yellow tomato and beet gazpacho

dinner, lunch, soups, summer, vegan, vegetarianFieldandForestComment
yellow tomato and beet gazpacho | field + forest

I still remember my first gazpacho, the way a person remembers her first crush or her first pair of really good jeans. I ate my inaugural bowl during the summer after my 15th birthday, during a brief foray into Ashland, Oregon, while en route to Canada. That was a trip of firsts. It was my first time reading a book written outside of the country in the exact edition in which it had been published (so that I learned about things like "ice lollies" and "servos" and "kelpies"), which I read while listening to the first cool CD I had ever purchased for myself, while eating what would be my first of many bowls of fresh blueberries with softly whipped cream (I don't believe I had ever before eaten a blueberry outside of a pancake). We were at a café in Ashland having an early dinner after a many-hour drive from California, when I ordered gazpacho. I don't know why I ordered it - maybe I was trying to seem worldly and fancy while serving my role as the token teenager on a family vacation - but I did. It came in a large, glass bowl set on a plate, with a sprig of parsley in the center, looking very much like tomato-based vegetable soup. I took a bite, and was shocked to find that it was COLD.

Cold soup held the same mystifying power over my 15 year-old self that molecular gastronomy holds over the modern day foodie, where you pay an exorbitant amount of money to eat something that might look like a gumdrop, but tastes like a cheeseburger. The visual didn't match the experience. It was weird and borderline uncomfortable. I somewhat suspected that I had ordered soup and had instead been brought a large bowl of salsa, minus the chips. But the strange cold soup was somehow also incredibly flavorful and delicious and refreshing, and the combination of my waning discontent and reluctant, but growing delight made it nearly impossible to stop eating. No bowl of soup had ever been so INTERESTING.

Please now understand that I have been trying desperately to create a gazpacho without ascribing all of the buildup and feelings that first bowl impressed in my brain. And suffice it to say that many recipes simply haven't cut it. But I have been thinking about a yellow gazpacho for weeks this summer, one different enough from my first that there couldn't be a direct comparison, and this recipe was the end result. It is fantastic, and stands up to the pressures of my first bowl quite gracefully, while earning itself its own new, fond memories. I think that it owes much of its greatness to the quality of the ingredients and its simplicity. Each ingredient sings, and each is heard.

Is it the kind of fantastic that one accredits to a crush or great pair of jeans?

I'll leave that decision up to you, but for me? I think it might be exactly that.

Yellow Tomato and Beet Gazpacho
Yield: approximately 7-8 cups, serves 4-6

Part of the goal here is to preserve the brilliantly yellow color of the beets and the tomatoes. Using aji amarillo (yellow pepper) paste or a yellow chile will add heat without compromising color. The white balsamic, too, will preserve the color while still adding the acidity necessary in making a good gazpacho. While changing these ingredients for a green chile or darker vinegar will slightly desaturate the yellow soup, the flavor will nonetheless remain extraordinarily bright and complex.

2 pounds yellow beets, roasted until quite tender, cooled, and peeled (I roast the beets wrapped in foil at 425˚F for 30-60 mins)
2 pounds yellow tomatoes
1 medium-large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped (about 1 pound)
2 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons aji amarillo paste, OR 1 medium-hot yellow chile, OR 1 jalapeño pepper
salt, to taste
white balsamic vinegar, to taste
2-3 cups water, divided

To garnish (optional): Cherry tomatoes, olive oil, Piment d'Espelette, microgreens

Equipment: A stand-up blender A sieve or fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl

Cut the beets into 1-inch chunks, and place in the carafe of a stand-up blender. Cut the tomatoes in half, and squeeze out the seeds and liquid ("tomato water") into the sieve or strainer over the bowl. Add the tomato halves to the blender with the beets. Sharply rap the edge of the sieve to help any remaining liquid from the tomato seeds drain into the bowl, then add the liquid in the bowl to the blender. Discard the tomato seeds (or give them to someone you know with chickens!).

Add the cucumber to the blender, along with the garlic, aji amarillo purée, and a large pinch of salt. Add a splash (about 2 teaspoons) of white balsamic vinegar. Pour in 1 cup of water, and blend on low speed until roughly puréed (add 1/2 cup additional water if needed to help the mixture blend). Increase the speed to high, and blend for about 5 minutes to further purée the soup (if you have a Vitamix, blend at between 6-8 on variable speed, keeping a close eye on the soup to make sure it doesn't begin to heat up and cook itself). How much your soup is puréed is up to you; as you can see, mine still has a little bit of texture, which I like, but feel free to blitz the hell out of your soup if that's your preference.

Once the mixture is puréed, add additional water if necessary until your desired soup consistency is reached (I like my soup not too thick and not too thin - if I brush the surface of the soup with a spoon, I can barely see the path the spoon made, and the path fades after a few seconds). Chill the soup for at least two hours, and up to overnight.

Before serving the soup, taste and add additional salt and white balsamic vinegar if necessary. Serve garnished with cherry tomatoes, olive oil, piment d'espelette, and microgreens.

