Monday, March 5, 2012

Penne with Beets and Their Greens & a Goat Cheese Sauce

The Countertop Massacre AKA Cooking With Beets

A couple of years into my 20s and shortly after the discovery of veggies other than carrot sticks, I ordered my first beet salad. It was INcredible. Roasted beets with crumbled goat cheese and a warm honey drizzle, the perfect mix of sweet and savory. I fell asleep fantasizing about the new ways in which my world had just opened up.

But first thing the next morning, something TRULY alarming happened. The details are a little graphic for a food blog, but let's just say that a typical part of my morning routine had been drastically altered.

I was 99.9% sure I was dying.

A lengthy phone call with Doctor Dad and several hours of googling later, I was feeling much better. In fact, I decided that the resulting erm..ehem..side effect.. of consuming beets , was kind of cool. I wrote it down in my notebook of things I will someday tell my children to convince them to eat their vegetables.

I thought I had overcome anything about beets that could possibly be scary. And then, I cooked with them.

Let me make a quick list of all of the things in my kitchen that were stained pink:
  • My hands
  • My nails
  • My forehead (note to self: it doesn't matter how itchy it is, if you're cooking with beets, it's not worth scratching)
  • My paring knife
  • My chopping knife
  • My cutting board
  • My sponge
  • 85% of my counter top
  • 3 different walls
When my roommate came home, it took me the better portion of an hour to convince him that no small animals had been harmed in the making of my dinner. (My roommate at the time was my brother... the most carnivorous human being you'll ever meet... so he was actually hoping I'd suddenly changed my vegetarian ways.)

Not even the messy and time consuming prep work can keep me away from what has become one of my favorite vegetables, but I sure do love when someone else does the dishes.

Penne with Beets and Their Greens & a Goat Cheese Sauce
(Adapted from a recipe in the Simply Organic Cookbook)

2 bunches of beets (about 8)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
Black Pepper
6oz soft goat cheese
1/4 cup grated asiago or parmesan cheese

Cut the greens off the beets, remove the stems, wash thoroughly, and chop coarsely. Set aside.
Trim the tops and bottoms of the beets and put them into a large pot, cover with water.
Bring water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover.
Cook for 20-60 minutes; until soft (size of the beets is the determinant).
When the beets are cooked, run them under cold water using your hands to slip off the skins.
Cut the beets into bite size pieces. Set aside.

Bring another large pot of water to boil, cook the pasta as directed (omitting salt if called for).
One minute before the pasta is finished cooking, add the greens to the boiling water.
Strain pasta and greens, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water to be used for the sauce.
Toss the pasta & greens 1.5 tablespoons olive oil.

While the beets and pasta are cooking, warm 1.5 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan
Add the onion & garlic, cook (stirring occasionally) until onions are soft - about 5 minutes.
Add the vinegar, oregano, and rosemary and cook for one minute.

With the pasta in the strainer, use the still warm pot from the pasta to mix both cheeses, and salt and pepper. Add the reserved pasta water tablespoon by tablespoon until the cheeses have become the consistency of a cream sauce.

Add the beets, pasta and greens to the cheese sauce. Toss until coated.
Add the onions and herbs, tossing to disperse thoroughly.

Clean everything IMMEDIATELY, unless you're really into the idea of a kitchen that looks like the car of a successful Mary Kay saleswoman.

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