Fairbanks has been showing off the past couple weeks with warm, sunny days. The snow has almost melted, the willows are budding, and the sun peeks through our curtain at 5:00 in the morning. I was driving into work today and Denali and the Alaska mountain range were out in all their glory. In the winter, it can be tough to see the range because of the ice-fog (natural) and/or smog (caused by air pollutants) in town. On the coldest days, a thick layer of gray veils the landscape and visibility can be limited to 25 yards.
This is truly the land of extremes. It’s not just the weather, either. As slow and ambivalent as I feel in the winter, spring/summer rolls around and I feel equally as energized and excited. The sun helps. A lot. For months in the winter, you can walk outside, stand directly in front of the sun and feel nothing but cold. But usually there’s a day in late March, early April where the heat from the sun warms your face and you feel rejuvenated for the first time in months. In an instant, the entire winter washes away.
This energy and the gorgeous weather got me in the mood to cook and since Sunday was Easter, it gave me an excuse to cook a lot of food. We had dinner with our Fairbanks family, and had an Easter feast that would make noblemen from the Middle Ages jealous. On the menu: roasted lamb, lentils, ginger carrots, cornbread, roasted potatoes, ham, potato salad, scalloped potatoes, scalloped beets, an Alaskan blueberry pie, and deviled eggs of three different varieties (traditional, curried, and truffle).
My dear friend and fellow food blogger made the truffle deviled eggs out of truffle butter, and they were the richest, most delectable deviled eggs on the spread. She’s a a brilliant Jane-of-all-trades: writer, designer, artist, mom, and I admire all her work so very much. See for yourself!
She gave me one of the best cooking tips I’ve ever been given. When I asked her how she came up with the recipes for her blog, she said she created them by smelling the ingredients. If the smell of an ingredient complemented another, she’d combine the two. I owe more to her than just saying it was “food tip”; because of this morsel of wisdom, I began creating food using all my senses, not just taste, and that’s the backstory of this week’s recipe which combines texture, smells, colors, and tastes.
Beets are on my ‘Top 5 Favorite Foods” list. I’d take a roasted beet over a donut any day. Their ruby-red color is reason enough to gobble them up.
It’s such a shame the canned variety has put a bad taste in the mouths of many because when cooked right, beets’ texture and sweetness cannot be beat. They taste like the Earth to me, much like potatoes, so I figured I would experiment with a scolloped beet dish.
It only took one try to get it just right because these are simple flavors. I’ve learned good, simple ingredients nearly always make a dish taste elaborate and complex because you can actually taste the flavors. One doesn’t mask the other. A little rosemary, garlic, and salt did the trick on the spice front.
The beets and chevre white sauce really took center stage, and the colors of the dish were straight from an artist’s palette: magenta, white, specks of fresh rosemary against the black cast iron skillet.
Not to mention, it tasted amazing! Each bite was a sweet, tangy mouthful equally as colorful in texture and taste as the dish itself. Did I mention it was easy to make?! The bulk of the cooking time was hands-off as the beets were cooking. Thanks to the tip from Ms. Ellis’s Perfect Instructor I didn’t waste time peeling the beets before I roasted them because the skins came right off after they were cooked and cooled.
- 8 medium sized beets
- 3 cloves garlic, minced and divided
- 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped and divided
- 1 tsp. salt, divided
- 6 oz. chevre + 2 oz. crumbled and divided
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- Black pepper to taste
- ½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Wash beets thoroughly. Poke a few holes in them with a knife or fork and drizzle with a little olive oil. Don't worry about peeling. The skin comes off easily after roasting.
- Put all the whole beets in an oven proof pan. Cover pan with foil.
- Roast beets for 1 hour, undisturbed. You know they are ready when a knife slips through without any resistance.
- Once done, take beets out of the oven and dunk in an ice bath. This will help with the removal of skins.
- When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel. With either your food processor or a very sharp knife, cut each beet in thin slices.
- In a prepared (oiled) oven proof dish, layer half the beets on the bottom.
- Sprinkle with half the garlic, rosemary, salt, and 1 oz. of goat cheese.
- Layer the rest of the beets on top. Sprinkle the rest of the garlic, rosemary, salt and 1 oz. goat cheese on top.
- Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once warm, add 6 oz. of goat cheese and stir until it melts into the cream.
- Pour hot cream and chevre mixture over the top of the beets. Give the pan a little shake or bang it against the counter to help the cream/cheese mixture settle between the layers.
- Top with chopped walnuts and bake for 20 minutes or until the cream bubbles.