Other ideas for garnishes: chopped, roasted yellow or chiogga beets; diced avocado; finely chopped herbs such as parsley and basil.

chiogga beet tart with ricotta, walnuts, and lemon thyme

autumn, breakfast, dinner, lunch, main dishes, spring, summer, vegetarianFieldandForestComment
chiogga beet tart with ricotta, caramelized onions, walnuts, and lemon thyme | field + forest

I've rewritten this post a number of times. Each time has been a bit too verbose, a bit too flowery in waxing about the farmers' market, a bit too enthusiastic without really giving you the meat of the recipe. I mean, really. This is a tart. It's nothing we haven't seen before.

That said, this particular tart is a combination of one of Richard's favorite things, which is pie, and one of my favorite things, which is salad. I'm thinking "salad pie" sounds quite oxymoronic, not to mention sort of gross, so we'll keep calling this a vegetable tart. But really, the only reason why this tart is cooked at all once it is assembled is so that you can eat it hot. By all means, if your ingredients are still warm from cooking (or if you've cooked everything far in advance and are cool with eating your tart cold, salad style), you can feel free to fill up the tart shell with all of your goodies and immediately go to town.

Voila, veggie tart!

Chiogga Beet Tart with Ricotta, Walnuts, Caramelized Onions, and Lemon Thyme Makes 1 9-inch tart - Serves 6

Notes: A minimum 1-inch tall tart, quiche, or springform cake pan is recommended for this recipe to make sure your tart shell can hold all of the ingredients. Blind baking the shell is necessary as the ricotta is rather wet and the shell will not properly crisp in the oven if filled while unbaked. Be sure to read the instructions in full, as I gave them to you all mashed up together in the order in which I cook the various elements for the tart (I've emboldened the points at which various things are cooked, Joy of Cooking style, to try and clarify my process)! You can also always roast your beets, sauté your greens, and caramelize your onions ahead of time and then blind-bake your tart shell on the day you plan to bake your fully assembled tart.

3 pounds baby chiogga or yellow baby beets, with greens attached
olive oil
1 package all-butter puff pastry, such as Dufour, defrosted according to the package instructions (I'll often leave mine in the fridge overnight)
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced from top to tail
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound whole-milk ricotta cheese (basket ricotta is a good option, as it will be partially drained and less wet than normal ricotta)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 sprigs lemon thyme or regular thyme, leaves removed from stems
kosher salt, to taste
flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste

Preheat your oven to 400˚F.

Cut the greens away from the beets. Thoroughly wash both the beets and the beet greens, and set the greens aside. To roast the beets, place the beets on a large square of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a large pinch of kosher salt. Tightly wrap the foil around the beets, and place on a baking sheet to catch any juices that may leak. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until tender (I test this by piercing a beet with a paring knife).

While the beets are roasting, roughly chop the beet greens, and sauté them in a drizzle of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan or skillet over medium heat until they are wilted, but still quite bright green. Season with a pinch of salt, and remove from the heat, and set aside.

Wipe out the beet green pan, and place over medium-low heat to caramelize your onions. Melt the butter in the pan, and add the onions, stirring to coat them all in the fat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and are translucent, about 15 minutes. Make a well in the center of your onions, add a drizzle of olive oil if the pan is dry, and add your minced garlic to the well. Let the garlic cook for 20-30 seconds, before mixing it into the onions. Add a large pinch of salt to the pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions' color has reached a deep amber. Deglaze the pan with a little water to stir up any lovely caramelized bits on the bottom of your pan, cook for another 30 seconds or so, and remove the onions from the heat.

While the onions are cooking, check your beets. Once they are tender, remove the whole packet from the oven, and let them cool while still wrapped in the foil. Decrease the oven temperature to 375˚F for blind-baking your tart shell.

Flour a baking surface and roll out the puff pastry so that it can easily line a 9-inch x 1-inch tart or quiche pan. Drape the pastry over the pan, and press it into the bottom and sides of the pan. Use scissors or a bench scraper to cut the puff pastry just above the edge of the pan, so the pastry is slightly taller than the pan (it will shrink a little during blind baking, and this will help ensure that it doesn't end up too low in the pan). Place the lined pan on top of a baking sheet for easy maneuvering in and out of the oven.

Prick the bottom of the pastry all over with the tines of a fork. Line the inside of the pastry shell with a piece of parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans (this, plus the pricking, helps keep the puff pastry from puffing up during blind baking). Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp (start checking it at 20 minutes). Set aside.

Peel your cooked beets, and cut them into wedges. Lightly toss them in a little (1-2 teaspoons) of olive oil along with the lemon thyme.

