucks parked within the Sowa Open Market.

Of course, I scheduled only an hour (including walking time) between my various work-related activities to check out the food trucks. Seriously, not a smart move.

We decided to divide and conquer. We didn’t get far.

I stood in the Roxy’s line while Jennifer stood in the Bon Me line. Guess which line was longer? Jennifer decision to hit the Vietnamese street food truck was smart. My standing in the ‘order waiting to be picked up’ line at Roxy’s was not.

Jennifer was already chomping on her tofu and shitake mushroom banh mi (aka a sandwich on a baguette) before I decided to abandon my chance to nibble on a TV star. She shared, of course. Excellent flavor in the marinated tofu and mushrooms, a nice pickled topping. Great filling. Bread? Not the best, but I’m a bread snob. I’d definitely line up there again.

I was determined to have my own food truck experience, so I lined up for Lefty’s Silver Cart for a specialty sandwich. What drew me to that one? Pressed for time, it was close by, the line wasn’t long, and I judged a book by its cover—I really liked the old-timey font they used. Menu items were intriguing, too. It took me a good couple of minutes to realize they had a vegetarian menu, that’s how fun their combos were. I was torn between the Granny-B-Good – a grilled cheese with Vermont cheddar and Granny Smith apple – and the Figment, which was baguette with truffle-dressed mixed greens, goat cheese and fig jam. LOVE fig jam, so ordered the latter. Can’t go wrong with fig and goat cheese, and putting it on bread makes it a very healthy thing, I’m sure. Very happy with my order. Plus, Lefty’s baguette rocked. Now, if Bon Me had that baguette, they’d kick it up a notch. The difference? Baking technique, definitely. More steam produced a better crust for whoever is making Lefty’s bread.

Dainty Rates: 4 Dots.

If you’re around Boston Sundays through October, take a walk down to Sowa. Save room for lunch.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

August 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

Sometimes … sometimes I just want to eat bad things. Good-tasting things but bad for you, or your waistline. Fried chicken. Wings. A big drippy pulled-pork sandwich. A pile o’pasta.

But if it’s homemade, I hear, it’s half as much calories, conveniently. At least that’s what I tell myself. And if it has vegetables in it, well … then it’s downright a health food.

So that makes our roasted vegetable lasagna not only calorie-free but good for you, too. And the best thing about this recipe is it’s a combination of three previous posts. Brilliant!

Recipe

NOTE: If you’re not making your own pasta … and really, you don’t have to … buy the lasagna sheets that you don’t have to pre-boil. A few cents more, but really, the convenience is worth it.

-Our roasted vegetables of choice for this lasagna are yellow squash. We sliced it into 1/4-in. slices, lengthwise. Glug of evoo, salt and pepper, and roast at 425F for 6 minutes each side.When done, set aside.

-Roasted cherry tomato sauce – just as the recipe says. You may want to puree it.

-Homemade pasta … prepare just as the recipe says. Make the sheets to fit half the width of the pan.

We have the sauce, the pasta, the veggies. Oh, wait – one more vegetable.

-Chard. Stem it and then steam it for 1 minute, 2 minutes max. Let it cool. Squeeze the water out of it. And chop. Set aside.

-Put the ricotta into a medium bowl. Add the chopped chard, nutmeg and a pinch of salt and combine. That’s your cheese filling.

Now it’s time to assemble! It’s all about layers. Get the layers, get the lasagna.

-Lay down a thin layer of sauce. Then top with two lengths of pasta sheets. If you crank out the pasta  as you go, you can cut the pasta to the correct length. Top the pasta with some roasted vegetables. For the squash, we fit 4-5 lengths of squash per layer.

-Next, spread some of the ricotta – as much as you’d like – over the veggie layer. Dot with slices of mozzarella. A little cheese, a lotta cheese – whatever you want.

-Add another layer – sauce, pasta, veggies, cheeses. You can make as many layers as you have ingredients for. Three or four is typical. Just keep going until you fill the dish and have absolutely no more room.

-When you are done layering, you’re going to top with a layer of pasta, then a thin coating of sauce. Then top with as much mozzarella cheese as you like. And a dusting of parmesan, too. Done!

