Mini Bell Peppers
Notes from the Farm
Chioggia Beets smell like rain...
I love everything about Chioggia Beets. I love the taste, the look, the greens, the smell.
These beets are some of the genetically oldest cultivated beets in the beet family, discovered by outsiders in northern Italy sometime 2 or 3 hundred years ago... we seem to have started growing them here in the States sometime in the late 1800s.
The most obviously unique thing about them is the candy-striping. When you cut into them you'll see they are ringed white and pinkish red. The thing that sets them apart is their earthiness, there is a smell, a taste, that is notably bold, more so than other types of beets, and this has everything to do with their levels of geosmin.
Geosmin is an organic compound, C12H22O, to be precise, that give beets their beety flavor. Chioggia beets have very high, relative to other beet varieties, levels of geosmin... which is cool to know on it's own, but cooler to link it to the smell of the woods after it rains.
You see, when it rains, or after it rains, dead bacteria in the woods (and other natural places) release geosmin in the air. That fresh, almost three dimensional, smell is geosmin. It's wonderful in the woods, and it's wonderful on your dinner plate.
We almost always roast beets, or shred them in a cheese grater, because it helps keep the sugars in place. Steaming and boiling will leach some of the flavor, but there is a time and place for those cooking methods too... and fortunately, no matter how you cook them, there will be more than enough geosmin to go around...
Beet Carpaccio with Goat Cheese and Mint Vinaigrette
Bunch of beets, trimmed
1 cup crumbled soft fresh goat cheese (about 5 ounces)
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup walnut oil or olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place beets on sheet (if using both light- and dark-colored beets, place them on separate sheets to prevent discoloration). Sprinkle beets lightly with water. Cover tightly with foil. Bake until beets are tender when pierced with fork, about 40 minutes. Cool on sheet. Peel beets. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Place in resealable plastic bag; chill.)
Using cheese slicer or knife, slice beets very thinly. Slightly overlap slices on 6 plates, dividing equally. Sprinkle with cheese, then shallot, salt, and pepper. Whisk vinegar, mint, oil, and sugar in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over beets. Sprinkle with chives.
Pappardelle with Butternut Squash, Walnuts, and Chard
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
2 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 oz. pappardelle
12 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup walnuts, toasted and lightly crushed
3 cups chard, chopped
Heat oven to 425°. Toss squash with oil, and salt and pepper to taste; spread out in a single layer on a baking tray and bake 25 minutes until tender.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse; set aside.
Heat butter in a 12” skillet over medium heat; cook until milky foam settles at the bottom of the skillet and turns nut brown. Toss in pasta, squash, and walnuts; add chard and toss until just wilted. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Japanese-Style Swiss Chard and Sesame Salad
1 Large bunch Swiss chard (1 pound 3 oz.), stripped of stems (about 14 cups)
1 large clove garlic
2 tbsp. sesame seeds
1⁄2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 to 2 tsp. sesame oil
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt heavily. Rip the Swiss chard into large pieces and boil for one full minute in the water, until tender at the stem. Shock the Swiss chard in ice water, and drain, squeezing lightly to remove excess water.
In a large mortar and pestle crush the garlic clove and then add the sesame seeds, pounding to crack and release their fragrance. Add the red pepper flakes, sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil and pound until combined. Add half of the Swiss chard and pound lightly to infuse with the aromatics. Add the rest of the Swiss chard, if it fits, or pour everything into a bowl and muddle the seasonings and greens until fully coated. Transfer the salad to a serving dish and chill before serving.