To assemble your tart, spread the caramelized onions evenly over the bottom of the pastry shell. Spread the ricotta evenly over the onions, and top with the beet greens. Place the beets on top of the greens. Bake at 375˚F for 15-20 minutes, until the tart is hot. Remove from the oven and drizzle with a little more olive oil before sprinkling with a few good pinches of flaky salt. Let the tart sit for a couple of minutes before removing it from the pan and cutting into wedges. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

buckwheat bowl

salads, spring, vegetarian, winterFieldandForestComment

We had some mixed reviews on this dish in our household.  I think that cooked buckwheat can sometimes have a bit of a slimy texture, similar to okra; some people like/don't mind this, while others aren't huge fans.  That said, it has a nicely nutty flavor and light texture that make it an ideal base for more substantial counterparts.

Feel free and sub whatever is in season or in your refrigerator, though including something with a little bite (here, the red onion) with some cheese and nuts will really add another dimension to your bowl; you can also change your grain base to something like barley or quinoa if you're not stoked on buckwheat.  In case you need inspiration for a variation, I think I'll be trying this again with fresh figs, arugula, goat cheese, and balsamic in a few weeks. :)

Buckwheat Bowl

I'm going to give you an elemental breakdown of this recipe, since really this is just piling a bunch of stuff on top of some kind of grain in a bowl.  I hereby give you creative license to throw in whatever feels right to you in any/all of the outlined categories, and I promise to post further winning combinations as we test them ourselves.

Grain: buckwheat
Cheese: sheep's milk feta
Roughage: arugula, sliced raw beets, apple/celery root/onion slaw (made by thinly slicing each ingredient and mixing with lemon juice and a tiny bit of oil), avocado
Legume: chickpeas
Nut: walnuts

beet, carrot, and kale salad with pistachios and feta

salads, spring, summer, vegetarian, winterFieldandForestComment

My parents are notorious among friends and family for their fierce hatred of beets.  There was an incident many years before I was born involving a cabin, a power outage, beets, and food poisoning, that I believe has festered and expanded into almost a PTSD-level association where the mention of them incites physical shuddering*.

Oh wow, I just thought of the best April Fool's Day joke... I am going to give my dad a copy of Harry Potter, but I'm going to cross out each place that says "Voldemort" and instead write-in "beets."  HA.

Because I trusted my parents' judgement, I thought that I, too, was a beet hater, just like I thought I was a democrat (which turned out to be true) and I was scared of roller coasters (which turned out to be false-ish).  I don't actually remember my first beet, but somewhere in college, I must have ventured out of my comfort zone and given them a try, because I have spent many meals since then trying to make up for lost time.  Beets are freaking amazing.

This salad is a favorite winter-into-spring-into-summer recipe, and is great for when you want your meal to be vegetables, but you want vegetables to be a MEAL.  You will not feel hungry after you finish this salad, though if you're worried, you could always do what I do and make the entire recipe for just yourself.

Beet, Carrot, and Kale Salad with Pistachios and Feta
(serves 1-2 for dinner, or 3-4 as a side salad)

3 large beets, roasted, peeled, and cut into 1-inch dice (see note on roasting beets below)
1 pound carrots, peeled and roasted (I had baby Paris Market carrots on hand; you can use unpeeled young carrots, simply scrub them well before roasting)
1 bunch purple (or other) kale
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped, divided
1/4 pound sheep's milk feta, divided

For the dressing:
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely minced 1 teaspoon kosher salt
A few grinds of black pepper
A few good glugs of olive oil (2-4 tablespoons; I usually err on the side of less, and use just enough to create a dressing with a little body that is still nicely bright from the acid).

Make the dressing in the bottom of the bowl you'll use for the finished salad.  Combine the lemon juice and red wine vinegar, and add the garlic clove, salt, and pepper.  Let it hang out for a moment while the salt dissolves and the acid tempers the garlic slightly (this is a great time to pick the parsley leaves off of their stems or chop the pistachios if you haven't already, OR you can watch this if everything's prepped and ready to go).  Whisk the oil into the acid mixture to emulsify, and taste using a bit of a kale leaf.  Adjust seasoning as necessary, and set aside.

Rinse the kale leaves well, and towel dry.  Lay a leaf flat on a cutting surface, and slice out the stem (you can save the stems for soup, or give them to some soon-to-be-happy chickens).  Repeat with the rest of the kale leaves.  Once all of the stems have been removed, stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them up lengthwise.  Slice (chiffonade) them into 1/4-1/2 inch thick "ribbons" (depending on your kale, you may get pieces of different sizes in your finished salad, which I think is lovely). Run your knife through the ribbons once or twice if you prefer smaller pieces of kale.

Place the kale in your salad bowl, and add the carrots, beets, and parsley leaves.  Toss the salad gently with your hands until everything is evenly coated with dressing.  Crumble 2/3 of your feta over the salad, and sprinkle over 2/3 of your pistachios.  Toss again gently.  Crumble the remaining feta over the salad, and sprinkle on the remaining pistachios.  Serve immediately.

*UPDATE: so, after speaking with my parents, I learned that the cabin/power outage/food poisoning combo was related to CLAMS not BEETS.  The beet hatred, to quote my father, "is genetic."