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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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


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.

Uovo da Raviolo or Runny Yolk Pasta for Valentines Day

Is there anything worse than going out for dinner on Valentine’s day? You’re lined up on tables of two like sardines in a can, there’s the pressure, oh the pressure, to gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes and dinner probably ends with a soggy molten chocolate lava cake. I’m much happier to take a rain check on dinner and stay home with some good food, good wine and maybe netflix and chill snuggle up to watch the final series of The Americans on Amazon.
Heart shaped raviolo with runny egg yolk. Perfect for a romantic dinner.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not the Grinch of Valentine’s Day! I’ve been away all week at a conference so I thought I’d put a little more effort into my Valentine’s dinner with Paul. Ever since I became obsessed interested in making fresh pasta last year, I’ve amassed quite the collection of ravioli cutters. When this one popped up in my “suggested for you” Amazon feed I clicked “buy”, click on image to get your own (affiliate link):

When it arrived, I was surprised at the size, it’s 3.5 inches wide which got me thinking about individual ravioli or raviolo. I remembered a Uovo da raviolo dish I’d eaten many years ago in Italy. Translucent fresh pasta sheets hid a bright yellow warm yet still runny egg yolk that broke perfectly when the raviolo was split with a fork.
Three striped ravioli stuffed with ricotta and a whole egg yolk

First you make your fresh pasta, some Italian grocery stores sell fresh pasta sheets if you want to skip this step.

If you don’t have a kitchen scraper and you regularly make fresh pasta (or bake bread), then what are you waiting for? These gadgets clean up all sorts of worktop stickiness and can be used to easily cut dough into portions. Click on picture to get yours (affiliate link):

Then you make some kind of ricotta filing. Simplest was fresh ricotta, a little grated parmesan, salt and pepper for me. Mixed in a baggie to save on washing up (plus you can snip the end of your baggie to make a piping bag when you’re ready. You could also add sauteed chopped spinach or maybe finely diced and sauteed mushrooms.

I’ve always wanted to try making striped pasta and just happened to have a couple of beets in the fridge. I *should* have juiced them and just added a little of the beet juice to a small portion of the pasta but I decided that just grating a little fresh beet would work. There was no beet flavor and I kind of liked the speckled appearance.
How to make striped pasta at home

Once you’ve rolled out your pasta, you simply pipe a little ring of ricotta mixture in a circle to keep your yolk in place. Moisten the pasta with a little water to seal and if you happen to have a heart shaped cutter, go to town.

90 seconds in a boiling pan of water and these babies are good to go. Leftover breakfast bacon and a handful of mushrooms made a little bed for the raviolo to rest upon.  I also fried up a couple of sage leaves for a crispy green topping.

We have friends visiting so I made a little more than I usually would for two, if there’s just two of you, half the ingredients.

Uovo Da Raviolo or Egg Yolk in Pasta

  • Servings: 6 hearts
  • Difficulty: kind of fiddly
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For pasta:
1 cup of Triple OOO flour plus extra for dusting
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
Pinch of salt

For raviolo:
Fresh pasta (see above)
A few drops of beet juice or red food coloring if you want to do the stripes
6 egg yolks
1 cup fresh ricotta
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan or gruyere
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
6 slices bacon
6-10 mushrooms (white or a mix of white and shitake)
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Optional: fresh sage leaves crisped up in a little butter or oil

You’ll also need a pasta rolling machine or Kitchen-Aid pasta attachment, plastic wrap and a kitchen scraper is helpful.


