A.J. – After weeks of cold dreary winter weather, I thought it would be fun to bring a little sunshine to the table in the form of golden beets. I love how quickly this recipe comes together and what an impact it always makes. I never measure the ingredients so feel free to dress the beets according to your own taste. Have all the ingredients ready then assemble just before serving.
1 large scallion, white and light green part chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Parmigiano Reggiano, for shaving
If beets have their tops still attached, remove, leaving about 1½-inch stems. Scrub beets and place in a pot with water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, 30–40 minutes.
While beets cook, toast walnuts in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until lightly browned; let cool.
Drain and refresh beets under cold water to stop the cooking. Peel and slice very thinly. (This can be done with a knife or mandoline.)
Arrange beet slices in a single layer on a large platter. Sprinkle walnuts and chopped scallion over the beets; season with salt and black pepper to taste. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then shave Parmigiano over the top using a vegetable peeler. Serve immediately.
Beth – In most of our postings we’ve photographed the food props as detail shots and thought it would be fun to capture the assortment of dishware brought for the shoot as a change. By turning the image into black and white, I felt it highlighted the simplicity and beauty of the shapes of these props as well as the composition Maya created.
Maya – When Beth mentioned that AJ would be making a roasted yellow beet salad, I knew that Yellow was going to be the star of the show. I thought of the props as a black and white movie and the yellow beets as the moment where there is suddenly color. Remember in The Wizard of Oz, seeing that brick road and the vivid colors of Oz for the first time after all the black and white? Yes, kind of like that!
So for our two beet shots we have “black and white” surfaces: a light wood for the ingredients shot and a deep, darkened metal for the finished dish. All the other supporting characters– glasses, plates, bowls– lean towards a warm palette to subtly enhance the pop of those golden beets.
A.J. – Don’t be put off by the lengthy ingredient list in this ultimate comfort dish. It is an excellent way to take advantage of winter root vegetables that are packed with great flavor. I’ve added texture by mincing the lamb rather than using ground. If you are short on time, ground lamb can be substituted. Most importantly use good quality lamb. I purchased mine from the Catskill Merino Sheep Farm. They can be found at the Union Square Market on Saturdays. They offer a variety of top quality lamb cuts and sausages that cook up tender and delicious. Most importantly, their sheep are lovingly cared for.
2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup canned San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
1 ¼ cups meat broth
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium turnip, peeled and diced
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½–inch chunks
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
6 tablespoons butter
3 scallions, white and light green part, chopped
⅓ cup milk
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, leek and celery; cook until tender. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add lamb and increase heat to medium high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lamb has lost its raw color. Sprinkle flour over lamb and stir until dissolved. Add tomatoes and simmer briskly for 2 minutes. Add broth, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer 1 hour. Add carrots and turnip; simmer for 1 more hour or until lamb is tender. Remove bay leaf and adjust seasoning.
While the lamb simmers, combine potatoes and parsnips in a large pot. Fill with cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring water to a boil over high heat. Add salt to taste and simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes and parsnips are tender. Meanwhile, combine butter and scallions in a small saucepan; heat until butter is melted and bubbling. Drain potatoes and parsnips, transfer to a large bowl and whip with an electric mixer until almost smooth. Add butter and pour milk into the saucepan; heat until scalded. Continue beating potatoes until smooth; add scalded milk, salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Transfer lamb mixture to a large casserole, top with potato mash and bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until lamb is bubbling and potatoes are golden.
Kira – I’m a big fan of Shepherd’s pie and when I read AJ’s recipe it took me to a very cozy place. In creating an environment for these ingredients, and later the finished dish, I really wanted to capture that sense of hearty, wintery comfort food. The somewhat masculine, dark wood helps anchor us there.
A.J. – Whether you plan to be sitting in front of a television this weekend cheering on your favorite team or relaxing beside a roaring fire, I think you’ll enjoy this very easy to prepare snack.
I always keep a jar of rosemary salt in my pantry. It’s a convenient thing to have on hand when fresh rosemary isn’t available. I sprinkle it over grilled chicken or fish and have stirred it into soups, stews and pasta sauces. So when I recently purchased a bag of popping corn from the Union Square Greenmarket, it occurred to me that my rosemary salt would be the perfect condiment to toss into the steaming hot popcorn along with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil; it was. The recipe below calls for loose popcorn kernels. If your popcorn is on the cob, remove the kernels before proceeding with the recipe.
