Flavor Intuition

Sometimes it all comes together. Once you start identifying the quirky  flavors of  individual  veggies…. the real fun begins! You can follow your flavor intuition and create a dish like this one made of beets, carrots and kale, with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and blue cheese crumbles. I am totally hooked!

This recipe uses the kale/chard, beets and carrots from pick-up and serves up a lovely balance of textures, and sweet vs. bitter with the balsamic and blue cheese being key, so don’t leave them out!! This dish makes a beautiful presentation and is probably more “adult”  friendly than kid as the mix of veggies may require a more mature palate.  However, you could serve any one of the veggies individually on the side with butter or a sprinkle of cheese to satisfy the kids. 

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Beets, Carrots and Kale with Balsamic and Blue Cheese
(Serves 4 as a side dish)

4 medium size beets, roasted, skins removed
4 medium/large carrots, washed
16 leaves of kale/swiss chard, stems removed and chopped fine
olive oil and/or bacon fat
unsalted butter
sea salt / pepper
balsamic vinegar
blue cheese,  for crumbling on top

    • If you didn’t pre-roast the beets, cut the stems off, wash and wrap in a foil pouch. Roast for 1 hour in a 400 degree oven. Pull out and allow to cool. Set them aside until you have prepped the carrots and kale.
    • Wash, de-stem and chop the Kale/Swiss Chard leaves finely.
    • Wash the carrots and run thru the processor with the grating blade.
    • When the beets are cool enough to handle, using your fingers just push the skins right off. Pop them into your food processor with the grating blade and grate them.
    • Heat an iron skillet and scoop in 1 Tbs of bacon fat or 2 Tbs of olive oil. Allow the oil to get hot enough that it shimmers, add the kale/chard. Let it fry for about fifteen seconds and then move it around a bit to coat it all, sprinkle on sea salt and let it sit for another 3-4 minutes. It should be bright green. Remove to a platter and set it in the middle of the platter, smoothing it out to be in a round circle. 
    • Once all kale is removed from the pan, heat another tablespoon of olive oil and add the carrots. Allow them to fry for a couple of minutes, grind some pepper over top, move then around and allow them to cook for another minute. Taste them to make sure they are tender, but don’t let them get mushy! Remove and pile them on top of the kale, spreading them out to almost but just short of the edge of the kale layer.
    • Once all carrots are removed from the pan, add 2 Tbs of unsalted butter and allow it to bubble up. Once done bubbling, add the grated beets and spread them in a layer in the pan so they fry up nicely. After 2 minutes, stir them around a bit and test for tenderness. By the way, quite possibly the best treat in the summer CSA world (outside of a properly made tomato sandwich) is fried beets!!! Sprinkle on some salt and the beets go right down the hatch! Sweet and salty!
    • Remove the fried beets and pile them on top of the carrots, again spreading to make a layered dish.
    • Drizzle a good balsamic vinegar over top of the whole dish, and sprinkle on crumbled blue cheese, right away so it melts a bit on the beets. 
    • Enjoy !

Tips for beets:

  • Each week, when your bring home your beets, decide if you have a dish in which to use them and if so, immediately wrap them in a foil pouch and roast them for an hour at 400 degrees. Roasting beets brings out their sweet, earthy flavor and you can almost NEVER go wrong with pre-roasted beets in any recipe.  Additionally, roasting them ahead of time cuts down on cooking time significantly when you add them to a dish.
  • Have you ever tried to peel a raw beet?? Almost impossible! So your choices are to eat them with the skin on, or roast them and slip the skin off in mere seconds.
  • If you don’t know what you are going to do with them on any given week, the good news about beets is that they will remain fresh and edible in your crisper for months. Wack off the stems, wrap them first in a piece of paper towel and then placed in a ziplock. Store in your crisper.

This week my flavor intuition also led me to this simple combination of potatoes and fennel, roasted in the oven. You can serve this for breakfast, lunch or dinner and it will be well received. How about adding chopped herbs or other root veggies?   Follow YOUR flavor intuition!

