Thursday, February 11, 2016

Reverse Engineered Beets

Beet, Brookfield Farm, Amherst MA (photo: Mary A. Nelen)
The night before last......
we ate at a new place near us in Kinderhook. On special was a thing of beauty and wonder, a thing I had to try in my own kitchen. This is referred to by a man I know as "Reverse Engineering." Whenever he eats something in a restaurant that he find particularly enjoyable, his wife Robbin goes home and figures out how to cook it, right away. Tom calls it “Reverse Engineering” but I call it love. 

The thing of beauty and wonder was Beet Tartare, a jeweled little tuffet of beets on a bed of arugula. It had a sweetness and a velvet, pliant mouthfeel. Where was the sweetness coming from? Perhaps the frozen earth prompting the beet to produce sugar? Reduced balsamic? Maple Syrup? Pomegranate seeds? And the pliancy? These certainly weren't "tartare" raw beets, or were they?


Reverse engineering began with googling "beets" and "raw" and "salad" and consulting cookbook indexes for “beetroot." What resulted was a co-mingling of technique and what I had in my larder. My recipe for Beet Tartare At Home is restaurant perfect. It uses roasted beets, chopped almonds, onion, garlic and a bit of balsamic/fig syrup from the cupboard. (It must be said that "tartare" is a misnomer. The first taste experience of this dish was sweetness, the kind that comes from roasting winter beets.)


As for the shape of the beet thing of beauty and wonder, I didn’t have molds to create a disk like the one used in the restaurant. Instead I employed those little white dishes that are nice for salt and stuff. Starts with a C? 


You get the picture....So I packed the red mixture into those little white dishes that start with a C and left them in the fridge over night. The next day around dinner time I coaxed the mixture out of the little white dishes....ramekin! (Not something that starts with a C.) 

I placed the each beat disk (thee out of four held their shape) on a little bed of arugula, dressed in oil and white wine vinegar with salt and pepper and then drizzled a bit of balsamic/fig juice on top and it was perfect. Just as good as at the new restaurant, if not, dare I say it, better. 



RECIPE: BEET TARTARE AT HOME

5 medium-sized beets wrapped in foil and roasted
1/2 C olive oil
1/4 C balsamic vinegar or balsamic/fig syrup
1 garlic clove finely chopped
2T onion finely chopped
2 T almonds finely chopped
3 C arugula dressed lightly in oil and vinegar with salt and pepper 
  1. Peel and chop beets into very tiny cubes.
  2. Mix liquids in bowl.
  3. Combine beets, onion, garlic & nuts with liquids in bowl.
  4. Press mixture into buttered ramekins.
  5. Refrigerate overnight or for 4 hours.
  6. Release mixture from ramekins gently. 
  7. Place on a bed of arugula lightly coated with vinaigrette.
  8. Drizzle beets with balsamic vinegar or balsamic/fig juice if you happen to have it.