Saturday, May 31, 2008

A better burrito bowl

This dish, inspired by a couple recipes in Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday, is a pretty straight-up "chicken with rice and beans" recipe. What sets it apart, though, is the marinade I made from scratch the night before – my garlic and ginger chili paste, supplemented by a couple chipotle peppers to make it a bit smokier – and the spring garlic we picked up fresh at the Greenmarket. The dish actually ends up quite complex, with the rice al dente and the chicken tender as can be.


2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 lbs chicken breast
chili paste, or chili powder, to taste
1 white onion
1 cup rice
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup spring garlic (or garlic, if you're not lucky enough to find the scapes)
1/4 cup cilantro

1. If using a paste as marinade, marinate the chicken in the fridge for 1-2 hrs.
2. Heat the oil in medium-large pot. Place the chicken in a single layer in the pot. When browned on one side (2-3 minutes), flip them over and cook the other side (2-3 minutes). Remove to a plate, leaving behind as much oil as you can.
3. And the spring garlic and rice to the pot. Stir for 2-3 minutes, until the rice becomes opaque.
4. Add the broth and some salt. Stir. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for about 10 mins.
5. Cube the chicken. Uncover the pot, and add the chicken and the beans. Re-cover and cook another 10-15 mins.
6. Uncover, and add the cilantro. Remove from heat, and re-cover, allowing it to cook in its own steam for 5-10 minutes.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cumin and jalapeño rubbed lamb with homemade tzatziki

This recipe is an amalgam of several lamb and grain recipes and takes advantage of a number of things that had been laying around the apartment for some time – the jalapeños that have been drying on our windowsill and a grain mix from Trader Joe's among them. I can't say enough about the wondrous combination of cumin and finely diced jalapeño on the lamb, and Ali's homemade tzatziki was the perfect accompaniment. The meat is cooked to our liking (very rare), but I think it would probably be optimal a bit closer to the medium-rare side.


For lamb:

1 1/2 tbs vegetable oil
2 lamb steaks, about 2/3 lb
1 jalapeño, finely diced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 garlic clove, finely diced
1/4 cup cilantro

1. Rub lamb steaks with cumin and jalapeño, then place all lamb, cumin, and jalapeño in a ziploc bag. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, and store in the fridge for up to an hour.
2. In a medium-large pan, heat the oil. Place the steaks in the pan. Cook to your liking.
3. Slice thinly and serve over your preferred grains (we used a Trader Joe's mix with Israeli couscous).

For tzatziki:

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 kirby cucumber
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

1. Shred the cucumber and dice the garlic.
2. Incorporate them into the yogurt, and add enough olive oil to reach the desired texture.
3. Chill before serving if at all possible, and grind black pepper into it just before serving.

Warm fava bean salad with shallot-tarragon vinaigrette

Simply put, this was one of the most addictive vegetable dishes I've ever made. If you try it, I dare you to stop thinking about it. Jon and I have been talking about it nonstop for a couple of days now, and I'm seriously concerned that the fava bean season will end before I have the opportunity to make this at least one more time -- or seven!

The butter knocks this dish down a peg on the ladder of ideal nutrition, but it's worth it. Warming the shallots and tarragon in it results in a vinaigrette that approaches the unearthliness of bearnaise, but without its shining halo of cholesterol. The jalapeño hints at more grounded origins, without imparting any real kick of spice.

(adapted from Jean-Georges Vongerichten)

1 1/2 lbs fresh fava beans, shelled
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
small jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 medium shallot, minced
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano for grating

1. Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, blanch the fava beans for 1 minute. Transfer to the ice water, drain, then peel them.
2. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the fava beans and cook over moderately high heat, without stirring, until blackened, about 1 minute. Transfer to a serving bowl and season with salt.
3. Add the butter to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until it just starts to brown, about 30 seconds. Add the garlic and cook over low heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the jalapeño and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the shallot and cook over low heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat.
4. Add the garlic-jalapeño mixture and warm shallot vinaigrette to the beans along with the tarragon and toss well to coat. Grate cheese over the bowl.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Shrimp scampi with fiddleheads

I knew I wanted the garlicky comfort of a few shrimp done up as scampi last night, but I was lost for what to cook them with until I got to Whole Foods. The fiddlehead ferns waiting in their basket struck me as perfect isomorphs of the spiraled shellfish.