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Roasted Roots (Potatoes & Fennel)
serves 4

5-6 large potatoes (Groundswell’s potatoes are perfect for this dish!)
1 fennel bulb, stems trimmed off, sliced thin
olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Wash the potatoes, leave the skins on and chop into small pieces. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will cook, so use your best judgement. Place them on a large cookie sheet and drizzle olive oil on top. Using your clean hands, mix the potatoes around until all are coated. Yes, your hands will be oily, but it is faster to wash your hands then another dish and spoon, right?!
Spread the potatoes evenly on the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven on the center rack for 20 minutes. When the time is up, the potatoes should be starting to look crisp and sticking to the pan. Use a metal spatula to move them around and add the thinly sliced fennel. Add a little more oil if needed and mix so the fennel is coated. Place back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, checking to see if they are turning golden brown. When golden brown, pull out and enjoy immediately!

Eggplant is here and it is time for eggplant parmesan!
While I absolutely love eggplant parmesan, every time I make it I vow that I will never make it again, since it takes about a solid 5 hours to make just two pans (one for the night and one for the freezer). If you have ever wondered why your Aunt Tillie’s eggplant parmesan is so heavenly, it is because she is in her kitchen for a day stirring the homemade sauce, cutting, dredging, dipping and frying the eggplant, mixing up the ricotta filling and grating pounds of cheese!! Very labor intensive, super high in fat content and not easy to do with a 4-year-old hanging on your leg screaming “when will it be ready, Mama!”

So this year I decided to construct a dish that would hit the flavor combination, without all of the work and calories. Instead of standing over a pan of frying oil for an hour, I decided to bake the breaded eggplant on cooling racks inserted into cookie sheets, so that both sides would get crunchy. I also decided to skip the ricotta and in exchange for the homemade sauce I used fresh tomato slices. I topped the whole thing with provolone cheese slices, popped it back into the oven to melt and then sprinkled grated parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil on top. It turned into a super delicious, quick and easy dinner, and oddly enough my son asked for it at breakfast the next morning…yes, we did eat eggplant at 7:00AM! 

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Crunchy Eggplant Topped with Tomato and Provolone
(makes enough for 2-3 people)

1 large purple eggplant, washed (NOT peeled) and sliced lengthwise into 1/4″ thick slices
NOTE: 1 medium to large purple eggplant will serve 2-3 people so plan accordingly (you can use any variety of eggplant, I like the larger dark purple ones for this dish because they translate into larger/fewer slices and that means less dipping/breading time than with a bunch of small eggplants)
2 eggs lightly beaten with 1 Tbs water
1/4 cup flour for dredging
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs dried basil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

2 medium size tomatoes, thinly sliced
provolone or mozzarella cheese, sliced 
grated parmesan cheese
fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two cookie sheet pans with cooling racks on top (use the racks you have for cooling cookies, they should fit right inside the cookie sheets). This allows both sides to get crunchy in the baking process. Using a paper towel dipped in olive oil rub the racks so they are lightly greased. This will keep the crust from sticking to the rack when it is time to remove the eggplant.

Slice the eggplant lengthwise so you have large 1/4″ thick slices. You should get about 9 slices out of a medium/large eggplant. Place the flour in a shallow bowl and the eggs/water mixture in another shallow bowl, both large enough to lay the eggplant down flat inside. Then place the breadcrumbs, oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper on a large plate and using a fork mix in the herbs.

Dredge each piece of eggplant in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumb mixture, both sides.  Gently arrange them on the prepared racks/cookie sheets. Place them in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Check to make sure the crust isn’t burning and use a fork to test for tenderness.  They should still have some body to them and not be cooked to mush.  Pull out and place sliced tomatoes on top of each eggplant, topping with slices of cheese and pop them back in the oven for another 2-3 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted. 
Pull them out and plate them; sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan cheese and chopped basil leaves on top (sorry, I took my photo too soon in the process!) and serve immediately!  Did I mention this dish has a fraction of the calories found in traditional eggplant parmesan? (Which simply means we can all eat twice as much!)

For my final two dishes this week, please check back to see my post with recipes for Kholrabi with Blueberries and a Cool Cucumber dish.  Tune in tomorrow!  

Lisa McLean

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This entry was posted in basil, beets, carrots, eggplant, fennel, kale, potatoes, tomato, vegetarian and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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