-Cover with aluminum foil. Pop into a 375F oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 15ish, or until the sauce and cheese are bubbling.

-Let it sit for 10 minutes.

Try not to make a pig of yourself at the dinner table. Really, you’re better than that.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

August 14, 2011 § 5 Comments

I’m telling you, some gardening years are better than others. A string of spectacular harvest sseasons from my small urban plot have made this summer a “meh” – that’s on a scale from “it sucks” to “this is freakin’ amazing.”

My cherry tomatoes—I’m not thrilled with them. They’re growing okay. I just don’t like the fruit. Too big. Too thick-skinned. And the flavor fell flat. Cherries are supposed to poppable, add a brightness to a salad. These? Meh.

When life gives you lemons, right?

So, these cherry tomatoes went straight into sauce. Roasting  brings out the sweetness they lack when just sitting on your salad.

Step 1: Put about 2-3 lbs. cherry tomatoes in a cast iron skillet. Add a couple of tablespoons evoo, sprinkle with kosher salt and give it a couple of turns of fresh ground pepper.

Cherry tomatoes seasoned and waiting to be popped into a 425F oven.

Pop it into a 425F oven for about 40 min. or until the tomato skins start bursting and the liquid starts bubbling. Let it bubble along for a total time of about 1 hour.

Cherry tomatoes after an hour of roasting

Step 2: Your gonna get lots of juice from the tomatoes, and you want to let it cook off. And you also want the flavor of the tomatoes come through more and get the sauce a bit thicker. So, take the skillet out of the oven and put it on the stove top over a low flame. Add 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic. Add some herbage; whatever you like. Fresh thyme or basil. Will it top a pizza? Add some chopped fresh oregano. 2Tbs is about right. Taste it for seasoning and add salt/pepper if you need to. And cook loooow and sloooooow. How long? Until enough liquid has cooked out to get the sauce to the thickness you like. In my case, 2 hours.

After two hours simmering on the stove top.

How easy was that? You might find it still a bit too chunky to spread on a pizza or spoon onto layers of lasagna. Whir it up in a blender or use an immersion blender if you like.

And how sweet is this, uh? You may never go back to plum tomatoes for sauce again.

 

 

Lime-Agave Vinaigrette

August 11, 2011 § 2 Comments

Life, sometimes, can get a bit bitter. Thank goodness we have sweets.
Mary Poppins was right about that spoonful of sugar—it helps pretty near everything taste A-okay.

Like my lettuce, for instance. I am still harvesting lettuce from the garden—in mid August! How crazy is that? But, well … it’s up and bolted on me. That’s a gardening term that means that nice compact head of leaf lettuce has sent up a flowering stalk, dragging all those individuals leaves with it. Worse yet, the leaves become bitter.

Now, typically you’d give up the ship at that point. Chuck it to the chickens, maybe. Not Dainty. Waste not, want not. Right? I mean, this’ll be my lunch for the next four days, come on! Keep the bitter stuff!

But I gotta sweeten it up. Maybe a salad dressing …

And then I remember a vinaigrette Giada DeLaurentis made on the Today Show two years ago. Lemon dressing with sweetness brought to you by agave nectar. Pretty darned good, I have to say.

Open hydrator drawers in fridge. No lemon. But there’s a big plump lime?

Lime-Agave Vinaigrette
3 Tbs lime juice
3 Tbs evoo
1.5 Tbs agave nectar

Combine. Shake. Season if you want, or just sprinkle a light dusting of salt and pepper over your salad.

Lime-Agave Vinaigrette

Lime-Agave Vinaigrette

Hits the sweet spot without the sugar.

Pasta Dough: It’s Easier Than You Think

August 10, 2011 § 5 Comments

Mmmm … fresh pasta.

Fresh linguini

Fresh linguini - the flour lightly dusts the pasta, keeping it from sticking together.

Have you ever had it? I mean fresh pasta. The kind someone has just made right there in the room. Not the stuff you buy in the refrigerated section of your local grocer. Okay, so that’s not dry pasta—but it’s not fresh fresh either.

What? Are you saying, “I don’t have time for that … “? Or, “Oh, that’s soooo complicated …”? It’s not. If you liked to make mud pies as a kid (and who didn’t?), then you can make fresh pasta.

