Beet & Goat Cheese Salad – 3 ways

Did you ever watch The Office (US version)? Dwight was one of my favorite characters, I loved how he was all kinds of inappropriate to the point of offensiveness and then you’d get a rare glimpse of his kind-heartedness. Whenever I cook anything involving beets, I think of Dwight and his beet farm. Fun fact – beets are known as beetroot in the UK.

Especially in winter, a bunch of fresh roasted beets provide a much-needed pop of color in the kitchen and I especially enjoy the red and yellow jewel-tones next to a snowy white goat cheese. I have lots of friends who’ll always order beet salads when eating out but wouldn’t think of cooking beets at home – now there’s no excuse 😉

If you buy beets of a similar size, they’ll cook at the same rate which makes life easier. Beets are also pretty flexible, you can roast them high and fast or they’ll happily hang out at a lower temperature if you happen to be braising something else in your oven.

I usually roast my beets in a little foil packet (skins on) with a splash of olive oil until a cake tester or toothpick slides easily through, slip the skins off, slice and then toss them with a little oil and vinegar. Small beets might be done after 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Large beets might take 2 or 3 hours at 300 degrees. They’ll happily sit in the fridge for a good 4-5 days ready to be added to your salad of the day. And if you’re not in the mood for cooking beets, I’m a big fan of the fresh packages of white wine and balsamic organic baby beets you can find in the store from “LoveBeets” How to roast beets in the ovenClockwise from top left: skin-on beets about to go into the oven, using a paper towel to slip off the skins, sliced beets, sliced beets in a little olive oil and vinegar ready to eat.

So, you’ve roasted your beets, now what? Now you need some kind of soft cheese. If you can lay your hands on Meredith Dairy marinated cheese, also known as cheese crack in our house, then it’ll be a happy day. Don’t be put off by the name, I realize that “Sheep & Goat Blend Marinated Cheese” doesn’t exactly sound appetizing but this soft, rich and creamy cheese has just the perfect hint of thyme and garlic and will blow your mind. You can find it in Whole Foods, the Cheese Iron in Scarborough and even Market Basket.
Meredith Dairy marinated goat cheeseIf you can’t find the above cheese a regular log of soft goat cheese works great. If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, try regular cream cheese or Boursin garlic and herb cream cheese.

Oven Roast Beets

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: absurdly easy
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Ingredients:

4 large beets (I’d probably roast a bunch and use them throughout the week)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic or white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place beets (skins on, you can remove the leafy tops and tails) on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle over 1 tbsp olive oil. Loosely crumple the foil at the top to enclose the beets. Place foil packet on a baking sheet and pop into oven.
2. Exact cooking time will vary with beet size. I usually roast beets at 350 degrees and they’ll take 1-3 hours depending on their size. If you’re cooking something else and need your oven to be cooler or hotter just adjust the cooking time. Beets are done when a cake tester or skewer slides easily through to the middle.
3. Leave beets to cool in the foil packet. There will likely be a little liquid in the bottom of the foil packet (condensation and beet juice), turn the beets so that all sides get to lie in the liquid, this will help the skins to slip off more easily).
4. Use paper towels to slide skins off beets
5. Slice beets into wedges and toss with 1 tbsp good olive oil, 1 tsp vinegar and salt and pepper.
6. Enjoy or store in a baggie in the fridge for 4-5 days

So you’ve got yourself a package of deliciously sweet roast beets. What to do with them? Here are 3 serving ideas:

1. Simple beet and goat cheese salad with pomegranate
Prepare roast beets as in recipe above or open a package of Love Beets (confession, the beets in the picture below are the honey & ginger Love Beets). Divide between two plates. Crumble over marinated cheese and pomegranate arils. Enjoy
Simple salad of roast beets, Meredith Farm marinated cheese and pomegranate arils

2. Roast beet and goat cheese salad bowl with baby greens
Divide wedges of roast beets between two bowls, crumble over goat cheese. Add any other salad items you have in the fridge – tomato wedges, sliced cucumber, baby greens. Drizzle over a little oil and vinegar.
A healthy salad bowl with roast beets, crumbled goat cheese and baby greens

