Lately I have been bracing myself for the onslaught of summer produce that I know is on its way. I can see it each time I walk outside, the garden has entered a full on frenzy. Our tomato plants are working overtime to peek over the top of our six foot fence. The cucumbers have hatched a sinister plot to overtake the pepper plants, who I have to defend daily from suffocation by wandering tendril. The cantaloupes are mapping out an escape plan, vines creeping through their chicken wire cage out onto the driveway. And our cilantro has shot up like a confused Christmas tree, proud, towering and yet, strangely frazzled.
Next year we may need a larger plot to give our bounty ample room. And yet, even as I plan a bigger an better schema for next summer, I have no idea how we will make our way through the bushels and baskets of tomatoes the garden will bestow upon us, let alone the gaggle of cucumbers and armfuls of watermelon. Oh, and did I forget to mention, the weekly boxful of beautiful produce from our local CSA? It is going to be a busy summer.
I have already admitted defeat. The white flag is up, I know we simply cannot keep pace with the amount of veggies pouring in, and so, I will turn to the old methods of preserving and pickling. Putting up the wares we cannot consume in time. This summers posts will surely be full of recipes for pickles, jams, sauces and pastes. As I learn from my own experiments, I will share with you all the insight I gain on how to make the summers bounty stretch into the winter.
And so, without further ado, I give you the first installment in a series of summer preservation techniques. This one could not be more straight forward, it is derived from an old school recipe for pickled beets but could not be further from the squishy sugary salad bar fare found in grocery stores and low end buffets across America. The ginger brings a brightness to these semi sweet pickles that drives it into an entirely different direction. Be careful not to overlook the beets, too hard and they will be unpalatable, but they need a bit of bite to provide toothsome texture and to preserve their beautiful earthy flavor.
I have included some pieces of chopped beet stem in the recipe below, it is likely that you will need to buy beets with the greens to accomplish this. Simply snip off the beet greens and reserve them for another use. The greens taste great julienned (around 1″ width to the julienne) and sautéed in olive oil with a hint of minced garlic or, you guessed it, ginger. They are far more tender than collards, and slightly more so than Kale, so when sautéing them, tread lightly, or they will be reduced to overlooked mush.
Ginger Pickled Beets
4-5 Medium Beets With Stems
3 Inch Piece of Ginger Peeled and Julienned
1/2 C Sugar
2 TSP Kosher Salt
1-2 TBSP Whole Coriander Seeds
6 Whole Peppercorns
To prepare the beets wash the stems and set them aside to dry. Peel the beets. If you want to preserve your pretty hands and protect them from turning all red and splotchy you may want to wear gloves when handling them. The photo of the cutting board above bears witness to the staining power of this brilliant vegetable.
Cut the beets into 1/4 inch discs and set aside. Cut stems into 1/2 inch pieces and reserve.
Bring one cup of water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add beets and lower to a simmer, cook 3 mins, add stems and cook another min or two or until beets are just tender. Remove from stove.
Place peppercorns, ginger, and coriander seeds in a quart sized ball jar with a tight lid. Pack beets in along with their liquid. Allow to cool before lidding. Top with lid, seal tightly and turn upside down. Let sit for another hour or so before refrigerating. The beets will keep well for about 2 weeks in the fridge. The make great accompaniments to juicy summer burgers and are stunning on salads with avocado and crumbled blue cheese.
Those who know me know I love carrots. Carrots of all shapes, varieties, colors – I love them all equally. I love that they are so savory and yet when cooked, release an amazing amount of sugar. I love how they impart an essential and irreplaceable earthy sweetness on broths and stews. I love the sound, the snap, they make when you crunch them between your teeth. I love them so much that I once ate enough carrots to tint my skin (mainly my face and hands but especially the webbing between each finger) orange. I was ushered to the doctor by my mother who was highly concerned at my fake-tan-ish glow, and told I would need to go cold turkey on my favorite vice for a while.
Perhaps it is the season, there aren’t a lot of enticing veggies around at this time of year, but I have been back on my “drug” of choice lately, it makes part of my (almost) nightly post-gym snack of carrots, raisins, and a bit of yogurt or turkey. I have, luckily, learned some restraint over the years, while the carrot habit has returned, the hue has not. And my favorite snack has found its way into other dishes as well. This last weekend Dustin and I took on the rather spicy carrot salad featured in my one of my favorite cookbooks, “Plenty” by Yatam Ottolenghi. The salad reminds me of one we frequently ordered at the middle eastern restaurant on the University of Delaware campus where Dustin and I had our first date. The al dente carrots mix with the herbs and spices to form a zesty salad that makes a nice side for grilled meats, a zingy addition to salads, and a great stand alone snack.