Of course, I say this not having made fresh pasta myself. Jennifer is the pasta maker in our household. And she makes it look easy. She says it’s because it is easy. She first made it in a cooking class last year, and the technique below is from that class. The recipe comes from The Food Network’s Anne Burrell.

Try it. The only way you can screw it up is by making a horrible sauce.

Homemade Pasta Dough (from Anne Burrell)

  • 1 pound all-purpose flour (get yourself a kitchen scale!)
  • 4 whole eggs plus 1 yolk
  • 1/4 cup evoo
  • kosher salt – about 1 Tbs
  • 1-2 Tbs water or more

-Set yourself up on a clean and dry work surface with plenty of room. Pile the dry ingredients (flour and salt) right on the work surface, and create a hole or well in the flour, making a doughnut-shaped ring about 8 inches wide.

-Crack all of the eggs and the individual yolk (I always do this in a separate bowl to catch the occasional shell) and add these to the well along with the wet ingredients—olive oil and water.

-Use a fork to beat the wet ingredients together. Then, you’re going to pull in the flour bit by bit into the egg mixture. I say bit by bit because you don’t want to pull too much of the flour into the center and break the ring’s side walls. Then your egg leaks out and it’s a big mess. As soon as the egg mixture has enough flour in it is no longer runny, you can put aside the fork and get your hands in there. Your hands are the best tools to combine everything completely.

forming pasta dough

Incorporating the flour into the egg mixture

-When the mixture is completely combined, it’s time to start kneading the dough. Use your muscles! Get the heels of your palms in there push the dough away from you, stretching it but not tearing it. Push, fold, turn. Push, fold, turn. Put your weight into it, girl! Your goal is to create a dough that feels smooth and looks smooth. Warning: Eat an energy bar beforehand because you’re going to be kneading for 15-20 minutes. No kidding. But doing this by hand is the best way.

kneading pasta dough

Knead it, girl!

-When you start thinking that perhaps you’re done, take a knife and slice the dough in half. Look at the inside of the dough—does it have small bubbles in it? Yes? Then keep kneading. You want the dough to be smooth throughout.

pasta dough

-Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 1 hour. Put it in the fridge until you’re ready to use, or use it right away.

What next? Get rolling! Usually this is done with a pasta roller. There are ones you can attach to your counter and crank by hand. We have one that fits on our Kitchen-Aid and turns automatically—so much easier. Either way, what you want to do is cut that ball of dough into quarters or eighths, pat it into a bit of a square shape of even thickness, add a touch of flour to make it less sticky, and run it through the pasta roller starting on the thickest setting—usually the number 7. Roll it through twice, then take it down one thickness, and so on, patting it with flour now and then. We usually go down pretty thin, usually to a number 2. As it gets thinner, it gets looonger. We usually cut it in half to make it more manageable, especially if you are cranking the roller by hand.

Going through the roller you end up with a flat sheet. Perfect for making lasagna or raviolis. Or, take that sheet and run it through the spaghetti or linguini cutter (an add-on that usually comes with the roller). Separate the noodles, lay them on a platter, sprinkle with dusting of flour, and toss to prevent sticking. Do one flat sheet at a time this way, each time dusting with flour.

And to cook, all you have to do is drop that pasta in boiling water for 2 minutes, max.

Now, that’s great pasta.

Beets: From Seeds to Roasted

August 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

I love me some beets. Love love love.

I know beet love is not a universal thing. I don’t belittle that. There are reasons to not like them. Sometimes there’s a metallic dirt after-taste. They can stain your hands—and cutting boards and dish towels—like you just murdered someone and stored them in the freezer. Then there’s that whole … nah, I’m not gonna go there.

My first beet love was a dish an old roommate would make in summer. Fresh, julienned beets with minced garlic, evoo and balsamic. Had a real nice crunch. Tasty, but only if you’re not dating someone.

Jennifer has an awesome beet soup – that’s my second beet love. It has the kitchen sink in it, too. I don’t want to hold out on you, but when the next beet harvest comes along, it’ll go up on Dainty. That okay?

My daily beet love goes out to the roasted variety. Simple. Delicious. And really quite beautiful.

New to Dainty!