The flavors sang together as if fiddleheads and shrimp had more in common than their shape. I had switched them in for asparagus, the original vegetable in the recipe below (adapted from The Boston Globe), and I'd happily call on them again next spring.


1/4 lb shrimp, butterflied and deveined with the tails on
1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
12-15 fiddleheads
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
salt and black pepper
4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used sauvignon blanc, since we had it open.)
juice and zest from 1 lemon
chili powder to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley

1. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a sauté pan and set over high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, add half of the shrimp and cook, without moving, until they begin to turn opaque, about 1 minute. Quickly turn the shrimp and cook until fully opaque, about 45 seconds longer, and transfer to a bowl.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan, place over medium-low heat, and when the butter has melted, add the garlic and fiddleheads and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about a minute.
3. Add the wine and a teaspoon or so of chili powder and stir to blend.
4. Return the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the pan, add the parsley, season with salt and black pepper to taste, and stir to combine.

Yield: 2 servings

Peanut butter and jelly ice cream

The last of a series of apartment-warming gifts from friends and relatives was an ice cream maker from Ali's thoughtful aunt and uncle in Columbus – the perfect addition to our little kitchen as the oppressive summer months approach. I broke in the machine by making something extremely simple: peanut butter and jelly ice cream. The recipe, adapted from the fantastic Kitchen Chick, is a mixture of local, organic, and mass-produced, processed foods. Both of us, for example, hate organic or natural peanut butters, and prefer Jif Extra Crunchy. Feel free to use whichever you prefer (though, as Kitchen Chick points out, the results are best with Jif). The quality of the cream and milk, on the other hand, will make a huge difference, so try and find a high-quality, locally farmed product. We use Ronnybrook Farms, which is in Ancramdale, NY.


1 cup Jif Extra Crunchy peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 - 1/3 cups heavy cream
3 tbs Hero raspberry preserve
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a bowl, combine the peanut butter and sugar. Stir until smooth.
2. Add milk. In a blender, blend on low speed until it's smooth. Stir in the heavy cream and the vanilla.
3. Put it in your ice cream maker and let it go until it's thickened. Remove a bit at a time, placing in a container you can seal, and layer with raspberry preserve.
4. Seal the container, and put it in your freezer for a few hours.

Yield: 6 servings

Eating Out: Tabla

For a birthday surprise, Jon decided we should go to one of the few high-end restaurants in New York that I hadn't been to -- and wanted to eat at. So we were off to Tabla, for a tasting menu full of Floyd Cardoz' innovative Indian twists on American flavors, which showcased his commitment to locally sourced ingredients.

The soft-shell crab won me over to a sea creature I'd previously thought I could live without. The fricassee of ramps and morels was the perfect evocation of the season, with a rich cloud of quail egg to top it off. The halibut swam in a pool of jalapeno-inflected watermelon, a perfect savory marriage. And the bread! We'll be dreaming of that garlic naan and corn roti for ages, dipping them into spiced tomato and green-apple-and-squash chutneys over and over again in our sleep.

We declined a wine pairing in favor of seasonal and seductive cocktails: the Thai Basil Bliss (tequila, fresh thai basil, pineapple, and sparkling wine), the Kumquat Mojito (light rum, fresh mint, kumquats, and lime), the Lots o'Passion (passionfruit purée with vodka and lime juice), and the Tamarind Margarita (tequila, cointreau, tamarind, fresh lime, and orange).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Curried scallops with acorn squash

I am impressed by the simplicity of most scallops you find in nice restaurants. They're caramelized, sautéed in some subtle reduction, and served. Even more simple is scallop sushi, the deliciousness of which proves once and for all that scallops were doing just fine as a food even before our species carved its first spear. This meal, partly inspired by the perfect scallops we ate at Little Giant a few nights ago, was an attempt to see what happens when one does seriously spice their scallops, and it proved to be an extremely easy way to prepare an impressive looking (and tasting) fleshed-out full-plate entrée.

