Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Golden beets with beet greens, farro, guanciale, garden herbs and lemon

Here's a recipe for a salad I made using some ingredients I picked up from the farmers market and the community garden this weekend. The main ingredients for this salad are farro and golden beets. I like to use golden beets for a dish like this because they are a little less sweet, so they don't overpower the other ingredients, and they won't stain every other element of the dish red, so the presentation will be nicer. Farro has a nice, nutty flavor that goes well with the beets.

1 cup farro
2-3 medium golden beets with greens
1/4 cup diced guanciale
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup+1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp mustard
1 Tbsp chives, minced
1 tsp mint, chopped
1 tsp oregano, chopped
1 tsp tarragon, chopped
1 tsp dill, chopped
salt, pepper

Srubs the beets clean. Make a foil envelope for the beets, and roast with 1 Tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper. I roasted them for 1 hour at 400F, and I thought they could have used at least another 15 minutes in the oven. While the beets are roasting, remove the thick stems from the beet greens and thoroughly rinse them. Bring about 2 cups of water or chicken or vegetable stock to a boil and add the farro. Let the farro simmer over medium heat for 25 minutes (longer if not semi-pearled). Blanch the beet greens in heavily salted water for about 1 minute. Remove, and immediately rinse with cold water or place in an ice bath. Next, saute the cubed guanciale (about 1 cm cubes) over medium heat to crisp up and render some of the fat. Once the fat has begun to render, and one smashed garlic clove to the pan. Remove the crisped guanciale, and add the beat greens. Saute the greens in the rendered fat until they are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, mustard, and a smashed garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper and remove the garlic cloves.

When the farro is done cooking, drain in a collander. When the beats are done (a knife should slide to the center with little resistance), peel and cut into 1/2 in dice. Combine all the ingredients while they are still warm so the farro and beets absorb more of the flavor from the vinaigretter. Chill or serve at room temperature. This can be made a few hours before serving.

If I make this again, I might try adding toasted almonds or feta to give the dish another dimension. A little bitterness from parsley would have been nice as well, but I was limited to the herbs that were growing in the garden around the corner and, sadly, no one planted parsley this year. I also might dial back the dill a little. Dill has a pretty assertive flavor that can dominate the other herbs in the dish.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Monkfish with grilled asparagus and romesco

Here is yet another dish from the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. The recipe calls for baby leeks, but since those are hard to find, I went with asparagus instead. I used the leftover romesco sauce from the previous blog post, and then I pan roasted the monkfish with rosemary, thyme, and garlic. I bought the monkfish at Isaacson and Stein, where they just sell whole monkfish tails, and they leave it to the customer to actually fabricate the fish. Monkfish are really ugly, prehistoric looking creatures, and a giant fish doesn't really yield that much edible meat. Monkfish are almost all head and jaws connected to a tail that propels said head and jaws towards its pray. With most fish, you can fillet them fairly easily with a couple quick swipes of the knife down each side of the spine. Monkfish are not so simple. I have seen monkfish fabrication as a challenge on Top Chef before, but I had never actually taken apart a monk fish myself.

To prepare the monkfish, remove it from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking to let it get to room temperature. Season with salt and pepper, and then sear over high heat in a pan with canola oil for a few minutes (after about 3 minutes check to see if a crust has formed). Add 2 tablespoons of butter turn the heat to medium (you don't want to burn the butter) and, once melted, tilt the pan and baste the monkfish as it is frying. Once one side is nicely browned, turn the monk fish, add a couple sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and garlic along with another tablespoon of butter. Continue to fry/baste for another 3 to 5 minutes until the fish is cooked through and a golden crust has formed on the other side of the fish.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Romesco sauce

Last week, we had a great dinner with friends at Mercat a la Planxa (definitely get the tasting menu if you go there), and, being a Spanish restaurant, romesco sauce made more than one appearance in our tasting menu. While I've made several variations of roasted red pepper sauces before, I had never actually made this classic sauce. It's pretty easy to make, and, as this dinner shows, it goes well with quite a few dishes. Here, I served it two ways: with asparagus topped with a fried egg, and with lamb shoulder chops.The lamb shoulder chops had been marinated in a vacuum sealed bag with some oil that had been infused with garlic, pepper, bay lead, rosemary and thyme. Both the lamb and the asparagus were cooked "a la plancha" on my big cast iron griddle.

You can look up several variations of romesco sauce online. Here's what I ended up making, based on the ingredients I had on hand.
2 red bell peppers
4 plum tomatoes
1/4 onion
2 piquillo peppers
1 ancho chile
4 garlic cloves
1T red wine vinegar
1T sherry vinegar
1/4 c olive oil
2-3 inches of a bagguette, crust removed, cubed, and toasted.
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 tsp paprika
salt, pepper to taste

Half and core the tomatoes and bell peppers. Cover the tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with some a couple tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400F for an hour. Let cool and remove the skin from the tomatoes and peppers. Meanwhile, soak the ancho chile in warm water to rehydrate. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and season to taste with salt and pepper. Make sure to toast the almonds, otherwise the nutty flavor of the almonds (which is the thing that makes romesco sauce special) won't come through.