Pickled Beets Can Be Truly Delicious!

This morning I decided to run over to the Oak Park Farmers Market. I went to the grand opening of  this new farmers’ market, in Sacramento’s oldest neighborhood, last weekend and while the market is small compared to the Sunday market I shop, there’s good variety and the quality of the produce is excellent. The market’s a short drive or bike ride from Midtown, Curtis Park, Elmhurst, or South Sac and there’s plenty of free parking. Please pass the word about this little gem and check it out yourself. You can find more information here; Sacramento Bee or on Facebook under Oak Park Farmers Market (Sacramento).

Today I bought some beautiful little beets, sugar snap peas and some green beans. Shopping done I decided to pop across the street to check out Old Soul Co., the local coffee spot.  After a quick review of the menu board and the baked goods on display I placed my order. In no time at all  I was gathering up my beautifully prepared latte and tempting muffin and heading towards the counter in front of the large windows facing the bustling farmers’ market. There I found the perfect place to settle in and enjoy my morning snack.  Just as I was finishing up my muffin a friend showed up, so we sat and chatted awhile, then headed back across the street to the market to pick up an heirloom tomato plant for her dad.

On the drive home, thinking about the veggies I had bought, I decided I would pickle the beets, something I haven’t done for ages and tomorrow, at the Sunday market, I will get some shitake mushrooms to go with the peas and beans, more about that another time.

This time it’s all about the beets! Beets are one of those vegetables you either love, or you hate. I happen to be in the love group. I even enjoy the greens. In fact, I enjoyed them for lunch today since they don’t tend to keep well. Just sautéed some chopped onion and garlic in a little olive oil, threw in a small handful of currants, added the shredded greens and a touch of water, covered the pan and cooked it until the greens wilted then finished it off with a pat of butter. I served it over brown rice along side a grilled chicken breast. It was love at first bite.

Satisfied after my nice lunch, I started my quest for a pickled beet recipe. After searching my cookbooks and the internet I decided on this one posted in 2006, by Elise, on Simply Recipes. There’s another recipe for beet greens in the recipe below. Just click on the “beet greens recipe” link. It sounds pretty yummy. I’ll have to give it a try.

Pickled Beets

1 bunch (4 or 5) beets

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Salt and pepper

1 Remove greens from beets, save for future use (see beet greens recipe). Cut beets to uniform sizes so they will cook evenly. Steam or boil around 30 minutes or until done. (Alternatively, you can roast them by wrapping them whole in foil and cooking them in a 350°F oven for about an hour.) A fork easily inserted into the beet will tell you if the beets are done or not.

2 Drain the beets, rinsing them in cold water. Use your fingers to slip the peels off of the beets. The peels should come off easily. Discard the peels. Slice the beets.

3 Make the vinaigrette by combining the cider vinegar, sugar, olive oil, and dry mustard. Whisk ingredients together with a fork. The dry mustard will help to emulsify the vinaigrette. Adjust to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine beets and vinaigrette in a bowl and allow to marinate for a half hour at room temperature.

Serves four.

Simple and delicious!

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After 5000 Years We Might Just Be Catching On

Fava beans  have been popular in Mediterranean countries  for over 5000 years. They’re easy to grow and highly nutritious. So why has it taken American’s all this time to finally embrace fava beans as the great food source they are?  Probably much of it has to do with just not knowing about them. I know that’s how it was with me.

I first saw favas at my local Farmers’ Market over five years ago and I was very curious as to what they were and how to cook them so one day I bought some. Then the fun began. How in the heck do I cook them? Being a big fan of Alice Waters, I consulted Chez Panisse Vegetables for the low down. This is my bible, for information on what to do with fresh vegetables. Of course the Internet works too. A Google search will bring up lots of information but Alice is still my go-to-gal. . Favas are a process. First, you string and shuck the beans, then parboil them, and finally you remove the waxy coating. Yes, it’s a process that takes a little time but the rewards for your work are worth it.