1. On a clean surface (wood or marble) tip out the flour. Make a well in the middle and add the whole egg and egg yolks.
2. Being super gentle, start to whisk the eggs with a fork to incorporate the flour from the sides, try not to let the eggs escape over the wall, once you have a fairly shaggy ball use your hands to knead the dough.
Note that you might not incorporate all of the flour, it’s going to depend on the size of your eggs. A bench scraper is also a genius tool for getting eggy flour unstuck from your worksurface. The dough will initially feel kind of sticky and wet, keep dusting your hands and surface with flour until it no longer feels wet and starts to feel a little rough.
4. Knead for 10-15 minutes, don’t skip it, this is essential to release the gluten in the flour. Push the base of your hand into the ball of dough to stretch it out, turn 90 degrees, double over and repeat.
5. When the dough feels smooth and springy, almost like play-doh, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.
6. Rest the dough for a minimum of 30 minutes (or it’ll happily rest for a few hours longer). Room temperature is OK for an hour or just pop it in the fridge.
7. If you want striped pasta, cut off a piece of the dough, about the size of a small ping pong ball and in a baggie, add a few drops of beet juice, smoosh it around in the baggie until incorporated.
8. While the dough rests, prepare the ricotta filling. In a baggie, dump a cup of fresh ricotta, a good pinch of salt and pepper and the grated cheese.
9. Saute the bacon or pancetta until crispy, remove from pan to drain on paper towels. Wipe out excess oil and saute mushrooms in same pan until they’re golden and smell beautifully nutty. Add bacon back to pan but remove from the heat until needed later.
10. Roll out the pasta, I do a few passes on the widest setting, folding and turning the pasta and then keep going until you can just see through the pasta sheets (setting 6 on my Kitchen-Aid). If you want striped pasta, roll out the dyed pasta until very thin, slice long strips, place on the regular pasta when it’s one setting away from being done, press lightly to stick and then do the final roll.
11. Put a large pan of water on to boil.
12. Cut the pasta into 4 inch squares, lay on plastic wrap and cover with a damp kitchen cloth to prevent drying out.
13. Cut the corner off your bag of ricotta mixture and pipe a yolk-sized circle on the bottom pasta sheets. Plop an egg yolk into the well.
14. Use a pastry brush to brush a little water around the ricotta (this acts as glue to stick the top piece of pasta down). Add the top piece (striped side out if using) and press down gently but firmly to stick together and push out any air bubbles. Trim the side or use any ravioli cutter you happen to have
15. Put the bacon/mushroom/butter mixture back on the heat to warm through.
16. Cook the ravioli in the boiling water for 90 seconds, remove gently with a slotted spoon, drain and add to mushroom/bacon pan for 20 seconds to toss in butter, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
17. To serve, add mushrooms and bacon to plate, top with a raviolo and crispy sage leaves.

Serve with a chilled glass of a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Champagne to cut through the richness of the egg yolk. Break the pasta with your fork and watch the perfect yolk spill out onto the plate. Warm baguette slices work perfectly to mop up the yolk!

Heart shaped ravioli pasta (Uovo da Raviolo) recipe with bacon and mushrooms

Make-ahead Hors d’oeuvres

Did you catch my post about how to host a successful cocktail party and actually have fun vs. spending your evening in the kitchen? It’s right here – Tips for hosting a cocktail party

You know how some people are super affectionate, always sharing their feelings and hugging complete strangers? Well, I’m not really one of those people. I’m like a stereotypical British person who gets uncomfortable when people get too close and I’ll always take a handshake over a hug. And then probably say sorry for no reason. But I’m not a complete robot, I just express my feelings through food. Just had a baby? I love you so here’s two weeks of homemade food for your freezer. Sick family member? I love you so here’s a cooler of individually wrapped bags of homemade chicken bone broth. Bad day at work? I love you so here’s your favorite dinner.

So when deciding on the menu for the first night of the fourth annual winter retreat gettogether of my favorite girlfriends I wanted them to know how much I appreciate their friendship and love their company. I’m not one to say it with hugs so I said it with sixteen different delicious bite-size hors d’oeuvres. Because nothing says I love you, like something you have to eat with a tiny fork. Here’s what I made and served:

We started with a CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL – a splash of St Germain elderflower liquor topped up with champagne and a sprig of rosemary (bash the stem of the rosemary to release the oils). Elderflower juice cordial with sparkling water in the glass on the right for my non-drinking friend.
Champagne cocktail with St Germain elderflower liquor and fresh rosemary

Martha Stewart’s recipe was inspiration for this simple but warming opener.  I added a dash of soy and ponzu to some fairly intense duck broth (in the freezer from Christmas) and served it piping hot with thin slices of shitake mushroom (or enoki mushroom if you can find them) and scallions. Serve with little cups of sake and suggest your guests go back and forth between the soup and the sake.

