These are sweet, tender and super fun

Kitchen – Glazed Young Beets via Julia Child for #SundaySupper

Beets.  They’re what’s for dinner.

Recipes are flying between garden bloggers as seeds sown turn into dinner.  The #SundaySupper movement came my way earlier in the week and I will likely feed one post a week towards it.

Yesterday we took fresh farmers market beets and made sister dishes of glazed beets and sauteed beet greens with garlic and mustard seed (prepared exactly like sauteed kale with garlic and mustard seed).

Beets snuck into our kitchen a few years ago through our weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box and I’ve never looked back.

After a few reminders from the husband that he “doesn’t really like beets” I finally fell into two cooking methods we all love: roasting and glazing.

I’ve been glazing carrots as directed by Julia Child and recently applied it to beets.  Score 1 for the home cook.  It’s easy, you can adjust the sweetness while cooking, you can cook them firm or tender, they reheat nicely and they’re an easy sell to reluctant beet eaters.

Disclaimer:  I am not a food writer nor a food photographer.  My food pictures are incredibly bad and I cook daily but rarely write about it.  As such, the recipe below is nearly verbatim from the source with my comments preceding and following it.  I encourage you to play with the recipe, make it your own and share your results.

The Set-Up

The following two recipes are adapted from “The Way to Cook” by Julia Child, copyright 1989.  The master recipe is for a variety of root vegetables and the carrot recipe is what I use for beets.  A few weeks ago I glazed a medley of young beets and turnips to great success.

Following the recipe I note what I do differently and successful substitutions I use for butter, water and sugar.

BOIL-STEAMING: BRAISING (Master recipe)

Rutabaga, carrots, turnips, and beets as well as green peas and onions

Peel the vegetables, and leave them whole or cut them into neat pieces or chunks, depending on your final intentions.  Boil-steam them in a covered pan with water, salt and optional butter.

Fill the saucepan with enough water to come halfway up the vegetables, bring to the boil, and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the optional 2 Tbs butter.  Toss up once or twice, cover the pan, and boil 8 – 10 minutes – adding more liquid if needed, until the vegetables are tender.  If it is done and liquid remains, uncover and boil it off.  (Cooked this way, no flavor escapes: it is all reabsorbed into the vegetables.)

BOIL-STEAMED CARROTS

And braised and glazed carrots

For 6 servings

6 – 9 carrots 8 inches long, peeled and cut into long wedges
Salt

For glazed carrots
3 Tbs butter (2 for initial cooking, 1 for glazing)
1 1/2 tsp sugar

Preliminary cooking.  Boil-steam the carrots in a covered saucepan with water to come halfway up them, and salt, as described in master recipe; add 2 tablessppons of butter if you are to glaze them.  When tender, and the liquid has evaporated, the carrots will begin to saute in the residue of their juices.  Correct seasoning.

Glazing.  Just before serving, add the additional butter and the sugar.  Toss gently over moderately high heat to glaze them with a buttery sheen.

My notes:

1. This cooking method is extremely forgiving.  You can vary nearly everything as long as you bear in mind that you are cooking the liquid off as the veggies boil-steam.  You want a little fat remaining in the pan at the end to add sheen and keep them from scorching.  That fat can be any cooking oil or butter (or combo).  If using butter alone, add more at the end as directed above.

2.  I use a 9″ enameled cast iron skillet instead of a saucepan with a light loose-fitting saucepan lid.

3.  You can cut your beets how you like but try to make the resulting pieces similar in size for uniform cooking.

4.  Cut the greens off entirely off, sacrificing a little beet meat, to ensure sand isn’t carried into the pan.

5.  Trim the stringy root tip and any other root strings.

6.  You do not need to peel baby beets.  I did not peel the beets pictured, which I would call young but not baby.

7.  I don’t use sugar but do add something sweet when I add the water.  A little maple syrup (about 1 Tbs) or substituting apple juice or apple cider for the water will make it sweet enough.  I also finish the dish by turning the heat down to low towards the end and caramelizing the beets slightly, letting their natural sugars develop.  Keep a close eye so not to scorch or burn them.

8.  I start with about 2 Tbs olive oil in the pan first, add the beets, then add water until halfway up the beet chunks.  I often add about a pat of butter with the salt.

9.  You can skip the sugar entirely by making a strong tea with fenugreek seeds and adding with the water in the recipe.  Simply place 1 Tbs fenugreek seeds into a mug and fill with boiling water.  Let steep while you prep the beets (at least 10 minutes).  Use the tea but not the seeds (they are hard and bitter) – it tastes and smells like maple syrup.

10.  I don’t time how long the lid is on since I end up with different sized beets and chunks each time I cook this.  I start poking the beets with a fork, checking for tenderness, after about five minutes.  Once they start to soften I ditch the lid and let the liquid boil off, keeping the heat medium-high.

Now go get beets and get glazing!

This bike lives permanently along our back stairs, wild strawberries grow in thicker each year

Native Plants – The Delightful Wild Strawberry

Wild strawberries.

A few years ago I’d never hard of them.  Our neighbor who gardened before me in our shared back yard would (thankfully) weedwack everything outside the flowerbed she built.  As I started gardening back there as well, I asked she leave the little strawberries be.  I’d noticed most the nasty other weeds didn’t grow through their little patches.

And they’re cute.

The wild strawberries inspired me to buy cultivated strawberries and plant them a few places the wild ones thrived.  The cultivated ones made it into their second year this season with great fruit alongside their wild cousins.

The toddler says “They’re strawberries everywhere!” as she goes around picking and eating the little wild ones that all ripened these last few weeks.  She loves them.  To me they taste like tiny seeds held together with a little juice-less flesh, I’m not that into eating them.  She checks on the “real” strawberries and reports to me when the cultivated ones are ready to pick.  She has free reign over the wilds.

The wild strawberries keep to the edges (being many in our city yard) and make the most polite garden bed invaders.  Their little runners constantly make it across our scavenged brick-and-stone bed border but I divert them back across as I find them.  Slowly they mound and fluff up in favored spots.

The Complete Book of Herbs, by Lesley Bremness, confirms Fragaria vesca fruit are edible and suggests eating fresh with cream or using for jam, cakes, pies and syrups or to flavor liqueurs and cordials.  It also notes the leaves of woodland strawberries can be infused with other herb teas to add bite and, medicinally, infuse as tea for anemia, nervousness, gastrointestinal and urinary disorders.  Reading you can eat the fruits as iron supplements sold me.

Today, as B brought me tiny wild strawberries with garden-dirty fingers and a giggles, I said “Thanks so much!” instead of “Oh, thanks, but that’s for you.”

Iron never tasted so cute.