Here’s a nice little recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables that I fixed for lunch today.

Fava Bean Ragout

Serves 4 – 6

3 to 4 pounds young fava beans (weight before shucking)

1 large clove garlic

1 small sprig rosemary

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

½ lemon

Shell the fava beans and discard the pods.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the favas, and simmer for 1 minute. Drain and cool them immediately in cold water. Pierce the outer skin with a thumbnail and squeeze each bean out of its skin with thumb and forefinger. Peel and chop the garlic very fine. Strip the rosemary leaves off the sprig and chop very fine.

Put the fava beans in a saucepan with a mixture of half water and half olive oil, enough to barely cover them. Add the garlic and rosemary, and the season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until beans are tender, about 5 minutes, more or less, depending on the beans. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and another grind or two of pepper, and serve.

For my lunch I sautéed about ½ pound sliced Crimini mushrooms in olive oil and added them to the finished ragout then tossed the mixture with some linguini (since that’s what I had on hand) and added some crumbled feta cheese. It was light, tasty and very satisfying.

Tonight while reviewing some of the blogs I follow I came across this terrific post by chef John of Food Wishes. His posts always include a short video. This particular post shows how to prepare fava beans.  While your there check out his recipes and some of his other posts. It’s a great site.

Mother’s Day at the Windsor Farmers’ Market

Like many seasonal markets the Windsor Farmers\’ Market, in Sonoma County, opened it’s season on Mothers Day. They promised  flowers, chocolate and hugs to help celebrate the day, but skies looked dark and ominous as two of my sisters and I drove north towards the market. Would it be a sunny celebration or a wash out? We arrived at the Town Green in Old Downtown Windsor and found parking plentiful and easy. The market set up around two sides of the Town Green, was under sunny skies and bustling with all kinds of folks. We made the rounds, as we like to do,  checking prices and seeing what was available. On the return rounds I decided I really wanted to try a small custard tart and a pumpkin tart from Flour Creations Bakery & Catering. They had many tempting goodies but these simple little beauties were what talked to me. We also tried some incredibly creamy, sweet samples of European Style Organic butter from McClelland\’s Diary. So fresh it reminded me of homemade butter I had tasted in my younger days. Another great marketer was Cackleberries & Hen Fruit Headquarters, AKA:Eggs. No samples here, but the eggs were just plucked from the nest box that morning.

We took a little break midway through our shopping to listen to some great music and enjoy a Mimosa,  which were being sold as part of the celebration festivities. They used Korbel Champagne and fresh squeezed orange juice, so even the Mimosa’s were made from local ingredients and of course, they were very good. After a few toasts to each other and to Mothers everywhere, we went to finish our shopping. The skies at this point were getting very dark, the wind came up and the rain started; first a gentle sprinkle, then a downpour. Having no umbrella, my cover became the Peters\’ Chocolates booth where I huddled and visited with the marketer and another couple and sampled luscious samples. My  sisters were  ahead  of me and took cover in a booth that sold fruits and vegetables. My guess is that their samples weren’t as tempting or as yummy as mine. The downpour didn’t seem to dampen any spirits, in fact I’ll bet quite a few folks met some new friends that day.

I bought some beautiful spring red onions and more Meyer lemons for my current Panna Cotta obsession. I’m zesting them, squeezing them and freezing the zest and juice in 1 cup batches for later use.

The market lived up to it’s promises. We each received a red rose, a tasty little bit of chocolate and a great morning at the market!

If you’re headed up to the Russian River wine area just out of  Healdsburg area on a Sunday, leave a little earlier and and stop by the Windsor Farmers’ Market to check it out and pick up some picnic goodies. You’ll find a beautiful selection of breads, cheese, fresh fruits and veggies. You can also get a nice cup of coffee and enjoy a breakfast burrito or a muffin while you listen to some really great music.

Windsor Farmers’ Market

Old Downtown Windsor – Town Green

Sundays – May – Nov      10 AM – 1PM