You can also cheat here – get great beef pho or ramen soup takeout from your favorite restaurant and simply warm up the broth and serve in little sake sipping cups. Add a few Enoki mushrooms or slivers of Shitake mushrooms for fun.
Make ahead? Yes so you only have to warm the soup on the stove and pour into the sipping cups. 

Make slaw with finely chopped kale and cabbage mixed with white miso paste, kewpie mayo, rice vinegar, grated ginger, soy sauce and top with scallions and cashews. Saute shrimp in peanut oil, squeeze in lemon juice and add a dash of chili flakes.
Make ahead? Slaw can be made a day ahead. Shrimp can also be cooked a day ahead and kept cold in the refrigerator or cooked to order and served hot on top of the cold slaw. Grilled shrimp appetizer with Asian slaw

My guests voted this the winner. Make wonton wrappers into little cones (form into a cone, use a little water to seal, pop a little scrunched up ball of aluminum foil into the cone opening (to prevent them from collapsing) while they bake at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes. Let cool. Whisk up a tablespoon of Kewpie mayo with a teaspoon of ponzu, a splash of soy sauce, a good squeeze of lemon juice and as much sriracha as you like. Cube sushi-quality fresh tuna and avocado, mix with sauce and fill cones. Add long strips of European cucumber. More on tuna tartare here. 
Make ahead? Kind of. Prepare cones and store them in an airtight container. Make sauce the day before. Tuna and avocado should be freshly chopped and mixed with sauce just before serving
Tuna tartare in cones - appetizer recipe

Bust out your steamer lid to serve these babies if you have one. Use your favorite chicken satay recipe (that’s another blog post for another day) or cheat and pick up chicken satay takeout. Lay the butter lettuce leaves in the steamer, add the chicken satay sticks and drizzle with a little peanut sauce (not too much, you don’t want your guests to be dribbling sauce all over your floor)
Make ahead? Make or buy the chicken satay the day before. Reheat in a 350 degree oven until hot yet still juicy. 

Although I minimized my time in the kitchen by making as much as possible ahead of time, I also wanted some options that could be set out for snacking. Hummus dip in a baby squash (seeds removed) with fresh celery, cucumber, peppers and different colored carrots is vegetarian-friendly and somewhat healthy.
Elegant crudite presentation

Kind of a cheat recipe – just buy baby waffles (WholeFoods homestyle mini waffles are tasty) and the best chicken nuggets you can find (Organic Bell & Evans air-chilled chicken nuggets are my preference). While the chicken and waffles cook (follow package directions), mix 1 tablespoon of honey with 1 teaspoon of sriracha. Add a little dab of butter to the waffle, top with the chicken and drizzle over the honey sriracha.
Make ahead? Nope but you’re basically just popping a few things in the oven so deal with it. 
Chicken and waffle appetizer recipe with honey sriracha sauce

Boil little potatoes (blue looks great against the creme fraiche) until just tender. Use a melon baller to scoop out most of the flesh. Use the melon baller to add a small dollop of creme fraiche (or sour cream) to the hollow and top with caviar and finely chopped chives. More on caviar here.
Make ahead? The caviar should be kept icy cold prior to serving so this can’t really be made ahead. You can prep the potatoes the day before and then just reheat in a 300 degree oven until warm. 

Two options here. The first is to stuff your pitted dates with a rich foie gras patê and the second is to stuff the dates with a soft and creamy goat cheese. Push a marcona almond into the stuffing and then crumble over crispy prosciutto (bake the prosciutto on a cookie sheet for ~10 minutes at 375 degrees).
Make ahead? Dates can be made a day ahead and kept covered in refrigerator. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. 