To be honest, this is the first dish I have made that I would be thrilled to receive at a nice restaurant. The curry sauce adds spice to the scallops and squash without overwhelming their natural flavor, and, if you brown the squash just right, all the colors become perfectly matched.

adapted from epicurious

1 large (1 1/2- to 2-lb) acorn squash
2 tsp butter
3/4 lb sea scallops
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño chile
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup water
3 tsp garam masala powder
3/4 cup coconut milk

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Halve acorn squash, and remove seeds.
3. Rub each half of the squash, including the cavity, with salted butter. Place face down on a baking sheet and put in oven.
4. After squash has been roasting 30 minutes, pat scallops dry and season with salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown scallops on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes total (scallops will be almost cooked through). Remove from heat. Add turmeric and toss until scallops are yellow, then transfer to a bowl.
5. Cook jalapeño, garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon lime juice in remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in skillet over moderately high heat, stirring, 1 minute. Add water and simmer until water is evaporated and chile mixture is softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add coconut milk and garam masala and simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cover.
6. When squash is tender, add remaining 2 teaspoons lime juice and scallops with any liquid that has accumulated in bowl to sauce and simmer until scallops are just cooked through and sauce is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
7. Remove from heat, and spoon scallops and sauce onto squash.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Garam masala beet chips

I've always been a huge fan of beet chips, but have been frustrated by the generally unhealthy commonly available bagged varieties. Most of them are fried, or, if baked, baked in a thick layer of oil. So, with little to do on a lazy Saturday afternoon, I decided to try my hand at making them from scratch. These beet chips, which are the result of a combination of a couple recipes I found, are baked without oil, and they're the better for it.

Aside from being a fun experiment in making healthy snack foods, this was a great way to use two presents my mom gave us when she was here: garam masala curry powder (which Ali already used to make sweet potato latkes), fresh from the spice market in Istanbul, and an OXO mandoline that I used to slice the beets thin. The (organic) beets themselves are from a stall at the Union Square Greenmarket.

Make sure you slice the beets as thin as you can – they're best when they're crunchy.


Time: 1 1/4 hours (20 minutes active prep, 50-60 minutes to bake)

2-3 medium-size beets
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
4 tbs garam masala curry powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel the beets, and use a mandoline to slice them as thin as possible.
2. Boil the water and sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
3. Remove the sugar water from the stove, and add curry powder and beet slices.
4. Stir beets until covered, and leave for 10 minutes.
5. Drain beets, let sit for another ten minutes.
6. Spray a small amount of cooking spray on a baking sheet. Arrange beet slices on tray so they don't touch.
7. Season beets with salt, pepper, and additional curry powder to taste. Bake for 50-60 minutes, flipping once. When you flip them, season again to taste.

Eating out: Little Giant

Our friend Andrew recommended that we try this place called Little Giant, a few blocks south into the Lower East Side from our apartment. The website promises seasonal, organic, locally sourced food, and dinner last night definitely delivered. The chive biscuits with honey butter were the star of the table, but our favorite dish was a little more inventive: ramps and orecchiette with morels, pancetta, and a poached egg. The scallops were perfectly seared, the dandelion greens salad warm with its prosciutto vinaigrette and peppers, and the cocktails creative and smoothly intoxicating.

We will definitely be heading back there sometime.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pineapple-basil granita

I was surprised at how easy it was to make this granita, but I doubt I'll be making too many of them in the near future -- a birthday gift arrived in the mail from my aunt and uncle: a well timed, much appreciated ice cream maker!

This delicious dessert shouldn't be too hard to transform into sorbet, and for those without a magical machine of their own, it already comes pretty close to the smoothness of a sorbet, with the requisite amount of attention and care over an hour and a half in the freezer. I was inspired by this recipe on a cool blog called Cookworm, but I eliminated the simple syrup -- pineapple is sweet enough already without any added sugar.

Still, I can't wait to mix up a batch of red curry coconut ice cream to go with it. Check back soon for future adventures in frozen desserts.