3. If you want to get all fancy, maybe impress a special someone, then try a beet and goat cheese tower.
Roast your beets per recipe above and let cool. Remove a very thin slice from the bottom of each beet (so they’ll stand up on the plate) and then slice them horizontally. You’ll want 3-5 decent sized slices. Spread each slice with your choice of marinated goat cheese, Boursin cream cheese or other soft cheese and then refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. Don’t skip this step. You need the cheese to harden before you slice. If you skip the refrigerator and slice the beet/cheese stacks immediately, everything will just smush under your knife.
How to make beet and goat cheese tower appetizers
Once your little beet and cheese towers are chilled, use a large sharp knife (wipe it clean in between each slice) to cut the beet tower into 4 quarters. Turn the quarters “inside out” when you plate them so that the inner corners become the outer corners and your beet tower has a square appearance. Fill the inside of the tower with baby greens (and crumble over some bacon if you have it!).  Enjoy!
Elegant oven-roast beet and goat cheese tower

Once you’ve tried roasting beets for the first time, the possibilities are endless. Make a beet and blue cheese checkerboard, beets also pair well with crunchy walnuts and they liven up almost any salad.

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps – PF Chang-style Recipe

The first time I visited PF Changs in the theatre district of Boston, was with a large group of friends to see The Lion King musical. Each person in the group thought the next person had made dinner reservations. We ended up at the Asian-style restaurant chain PF Changs as it was our only option for last-minute seating of a large group. The food was fine but the chicken lettuce wraps were pretty awesome.
Asian lettuce cups with tasty vegetarian filing
Over the years I’ve made variations of them at home with ground chicken but I recently had a vegetarian friend over for dinner. I had lettuce wraps in mind but all of the recipes I searched for included tofu. And I’m not a tofu fan. Yes, I’ve had good tofu. No, I still don’t love it.

This got me thinking about mushrooms. A good mushroom has a great meaty flavor and texture, it’s rich in umami and it’s not a “pretending to be meat” option. As luck would have it, there was a great selection of mushrooms in our local Whole Foods in Portland, ME and at the Portland Farmers Market (Wed and Sat).
Wild mushrooms for vegetarian lettuce cups in the style of PF Chang

So here it is. A great recipe for when you have a vegetarian friend over or when you’re just thinking about reducing the amount of meat you eat. Pairs well with a light Chinese beer like Tsingtao or a dryer Riesling like Kung Fu girl. Don’t be alarmed by the length of the ingredients in the recipe, it’s mostly just a bunch of vegetables and some store-cupboard/fridge-door staples!
PF Chang (style) Lettuce Wrap Recipe

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps in the style of PF Chang

  • Difficulty: easy
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Author: Mainely Eating – a Maine Food Blog all about home cooking and fine dining in Maine

Ingredients
~20 oz of mushrooms. I used a mix of white, shitake, oyster and enoki.
3 carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 half onion, peeled and finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1tbsp vegetable oil
A few drops of sesame oil
1-3 cloves of minced garlic (depending on how garlic-y you like things)
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (with a microplane) or finely chopped
2 tbsp rice wine (Mirin)
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1-3 tsp sriracha hot sauce (depending on how hot you like it!) plus extra for serving
2 tbsp+ of water (if needed)
1 lime – half of it cut into wedges, half of it juiced
A small handful of roasted, unsalted cashew nut pieces or halves
1 small can (8oz) of sliced or whole waterchestnuts – diced
A large handful of beansprouts plus extra for serving
1 whole head of Bibb, Butter or Iceberg lettuce

As with most Asian-style recipes, the cooking happens pretty quickly so you want to have all of your vegetables chopped and ready to go before you start cooking.

Directions:

  1. Carefully separate the leaves of the lettuce, wash and dry in a salad spinner.
  2. Set up everything ready for serving – lettuce leaves, small dish of sriracha, small dish of beansprouts, small dish of lime wedges
  3. Over medium heat, in a large frying pan or wok, sauté onions, carrots and celery in the vegetable/sesame oil for ~3 minutes until they just start to soften but still have some crunch
  4. Add minced garlic and ginger and cook for another minute, stirring frequently
  5. Add finely chopped mushrooms and cook until they’re soft and starting to just turn golden and smell nuttty
  6. Add rice wine, soy sauce, hoisin and rice wine vinegar and stir thoroughly.
  7. Add cashew nuts and waterchestnuts and cook for 30 seconds
  8. Add enoki mushrooms (if using) and beansprouts. Stir to combine and remove from heat.
  9. Add the lime juice. If the mixture seems dry you can loosen it with a spoon or two of water.
  10. Serve in a warm bowl with lettuce leaves on the side for guests to make their own wraps or put a large spoon of the mushroom mix into each leaf.

