Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Recipe 911 - Farfalle with Yellow Beets, Beet Greens & Pine Nuts

Follow the recipe and get a dish that's beautiful but boring.

This farfalle with golden beets, beet greens and pine nuts from the February issue of Bon Appetit sounded promising. First of all, it's the first recipe that I've found that uses the entire beet, greens and all. And on my quest to use the power-packed 11 ingredients, I figured I'd get extra points for using those beet tops.

Bon Appetit's photo of its beetable pasta

The addition of slowly cooked onions; crunchy, toasted pine nuts; and fresh-grated parmesan cheese on farfalle cooked in the beet juice sounded like an unbeatable combination.

But the finished product was the most ho-hum, forget-the-Tylenol-PM-because-this-dish-is-putting-me-to-sleep concoction I've eaten in years.
Where did I go wrong? Did I leave out an essential step? Did I forget a flavor-boosting ingredient? Did I rush the slow cooking of the onions? Did I skimp on the quality of the ingredients? Were my taste buds jaded from a recent bacon binge?

Could this dish with $6.00 worth of beets from Whole Foods Market be saved? (I since discovered that I could purchase the same golden beets at the PHS Farmer's Market for half the price.)

Too frugal to dump the dish down the disposal, I went back to work. When my daughter's girlfriend, who seems to be perpetually hungry, dropped in, she became my guinea pig. I reheated the pasta dish in a small saute pan and added a drop of good olive oil. Then I splashed in balsamic vinegar and ground in more fresh pepper. Hungry girlfriend devoured the dish and asked for more.

I prepared the same thing for myself, and guess what? It was good as in give-me-more, please. It would have been even better if I had a little goat cheese to crumble on top.

Farfalle with Golden Beets, Beet Greens and Pine Nuts
(Adapted from Bon Appetit)

This recipe uses the entire beet—greens included —for a colorful, nutritious dish. You can use red beets if golden beets are unavailable, but your pasta will be pink.

cup pine nuts
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
large red onions, quartered lengthwise through root end, sliced crosswise (about 4 cups)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bunches 2-inch-diameter golden beets, peeled and chopped into 1/2" cubes
greens from beets, cut into 1-inch-wide strips
4 T. balsamic vinegar (or more to taste)
oz farfalle (bow-tie pasta
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

- Cook beets in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 30 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer beets to medium bowl.
- Return water to boil. Add pasta to beet cooking liquid and cook until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.
- While beets are cooking, heat heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts and stir until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.
- Add 2 tablespoons oil and onions to same skillet and sauté until beginning to soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to sauté until onions are tender and browned, about 30 minutes longer.
- Add garlic and stir 2 minutes. Scatter beet greens over onions.
- Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons oil over; cover and cook until beet greens are tender, about 5 minutes.
- Splash with approximately 4 T. balsamic vinegar and cook until vinegar starts to caramelize.
- Stir onion-greens mixture and beets into pasta.
- Season with salt and coarsely ground black pepper.
- Divide pasta among shallow bowls.
- Sprinkle with pine nuts and crumbled feta cheese.

Go from ho-hum to yum yum.

Do you have a recipe rescue story to share?


pasadenapio said...

I love yellow beets! But you're right, the proof is in the seasonings.

The Food Librarian said...

Holy smokes! I just picked up two bunches of golden beets at the farmers market...and now know what to do!

Desiree said...

Recipe 911--my latest worst disaster was in mixing a sidecar. That white powder I assumed to be sugar? Salt.

Do Not Resuscitate.

Petrea said...

I got some of those gold beets at the Farmer's market Saturday. They're great roasted, too.

hahahaha Desiree, oh no!

Margaret said...

Susan: your 911 sounds flantastic! And I do like my beets.

Desiree: Now that's a sour sidecar.

Anonymous said...

You paid way too much for these beets. Just plan to go to the Pasadena Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and head straight for Underwood Farms. I don't believe they have any competitors as far as the pale beets go. You pay $1.50 for high quality, without any chemical stuff, although they are not organic. These beets, as you have discovered taste less earthy; you might say they have a clean taste. As for cooking the beets, I steam them with about 1/2 to one cup of water (less is better and preserves the flavor for some inexplicable reason). Cook small ones for about 24 minutes, larger size around 35 minutes. Test by piercing with a knife for medium doneness (this takes some experience), but not too soft. When cool, the outside skin comes off easily by manual separation. Cut according to your preference and flavor like indicated in your recipe (I combine a dressing of vinegar, scant cloves, mustard, salt, and honey or sugar). As you indicated, feta cheese blends well with this beet recipe; however, for _looks and presentation_, the red beets sprinkled with white feta looks and tastes great. For the noodles, pale is better.

As for the tops, all you have to do to get really tasty greens is saute them as follows: wash carefully first

* Prepare a flavoring with some chopped garlic; sometimes I have
fresh ginger on hand which makes it interesting.
* Saute the above in small amount of oil
* I should mention that the type of pot or pan is important
depending on what you value or want. A pot is good for a large
bunch but produces a watery product. A pan tends to allow for
evaporation and intensifies favor.
* Chop the greens in half or leave whole. Put them in with the
softened garlic with a tad of water (not necessary). Cover for a
few minutes.
* When greens have wilted, stir the concoction and cook for a little
more to soften to taste. Add some salt, vinegar if you like.
* Wow, are the results ever gratifying.
* A side note: you can enjoy this dish as much as five days after
preparing. For some reason, it has a natural preservative or
perhaps its the salt.
* Variation: the greens blend well with sauted chopped onions, green
peppers (or red) and carrots--all of which I add to the garlic in
the beginning (but the main item is the greens)

A final word: the greens are milder than the red beet greens. Both cook up equally well.

Susan C said...

PIO, I actually think I prefer the red beets. Maybe it's a nostalgia thing because my grandmother always grew the red ones.

FL, Let me know how you like the beets dish.

Des, Sounds like there's no rescuing that disaster.

Petrea, I love roasted anything too. Next time I make this, I think I'll roast the beets. I only boiled them this time because the original recipe called for cooking the pasta in the beet water. Frankly, I couldn't taste any difference in the pasta.

Margaret, Flantastic? Was that a slip or are you doing a little flan PR?

Aren't those great tips for enjoying beets!

Petrea said...

John and I bought the red beets and golden beets last weekend, and roasted them with a pork roast and some other veggies. Taste test comparison: the red beets have a fuller, earthier flavor. Golden beets are more mild. My personal favorites are the red, too, Susan.

Donna-FFW said...

Gorgeous! I have to get some yellow beets just to try this dish! LOVE the photos! Perfect dinner!

Pam said...

What a hearty, healthy and pretty dish - I just wish I liked beets.

Frankie said...

I cooked this dish this week. Since I had asparagus and tomatoes, I used them instead of beets. It was delicious.

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