Well, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve had the chance to post a new recipe up here. Pardon me! It has been a crazy few months full of fun projects, including a steady stream of photo work and some recipe testing for Bar Tartine’s new upcoming cookbook (more on that in the months to come, trust me, it’s going to be totally fresh and unique).
I’ve finally come up for some air and have just the recipe to make it up to you! I’ve had this Roasted Beet Hummus in my back pocket for ages. (Sorry for holding out on you.) You are going to fall in love with it.
A single roasted beet brings an unexpected va-va-voom to your ordinary hummus. Rich, velvety, earthy, and sweet. And that color. Hello, gorgeous! This is a party-perfect dip. It is so easy and utterly impressive. Seriously, people will flip out.
I just can’t resist that gorgeous fuchsia hue of beets. It’s the perfect pink, I think. It’s not demure, or babyish. It’s outspoken. Assertive. Confident.
I also happen to love the sweet, earthy flavor of beets. So when I saw that beets were one of the four ingredients I had to work with for McCormick’s Go 4 Gourmet campaign I was, well, tickled (pink).
The other three ingredients? Crushed rosemary, balsamic vinegar, and Arborio rice.
As soon as the rice came into the picture, I knew what I had to do. Arancini! You all know I love me some cheese-stuffed, breaded and fried rice balls. I fell in love with the real thing in Sicily. I’ve made them NOLA style with jambalaya before. And now, I’m going to turn them pink! Bright, show-stopping, pink.
I’ve turned other things pink before with great success. My favorite beet pasta gets it done by incorporating a roasted beet puree, so that’s where I’ll start.
The very first Valentine’s Day Hua and I spent together, he invited me over to his apartment and cooked for me for the first time. I still remember, he made me teryaki salmon and baby bok choy (yeah, knew he was a keeper then). We ate at his coffee table, sitting on big throw pillows, and tried to be coy as one does only a few months into a relationship.
We’ve certainly come a long way. We survived a cross-country relationship. Flew way past the nervous flirting stage and dove right into the good stuff. The lovey dovey-ness. The learning to communicate-ness. The never forgetting to cherish and appreciate one another-ness.
There is no one I enjoy sharing a delicious meal with more than my love. And no matter how much we enjoy going out to eat, there is always something special about staying at home and cooking for one another. After all, home is where the heart is.
For a special Valentine’s Day meal, we start with this irresistibly pretty dish I like to call Heart Beet Salad. It’s a dramatic, heart-shaped, layered Napoleon of beet slices and goat cheese. Blood orange and cara cara segments adorn this arugula salad, and toasted hazelnuts are the finishing touch.
For our main course, we’re bringing it back to salmon. Hua knew what he was doing back then. Salmon is a great special date night choice because it’s almost impossible to mess up. Because it’s naturally high in fat, it’s pretty forgiving if you accidentally overcook it. It also cooks really quickly, so let’s get to our side dish first: Braised Fennel with Pancetta.
Well, if you don’t have a Valentine’s Day reservation by now, you’re probably screwed. No fear. An intimate candle-lit dinner at home beats a cliché night out any day. Avoid the over-priced menus and awkward PDAs and cozy up to a romantic meal made with love. No one will care if you play footsie in your own living room.
Here are some red/pink/aphrodisiac-laden menu ideas that’ll help set the mood:
Highlands Oyster Mignonette. That silky texture, salty sea taste. There is simply nothing sexier than slurping down raw oysters. This recipe gets a bubbly kick from prosecco and champagne vinegar migonette. A sprinkle of pink peppercorns heat it up. If your’e lookging for something a little more dramatic, try this recipe for Tantra Oyster Sliders. This tantalizing play on temperature and flavor transforms a Tabasco spiked mignonette into a frozen granita.
When I saw this gorgeous dish of Farro Spaghetti, Beets, Brown Butter, and Poppy Seeds featured on Grub Street New York a few weeks ago, it was so beautiful it hurt my heart a little.
A recipe from Pasta Sfoglia, a new cookbook by Ron Suhanosky and Colleen Marnell-Suhanosky (owners of the acclaimed Italian restaurant Sfoglia, with locations in NY and Nantucket), this dish is striking with its ruby red stain and specks of poppy seeds.
The book explains that beets, together with poppy seeds, are typical in dishes of the northern Italian regions of Friuli and Alto Adige. While the combination sounds wonderful – really, I can’t wait to try the recipe word for word – I didn’t have poppy seeds on hand and I wasn’t ready to commit to all that butter for a simple weeknight meal. Oh yes, and then there was that pesky aversion to goat cheese I have. (I know, first the butter, now this? Please hold the hate mail, I do love flavor, I promise you.)
And so, the bastardization of Pasta Sfoglia’s recipe began.
As featured in Bay Area Bites, September 9, 2009.
I finally jumped on the CSA wagon and I must admit, it was kind of like Christmas when my first box arrived, full of the lingering summer’s bounty.
Fresh lavender perfumed the air as I unpacked each item with glee: heirloom tomatoes, okra, honeydew, beets, figs, flying saucer squash, and lemon cucumbers, among other loot.
Side note: this was the first time I encountered lemon cucumbers. They are pale yellow, the size of a small lemon, and quite adorable. They’re sweet, and delicate-flavored, and don’t have as many seeds as your average green cucumbers.
I rinsed off and bit into a plump, ripe, fig as the culinary inspiration started working its way through my thoughts. I was stoked to see a handful of the flying saucer squash that I have been admiring at the farmer’s market the past few weeks.