February. A few things are sure to get me through it, smiling. Cheese. Pasta. Bread. And dreary music. Also high on the list: Beets.
Classified a superfood, beets are high in antioxidants, known to lower cholesterol and are a good source of magnesium and calcium. Hearty and rich, the perfect alternative to a potato, they satisfy the same sensors as their tuberous cousins but are much healthier.
In my opinion, the only way to cook them is by roasting, which makes them sweet and syrupy, their earthy flavours subdued ever so slightly. Sliced thin with a mandolin and layered under fish, or chopped into crude chunks and served with mache and goat's cheese, like here.
One of our go-to restaurants here in Toronto is La Bettola. They serve southern-Italian food, great wine, and terrific cocktails. I've adopted two of their best offerings as my own, placing them securely into my regular rotation.
Roasted Beets with Chèvre
Choose firm beets. Like, rock solid. I like a mix of golden and classic. Trim the stem end, douse in a bit of salt and olive oil, wrap loosely in foil, and toss into a 375° oven for about an hour. When a knife slides easily into the beet, they're done. Set aside. When they're cool enough to handle, peel and chop loosely.
Dress your greens. Try mache (often called lamb's lettuce), which is very mild in flavour. And adorable. Whisk together a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, perhaps a dash of honey or a drop of grainy mustard. Whatever you like, really. Mache is quite delicate, so be careful not to overdress. Create a small bed of greens on your plate and scatter beets and dollops of goat's cheese. Drizzle with remaining dressing and sprinkle with crushed pistachios. Using a microplane, zest a fresh lemon over the top. Simple. Delicious. And the freshness of this salad pairs perfectly with the buttery, cheesiness of spaghetti cacio e pepe:
Spaghetti cacio e pepe
200 grams of spaghetti or bucatini
100 grams of parmigiano reggiano
50 grams (4 ounces) of pecorino romano
3 tablespoons of butter
Grate your cheeses into a bowl. Cook your pasta. When a couple of minutes from al dente, drain and reserve a cup of the pasta water. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan, stirring for about a minute. Add your pepper and a half-cup of the starchy water and bring to a simmer. Dump the pasta into the pan and lower your heat. Add the final tablespoon of butter, coating the pasta. Stir in the cheese and stir to incorporate, creating a sauce which coats evenly. Serve immediately into warmed pasta bowls.
What gets you through the doldrums of winter?
FOOD RELATED, WINTER EATS:
Winter Salad (January 13, 2011)
Pizza Night (April 5, 2011)
From Scratch (January 31, 2012)
Night Cheese (February 1, 2012)