Carrots are, unsurprisingly, quite good for you. Carrots are notoriously high in beta carotene, and powerful anti-oxidants. Carrots are also quite rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and serve as a much needed source of fiber. Carrots can be grown nearly year round and are one of the most predominantly consumed vegetables in the US. China is the world’s leading grower of carrots but they have been widely cultivated in Europe since the 15th century. The original varieties grow in Europe were primarily red, purple, and yellow heirloom varieties. Carrots provide the most nutrients when eaten shortly after harvesting. Look for carrots that are firm and free of splits, preferable with the greens still in tact as the greens are an excellent indicator of freshness. The greens are indeed edible and can be cooked along side other dark leaf greens in traditional “greens” dishes. The greens should be detached from the roots before storing in the refrigerator as the tops will wick away moisture from the carrots themselves.
Spicy Carrot Salad, Adapted From”Plenty”by Yatam Ottolenghi
2 LB Carrots
1/3 Cup Olive Oil, Plus Extra for Serving
1 Medium Onion, Finely Chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, Crushed and Chopped
2-3 Medium Green Chilies, Finely Chopped (Seeds Removed for Less Heat)
2 Green Onions, Finely Chopped
1/8 TSP Ground Cloves
1/4 TSP Ground Ginger
1/2 TSP Ground Coriander
3/4 TSP Ground Cinnamon
1 TSP Hot Smoked Paprika
1 TSP Ground Cumin
1 TBSP White Wine Vinegar or Sherry Vinegar
1 Chopped Preserved (or Pickled) Lemon
1 1/4 Cups Cilantro, Rinsed and Chopped
Ground Sumac for Garnish
1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt
Peel the carrots and cut them into fun shapes of equivalent size, approximately 1/2 inch thick. Place in a large saucepan of salted water and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes until just tender. Drain and leave out.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan and saute the onion for 12-15 minutes until soft and lightly caramelized. Add the carrots to the pan, followed by the remaining ingredients except cilantro and yogurt. Remove the pan from heat, season with a hefty dose of salt, stir everything together well and allow to cool.
Before serving, stir in the cilantro, adjusting the seasoning to taste in necessary. Serve as a delicious side dish or fresh crunchy snack, along with a spoonful of yogurt, shake or two of ground sumac, a drizzle of olive oil, and extra cilantro.
In my mind there are few things more perfect than a french tart filled with peak season vegetables. And there are few things that give me more joy to pull out of the oven. That is what I am here to talk to you all about today. A tartilicious creation of perfect proportions, and one that I think you should try out in your own kitchen. Before we get too far in this dialogue, I will admit that, yes, a proper french tart can be a bit of a time suck to produce. However, like bread, most of this time is down time when little active work needed. In fact, in some ways, it is even simpler to produce than bread as the crust can chill in the refrigerator for an extended period of time, and the success of the tart does not require that you are in a specific place at a specific time to conduct the next step of the process. Additionally the tart crust recipe listed below produces not one but two tart crusts, so you can use one for this tart and reserve a second for a later use.
While we are on the subject of peak season produce, I want to talk to you about the two, slightly unusual, vegetables used in this dish. Lets start at the source. As I may have mentioned before, I am not the biggest fan of the large Downtown Farmers market, most of the vendors there seem – well, not so farm like. It has always stuck me as more of a big farm farmers market, where the largest of the area’s farms come to sell truck loads of mass produced fruits and veggies. But, after a recent Saturday morning trip to the downtown venue I realized that there are some real gems at the market that I had not noticed before.
The tatsoi is from one of my favorite farms in the Nashville area, Devlin Farms, which also makes an appearance at the weekly east side farmers market on our block. Dustin and I have a particular penchant for greens and I was excited to see this varietal I had never from one of my favorite growers. I didn’t hesitate to buy a bunch and took the green goodies home in hopes of transforming them into some delicious recipe. As it turns out, tatsoi tastes quite similar to one of my favorite leafy green vegetables, mustard greens. Like mustard greens the tatsoi is relatively quick cooking, especially when compared with tougher greens like collards.
But the true star of the show in this dish, and the highlight of my Saturday morning trip to the market were the Sunchokes. As of late, I have been visiting a new stand that makes an appearance at the market on saturday mornings. This small farm reminds me so much of the CSA I joined back in Philly, their produce is so clearly small farm produced, each week new veggies make an appearance picked just at the peak of ripeness. This week, sitting in a basket at the front of the stall was a grouping of odd shaped, craggy tubers. I asked the stall owner what they were and he explained to me that they were jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, a North American root vegetable that is a member of the daisy family. I had had sunchokes in purees at upscale restaurants before and remembered that they were potato like with a slightly sweet and distinctly nutty flavor. I bought just under a pound and took them home to plot out a plan of attack.