Yeah for new! I’m including growing instructions. Yup, that’s what I said. This urban farmer is going to show that you—yes, you, city kid!— can take some seeds, grow them, and put them on your tasty table.

Growing Beets

What you’ll need: Beet seeds. A patch of soil/dirt, or a big, wide, deep container. Some way to water them.

Step 1: Beets can take cool weather. And hot weather, too. Another reason to love them. Get out in the garden early in spring—Aprilish for New England peeps—to sow your seeds. OR, start some seeds in early- to mid-August (ahem, NOW!).

Step 2: Beets’ big bulbousness develops underground, in case you didn’t know. It helps if your soil (I never called it dirt, but you know what I mean) isn’t rock hard. Is your soil like cement? Then go to the DIY store and buy a bag of “garden soil,” spread it on top of your “dirt,” and dig it in with a shovel or hoe. Sounds like work … it is! Don’t worry, it doesn’t take long.

Step 3: Beet seeds. Never beet “seedlings” because root vegetables (like beets and carrots) don’t like to be moved once they begin to grow. So, get yourself some. There’s all different types. Choose whichever tickles your tastebuds.

Step 4: Sow the seeds according to the seed packet instructions. Here’s a tip: Plant them in several rows maybe 6 in. apart and in a chess board-type pattern. You can squeeze more in the space that way.

Step 5: Water the seeds in … gently. And keep the soil moist as they germinate.

Step 6: Now, you’re going to wait weeks and weeks … watering and even fertilizing with an all-purpose fertilizer (go to the store and ask for it – you’ll get something good). Your seedlings may be too close together. And when that happens, the beets under the ground kind of grow into each other. It’s ok to sacrifice some of the smaller seedlings. If one seedling is too close to another, just pull it up and discard.

Just a warning: If you spot something on your beet leaves that look like random squiggly lines, you’ve got a pest called Leafminer. These little guys tunnel between the top and bottom of the leaf surface. Crazy! They are the bane of my spring garden—because they also love spinach and chard. If you spot a leaf with these markings, remove it … from the entire garden! Put it in the trash. Do not compost. You want these suckers dead and gone far away. You’ll eat those beet tops later … or the chard or the spinach. You don’t want these guys getting to it first, do you? If you are so inclined, look along the squiggly line and you just might be able to spot the white-ish larva. It’s really gross. Okay, on second thought, don’t look.

Step 7: As your beets get bigger—yay, how awesome is that?!—they may push themselves a bit above ground. Just lightly cover with some surrounding soil to keep the beet covered. Don’t want it to get sunburned, right?

Step 8: Harvest! Pull those beets up whenever you want. You can get a good idea of the size by taking your finger and going around the top of the beet under the soil. After a few months you’ll have small beets that will be good for pickling. Three months, and you’ll get a decent beet—the size you’ll see at a market. Don’t go for massive. No one needs massive beets.

Beets and chard

Beets! and chard, too.

Step 9: Time to roast!

Roasted Beets

  • beets, 3-4
  • olive oil
  • course salt, pepper

-Set oven to 425F. Cut off a 1 ft. length of aluminum foil, place in a cast iron pan.

-Wash beets. Cut off tops just above beet. Reserve beet tops for … well, you can saute them for pasta or as a side dish …

-Arrange beets on the foil. Glug olive oil on top of each beet – don’t need a whole lot. Sprinkle with salt and a turn of pepper. Fold foil around the beets so they are snug in the packet. You’ll want the moisture to stay inside.

beets

Beets oiled and seasoned

-Slide into the oven. Cook 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the beets. When are they done? When you can just insert a paring knife deep into its heart.

-When the knife slides in, remove the pan. Let cool until the beets can be handled. Actually, just wait until they are room temp. The skins of beet will be soooo much easier to remove when they are completely cool. And then just rub off the skins! For a cool visual, you can keep the short tops on the beet and rub the rest of the skin away if you want.

Beets, cooling.

Beets, cooling.

What to do next? Store in sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Cube or slice and eat with salads. Goat cheese is in love with beets, too, so be sure to pair them whenever you can.

Peeled beets

Naked beets, ready to be sliced or cubed. How beautiful!

Beets on a salad

Roasted beets are fabulous on a salad.

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