Roast beets in a foil packet until cooked through. Slip the skins off (use gloves or paper towels to prevent skin staining!). Make a little quenelle (oval shape) of goat cheese. Place goat cheese on endive leaf, add a little cubed roast beet and a little crispy prosciutto. This was also a unanimous winner.
Make ahead? Roast and chop beets the day before. Prepare quenelles of goat cheese and lay on saran wrap. Assemble an hour or so before your guests arrive. 

You can make your own buckwheat blinis but I’m lucky enough to have really great frozen blinis available at Browne Trading Company in Portland, ME. Heat the blinis in the oven, top with a little dab of creme fraiche, a ribbon of delicate smoked salmon and a couple of strands of chopped chives.
Make ahead? You can pre-slice smoked salmon into ribbons and store in plastic wrap in the fridge. 

Crostini are simply thin slices of bread that have been toasted/dried out in the oven. They make wonderful delivery vehicles for all sorts of spreads (goat cheese and fig paste, fresh pea and mint puree just to name two). Sauté a seasoned (heavy on the cracked black pepper) filet mignon until medium rare. Cook two thinly sliced (with a mandolin) vidalia onions in a little butter on a very low heat for around an hour until soft and just starting to turn golden brown. Spread the caramelized onions on the crostini and top with a slice of seared filet.
Make ahead? Crostini and caramelized onions can be made a day or two ahead of time and stored in airtight containers/baggies in the fridge. The filet can be cooked a couple of hours before your party, assembled on the crostini and then served at room temperature (consider food safety/refrigerating if you have elderly/infirm/child/immuno-compromised guests) 
Recipe for crostini with peppered filet mignon and caramelized onions

Similar to the caviar filled blue potatoes above, simply boil tiny creamer or fingerling potatoes until just tender. Cool and cut in half. Use a melon baller to scoop our flesh into a bowl. Mash potato flesh with a little butter, heavy cream, salt and grated gruyere cheese and chopped chives. Use melon baller to add a scoop of the cheesy/potato mixture back into the potato skins. Bake in 350 degree oven until piping hot and cheese is just starting to bubble.
Make ahead? Potatoes can be prepared ahead of time and the final bake should be done just before serving. 

Who doesn’t love grilled cheese and tomato soup? Cut the grilled cheese into long strips (known as soldiers in the UK!) and encourage dipping!
Make ahead? Soup can be made ahead of time and reheated just before serving. Grilled cheese can be made ahead of time (panini press for cute little grill lines) and then reheated in the oven. 

Sauté finely chopped mushrooms (with salt and pepper) in a little butter until moisture has released and they just start to turn golden. Sear a large filet mignon on all sides in a screaming hot pan. Cool and then chop into 8 small cubes. Defrost 2 puff pastry sheets and roll out until a little thinner than usual. Cut each sheet into 4. Take a thin slice of prosciutto (ideally Palma or San Danielle) and add a teaspoon of mushroom mixture in the middle, add a cube of seared filet on top and wrap the prosciutto tightly around the meat. Place prosciutto-wrapped filet onto a square of pastry and wrap. Brush egg wash (egg beaten with a little splash of water) onto seams to seal and then brush top of pastry. Bake in a 375 degree oven for around 15 minutes until pastry is golden.
Make ahead? Yes! The Wellingtons can be made the day before (don’t bake!) and stored in plastic wrap in the fridge. Just bake them when you’re ready to serve. 

End the night with something sweet. At this point in the night I might have had a couple of adult beverages and was too “tired” to bake so I set out some of my favorite chocolates, truffles and caramels and raised a toast to my friends.

I probably have every cookbook about appetizers and hors d’oeuvres out there and there are some good, some bad and some ugly (yes, book about easy party food where EVERYTHING is deep fried, I’m talking to you!). Here are some of my favorite books for hors d’oeuvres and appetizer recipes and inspiration (affiliate links):

If you only want to have one recipe book for appetizer and hors d’oeuvres then it has to be Martha right?I actually have this older version from 1999 which I prefer slightly to the new version but they’re both great additions to your cookbook collection.


Slightly more complex recipes so this probably isn’t the best book for a beginner homecook but the recipes are really beautiful in both taste and presentation.

Williams-Sonoma’s offering is also a good option