This is a fairly forgiving recipe, and you can easily substitute in a different vegetable. Red or yellow bell peppers, raw diced jicama, baby corn, corn kernels are all great options! Scallions are also lovely chopped on the top – I just forgot to buy them 😉 Step by step recipe for Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

And of course, if you *have* to have meat you could replace the mushrooms (or leave the mushrooms in) and add 1lb of ground chicken or turkey or pork.
Vegetarian lettuce wrap recipe in the style of PF Changs

Kale, chickpea and lemon quinoa salad

I work from home and when my tummy starts to rumble or I need a break from the computer, I’ll wander into the kitchen, open up the fridge and stare blankly at the contents. Being that I do all of the grocery shopping, I don’t know why I live in hope of finding a surprise magical food container of deliciousness from the fridge fairy.
Vegetarian kale, chickpea and lemon quinoa recipe

But nope, there’s usually just ingredients to make dinner and a couple of lonely babybel cheeses in their shiny red wrappers. I’m a huge fan of Food52, and their “Not Sad Desk Lunch” campaign motivated me to stop the fridge staring, stop eating goldfish crackers for lunch and start making a little more effort.

Last week I embarked on a week-long “not sad desk lunch” mission and it was remarkably easy. Read all the way to the end for the rather delicious lemon, kale and chickpea quinoa recipe that I hope you make for your own lunch!

Monday’s lunch was leftovers. I’d been up in Vermont photographing a winter wedding and so Paul made himself a Thai-style yellow curry with chicken and cauliflower. There was just enough left for me to reheat with some sticky rice. Paul has a limited but remarkably eclectic recipe repertoire – Beef Wellington, Apple Crisp, Duckfat-roasted Potatoes and Thai green or yellow curry.
Thai yellow curry bowl with sticky white rice

On Tuesday I raided the fridge for a quick and easy lunch of cheese, soppressata picante and crackers. Taking just a few extra minutes to add some olives and salty date and almond crackers made it feel not very sad at all.
Cheese plate with soppressata, olives and rainforest crisp crackers in salty date and almond

After Tuesday’s cheesefest, something more austere was in order. A simple salad of baby salad leaves with vinaigrette, parmesan shavings and pine nuts felt just right.
Baby salad leaves with vinaigrette, parmesan shavings and pine nuts

The lure of the cheese draw called to me again on Thursday. A snowy-white soft goat cheese from Seal Cove Farms in Maine studded with jewel-like blueberries whispered “Leah….Leah….” I spread it generously on thick slices of toasted bread with a little drizzle of honey.
Seal cove farms goat cheese with blueberries spread on toasted crostini and drizzled with honey

I ended the week with this fluffy, lemony quinoa studded with protein-packed chickpeas and baby kale leaves. Because if it contains kale it must be healthy right?Recipe for lemony quinoa with baby kale and chickpeas - vegetarian and healthy

Kale, Chickpea and Lemon Quinoa Salad

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

2 cups quinoa
Scant 4 cups water or unsalted chicken broth (for more flavor)
1 lemon – juiced and zested
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 cups baby kale leaves (or grown-up kale leaves roughly chopped)
1 cup chickpeas (if canned, rinse thoroughly or cook according to package directions)

Directions:

  1. Cook the quinoa according to the package directions reducing the water recommendations by 1/4 cup and replacing with the fresh lemon juice. Tips on cooking fluffy quinoa here.
  2. Take the pan off the heat, fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork and add the olive oil, the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add the baby kale and chickpeas, toss gently to combine. Enjoy!

Do you eat your lunch at your desk? In an office cafeteria? Are you a lady-who-lunches? What’s your favorite lunch?