⅓ cup rosemary needles, washed and thoroughly dried
1 cup coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
⅔ cup popcorn kernels
Combine the rosemary and sea salt in a food processor. Process until finely ground. Transfer the rosemary salt to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Only a small portion of the salt will be tossed with the popcorn. The rest can be reserved for other uses.
Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large heavy pot. Add a few kernels of the popcorn; cover and heat over medium-high heat. When the popping begins, uncover and add the remaining popcorn. Cover and shake the pan back and forth while the corn is popping to keep it from burning. When the popping ends, immediately uncover and transfer the popcorn to a large bowl. Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary salt to taste. Toss the popcorn well.
Store the rosemary salt in a cool, dark pantry. It will keep for several months.
Beth - It’s been a while since we last posted. Time is flying by! This image was styled by Kira Corbin since Bette is away. We love Kira’s sensibility when it comes to composition and props. She brings her own style to the blog.
AJ mentioned the idea of popping popcorn in olive oil finished with rosemary salt for Superbowl fans who might want something a bit more special. I thought it was a great idea and contributed these corncobs, which came from my CSA this past fall. They have been sitting on my coffee table for me to admire and eventually photograph. This is the perfect story to use them for.
A.J. - I’ve never been fond of excessively sweet frosted cakes. Cupcakes, layer cakes and the proverbial birthday cake are not the least bit tempting. But a narrow wedge of a simple buttery cake that has been subtly sweetened and gently flavored makes me weak in the knees. Add a dollop of softly whipped cream and loose all control. This French Chocolate Cake is one of those cakes I just can’t resist. It’s not the type of cake you would find in a French patisserie. It’s a cake that a French housewife would bake at home with very little effort. We’ve dressed it up a bit by topping it with the crème Chantilly and a sprinkle of chopped chocolate. Now try that with your tall cold glass of farm fresh milk!
10 ounces plus 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped
12 tablespoons butter, softened
¾ cup superfine sugar plus 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs, separated
¾ cup cake flour
Pinch of sea salt
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon brandy
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan and line the bottom with around of parchment or wax paper. Butter the paper and lightly coat the pan with cocoa powder.
Place a large stainless steel bowl over a pan of simmering water to create a bain marie or water bath. Add 10 ounces of the chocolate and stir until melted. Remove bowl from top of saucepan, add butter and stir with a whisk until thoroughly blended with chocolate. Whisk in ½ cup of the sugar along with the vanilla extract. Add egg yolks one at a time whisking until blended. Add the flour and salt through a sieve while stirring with a spatula. When the flour is completely incorporated, set mixture aside. Beat egg whites in a large bowl using an electric mixer set a low speed until frothy. Raise speed to medium-high and gradually add the remaining sugar. Continue to beat until egg whites are stiff. Stir about ¼ of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then thoroughly fold in the remaining. Pour the mixture into the prepared spring form pan, smooth the top and bake in the preheated oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool the cake on a rack for 15 minutes then remove the sides of the pan. When the cake is thoroughly cooled invert it to remove the bottom of the spring form pan. Peel away the parchment paper and invert the cake again onto a serving plate.
Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and brandy. Beat with an electric mixer set at high speed until light and fluffy. Spread the cream over the top of the cake and sprinkle with the remaining chopped chocolate.
The extended warm weather we’ve been experiencing brought an unexpected mingling of summer and fall vegetables to my neighborhood farmer’s market last week. We thought we would offer you a recipe to take advantage of the remaining zucchini and eggplant you might still be tempted to purchase before they are gone until next summer.
¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus additional for sprinkling
¼ cup tepid water, plus an additional 3 tablespoons, if needed
Cut zucchini and eggplant into ½-inch thick sticks. Fill a large pot with enough grape seed oil to come half way up the sides (use a deep fryer, if available). Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Whisk the flour, eggs, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup water in a medium bowl until well blended. Add enough of the remaining water until the mixture resembles a thin pancake batter. When the oil reaches 350-degrees on a deep-fry thermometer, dip veggies into the batter and fry until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately with lemon wedges.