Scouring through stacks of cookbooks for recipes incorporating sunchokes, I came across a recipe in the “Ottolenghi” cookbook for a sunchoke tart with kale and feta and it stuck me that I could use both of my farmers market finds to make one of my all time favorite treats, the savory tart. And, TADA, we come full circle, to this recipe below for a french style, quiche-like tart which marries seasonal nutty sunchokes and herbaceous tatsoi into a single cohesive dish with relative easy. I highly suggest you try it out at home, it is simply outstanding when paired with a simple salad with a light vinaigrette dressing. I warn that you though, that you may get hooked, as I have, on making tarts – but luckily, your family and friends will love you for it.
Sunchoke, Tatsoi, and Feta Tart
Start with the flaky pastry dough – this will require making the dough, chilling it, rolling it out and forming the crust, and chilling again before baking. Start this one day ahead of when you want to serve the tart.
Flaky Pastry Dough
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 TSP Salt
1 TSP Baking Powder
12 TBSP Unsalted Butter, Cut into 12 Pieces
2 Lg Eggs
Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.
Add butter and pulse in 1-second intervals until the butter appears in small pieces that are no more than 1/4 inch across.
Add eggs and pulse until the dough almost forms a ball (don’t over do it – over mixing will make the dough tough and less flaky)
Invert the dough onto a floured work surface and gently press into a cohesive mass.
Divide the dough in half and gently flatten each half into a disc (again, remembering not to over work the dough here.)
Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (about 3 hours.) Dough keeps in the refrigerator for around 3 days and can be frozen to use at a later date for about 3 months.
Once dough has chilled remove it from the refrigerator, unwrap it and place it on a floured work surface. Roll the dough into a large circle, being careful to flip the dough and re-flour after every few strokes. The circle should be about 13 inches in diameter.
Gently fold the dough in half and slide your hands under it. Lift and place atop the pan. Unfold the dough onto the pan. Evenly fir the dough into the pan making sure it is flat against the bottom. Fold the extra dough in against the sides, if there is a lot of extra in a single area trim it so that there is only about 1/2 inch hanging off the edge before turning it in to reinforce the sides.
Wrap and chill for at least 6 hours – if you have the type of tart pan that has a removable bottom – be careful how you carry it as the bottom will pop out and create a mess. If you have room for it in the fridge, you can place the pan on a baking sheet which will make moving it a lot easier.
While the dough is chilling start on the filling. (I’m quite the poet aren’t I)
3/4 Lb Sunchokes, Scrubbbed (not peeled) and Sliced into 1/2 cm Slices
1/2 a Large Bunch of Tatsoi, Chopped Crosswise into 1.5 Inch Strips and Then Halved Down the Center
1 Small to Medium Yellow Onion Sliced
2 Cloves Garlic Smashed and Roughly Chopped
1 1/2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 TSP Kosher Salt, Divided
1/2 TSP Freshly Cracked Black Pepper, Divided
1 Cup Half and Half
2 TBSP Creme Fraiche
2 Eggs Beaten
1/2 Cup of Feta, Broken into Small Pieces
2 TBSP Flat Leaf Parsley, Thick Stems Trimmed off, Chopped
When the tart shell has about 30 mins left to chill preheat the oven to 375 degrease.
Place sunchokes in a large sauce pan, cover with water and bring to a boil until softened but still toothsome, don’t overcook – they will become rather mushy in the center.
Drain and place in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
Set a large frying pan over medium het. Once the pan is hot add olive oil and heat. Add onions and sautee until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sautee until fragrant about 30 seconds. Add tatsoi and toss to combine. Cook until just wilted, remove the mixture from the pan and set aside.
Mix together half and half, creme fraiche, and eggs, add a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.
Remove tart shell from the fridge and place on the counter, unwrap. Layer (drained) sunchokes, feta, parsley, and tatsoi on the bottom of the tart shell. Pour the filling over the top being careful not to entirely submerge the filling, you want to be able to see specks of greens and bits sunchokes peeking over the surface of the egg mixture.
Place the tart, on a baking sheet and bake for 15 mins. Remove from the oven and carefully tent with tin foil, making sure to cover the edges of the crust with the foil to protect them from burning. Place back in the oven for an additional 30 mins.
Once the tart filling has set, and the tart is no longer wet in the center, it is done. Place on a cooking rack to cool and serve warm.
It is just so good that I recommend you try to remember what your kindergarten teacher taught you, and share with others.