By no stretch of the imagination would you call me a Vegetarian. My granddaughter, yes. Close friends, you bet. But, me, absolutely not. That’s why it’s surprising that lately Deborah Madison, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Yotam Ottolenghi and I have become best buddies. I’m in awe of these three cookbook authors whose recently published cookbooks make vegetables sexy.
For the past 6 months, since joining Cottage Cooking Club, I’ve been exploring Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg, 200 inspired vegetable recipes. This month I baked his scrumptious Pumpkin & Raisin Tea Loaf (no butter, no oil) and Baby Beet Tarte Tatin. Both recipes were unique, compelling, flavorful and dinner guest-worthy. Visit my October 7th Post, devoted to his Tea Loaf here. Find the recipe here.
Tarte Tatin is a classic, of course, if you use apples. With beets? Not so classic. “But,” as HF-W writes, “the principle of caramelizing some delicious round sweet things, topping them with puff pastry, then flipping upside down, works equally well in the savory interpretation.”
I simplified the preparation by purchasing vacuum-packed, ready-to-eat baby beets. My puff pastry of choice is DuFour Pastry Kitchens, available in grocery stores. Basically, halve the beets, caramelizing them and then fitting snugly into an 8-inch ovenproof container. Having already cut out a puff pastry disk to fit the dish, place it over the beets, patting firmly and tucking its edges down the pan’s side. After 20 minutes in the oven, the pastry should be a puffy, golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before inverting it carefully onto the serving plate. Top with the vinaigrette (recipe included) or crumbled feta cheese. Serve immediately.
Baby Beet Tarte Tatin is an excellent appetizer, first course, entrée side or, as I found, delicious lunch. I enjoyed this with a bowl of Ottolenghi’s Spicy Chickpea & Bulgar Soup, a recipe from Plenty More, his latest cookbook published this month. What I love about Ottolenghi is his no-holds-barred attitude regarding ingredients. There’s a whole vegetable world out there with its accompanying flavorings and spices that I’ve never met.
For this soup I did have the spices on hand, cumin, coriander and caraway seeds. Garlic, onions, carrots and celery added flavor and crunch. Bulgar wheat was a first time-ingredient for me but Bob’s Red Mill brand carries all kinds of Natural Foods, Mixes and Flours in our grocery stores. Harissa Paste, I knew about but had never used. My advice? Perhaps, less heat? Use 1 TBSP instead of 2 TBSP. For stock, vegetable, chicken or water work equally well. Instead of the Creamed Feta Paste garnish, I cut calories and just sprinkled feta chunks on the top. This soup is goodness.
Deborah Madison waded deeply into the veggie business in 1997 with the publication of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, a James Beard Foundation Book Award winner, and, now, a classic. But it’s her recently published Vegetable Literacy, a celebration of the plant kingdom’s diversity, which has been captivating. Nostalgic moment, my mother often cooked with rutabagas. When the Indian Summer fades and our snow falls turn serious, I’m all over her Rutabaga and Apple Bisque and Winter Stew of Braised Rutabagas with Carrots, Potatoes and Parsley Sauce.
Quite often, when I finish a three or four-hour hike, my reward is to stop by the Woody Creek Tavern, an old Hunter Thompson hangout, and have a burger, fries and beer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. However, a journey down the veggie highway created by these three masterful chefs is well worth my time and effort also. Having it all is a good thing.
The Cottage Cooking Club is a virtual international group cooking its way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s excellent River Cottage VEG cookbook. Please join us in our adventure if you wish. To see what delicious fare my colleagues created this month, go here.