If you read my blog while I was living in Alaska, you know how much I yearned for a decent farmer’s market. I bitched about the lack of local food variety all the time (which when you think about supplying any kind of food to a place so far away, bitching should be punishable by flogging with banana peels). I guess I made the best of it, but I cannot tell you how much it satisfies me to live in a place that has a farmer’s market that has vegetable varieties, homemade cheeses, meats and eggs, dried flower bouquets, homemade pickles, etc. It’s a Saturday tradition: Chris, Izzy, and I head to the market every weekend and load up on everything we need for the week.
The market is set in a public park with centenarian oak, maple, and chestnut trees, their leaves rusted by autumn air. A walking path runs through the middle of the park where all the vendors are set up for the day. There are crates of produce, #5 tin cans full of fresh herb bunches, and antique scales hovering over mounds of veggies. There are vendors who have been selling at this market for well over one hundred years. One, in particular, sells pickles out of a huge glass apothecary-esque jar and the recipe is over 200 years old (200 YEARS OLD!!!). Everything about this place is beautiful. The Portland Farmers’ Market is my niche.
As you’re walking between tables, among humans and their canine companions alike, you hear human exchanges, the jingle of change, ducks quacking from a nearby pond in the background, and the crunch or quake of shriveled leaves. This is what I’m talking about:
I walked by one stand and they had a crate of beets the size of softballs. They were the biggest beets I’ve ever seen. Since I love them so much, there’s no way I could pass up the colossal ruby red roots. I brought them home, flipped through my old cookbooks for inspiration and found this gem:
I changed my recipe up a bit. I roasted the beets instead of boiling, used italian sausage instead of bacon, shallots instead of onion, omitted the egg and butter and added a few more ingredients. The final product was savory, with a slight sweetness from the cooked beets. Originally, I just added gorgonzola to the top of the beets (as pictured) and they were good but needed a different texture component. So, I opted for a dressing, and it tasted more well rounded. I think these would also be really good with an apple, walnut, and goat cheese stuffing for a sweeter option.
Starting with the cooked beets, use a spoon and carve out the center of each, kind of like you would the pulp of a pumpkin. Cook your filling, stuff the beets, and serve. It’s that easy. Don’t throw away the beet pulp! I pureed it and added it to brownie batter in place of butter, and the combination was magic. I’ll share that recipe with you this week.
- 6 large beets
- Extra virgin Olive Oil
- 2 cups of beet greens (or kale), chopped, stems removed
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 pound of italian sausage
- _____ For the Dressing
- 4 oz. gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
- ¾ cup plain greek yogurt
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 clove of pressed garlic
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp celery salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Trim roots and stems from the beets. Reserve beet greens for later use.
- Toss whole beets with olive oil and season with salt. Wrap each one individually with tin foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 1½ to 2 hours or until beets are soft to the touch. Once cooked, remove foil covered beets from oven and let cool, still wrapped. Once cool enough to handle, unwrap and using your thumb. run your thumbnail under to skin of the beet and peel the skins from each one.
- Using a spoon, create a cup by scooping out the centers and around the walls of the beet until the walls are about ¼ inch thick. Set aside pulp to use at a later time.
- Over medium heat, brown italian sausage in a skillet, breaking apart any large pieces with a spoon. When the sausage looks like it's halfway cooked, add minced garlic and shallots and stir to coat. Cook until translucent.
- Add chopped greens to the skillet, stirring to coat with the sausage drippings. Cook until greens have wilted slightly, about 3 minutes. If it looks like you need more fat, add some olive oil to the pan.
- Remove sausage and greens mixture from the heat and let cool slightly.
- Stuff beets with sausage and greens mixture. Place in the oven to warm through.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the greek yogurt, buttermilk, lemon juice, and spices in a mixing bowl. Fold blue cheese into mixture.
- Once beets have warmed through, top with a generous dollop of blue cheese dressing.