Time: 10 minutes preparation, 1 1/2 hours in the freezer

1 pineapple
3 stalks fresh basil
juice from 1 lemon

1. Cut the pineapple into chunks.
2. Remove leaves from basil.
3. Add pineapple, basil, and lemon juice into a food processor and blend until smooth.
4. Freeze, being sure to stir and break up large pieces with a fork every 20 minutes or so, until granita reaches the desired consistency (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours).

Yield: 2-4 servings

This post is part of Heart of the Matter 15: Herbal Essence.

Breakfast for dinner

I spent much of this week in Boston on a trip for work, and I returned exhilarated but exhausted. I was looking for a meal that would wake me up, and what could be better than breakfast?

I had been thinking about hash browns ever since I saw this photo on tastespotting last week, but I wanted to use Jon's favored sweet potatoes and to bake them instead of frying. I found a recipe for oven-baked latkes at slashfood, and subbed in the orange tubers. Then I spiced up the mixture with ginger, cumin, chili powder -– and curry powder, since Jon's mom brought us an incredible jar of the stuff from her trip to Turkey -– baked them with a bit of butter, and served them up with curry ketchup and some sour cream.

Where potatoes go, eggs will follow -– and so I felt a frittata was in order. I found this recipe for a frittata with pecorino and ramps, accompanied by a gorgeous photo, but when Jon went to Whole Foods, there were no ramps to be found, so I had him grab a bouquet of asparagus instead.


Time: 45 minutes

2 sweet potatoes
1 russet potato
1 small, sweet onion
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp chili powder
4 tbsp white whole wheat flour
butter (to grease the baking sheet)

1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Peel sweet potatoes, potato, and onion, and grate in a food processor (or by hand, oy!).
3. Transfer potato mixture to a large bowl and stir in the eggs, flour, and all spices.
4. Drop latke mixture in 2-3 tbsp measures, forming 2-3 inch pancakes that are about 1/4 inch thick (sightly thicker is ok), on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then turn the pancakes over, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Latkes should be deep gold on both sides when done, so add a minute or two to the baking time, if necessary.
The latkes can be served immediately, but will stay crisp a bit longer than their fried counterparts and can also be served at room temperature.

Yield: 4-6 servings


Time: 15 minutes

8 eggs
1 tbsp butter
1 bunch asparagus, chopped
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
freshly-ground black pepper

1. Turn on the broiler.
2. Beat eggs in a medium bowl.
3. Beat in cheese, along with a few twists of your pepper mill.
4. Gently stir in asparagus, reserving some of the tips for decoration.
5. Add butter to an 8" skillet over medium heat, swirling it around the skillet to ensure that it coats the sides. As soon as the butter stops foaming, reduce the heat to low, give the frittata mixture a stir and pour it into the skillet.
6. Allow the frittata to cook undisturbed for 4-6 minutes, until only the top of the frittata remains runny, but the rest of the frittata has set. Use a silicone spatula to check doneness on the sides. When the frittata is set, you should be able to easily run a spatula around the sides of the frittata and peak at the browned sides.
7. Place the reserved asparagus tips on top of the frittata in a flower design and place it under the broiler until the runny top of the frittata is cooked and beginning to brown just a bit, 1-2 minutes.

Yield: 3-4 servings

Monday, May 19, 2008

Garlic and ginger chili paste

As a pet project I've been drying a bunch of different peppers that I picked up at M2M Mart on 3rd Avenue. There's no sauce I love more than sambal olek, and I wanted to see if I could do it myself. The timing was right, too–with Ali out of town, I needed something to spice up my night.

The result is a flavorful, dynamic sauce that will go well with anything pan-Asian. I recommend adding garlic, ginger, and salt freely in order to balance the sheer spice of the peppers. Also, it's fun to experiment with the peppers you use. In this batch, I added one long medium-hot pepper whose name I don't know to the mix of smaller, more powerful peppers.


Time: 1 hour

5 dried ancho chilies
1 dried habañero pepper
5 semi-dried thai chilies
1 semi-dried long medium-hot pepper (pictured above with the thai peppers)
2 tablespoons garlic
2 teaspoons ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt to taste

Place all fully dried chilies in a bowl of boiling water, with a weight on top to keep them submerged, for 25-30 minutes. Remove the chilies from the water and pull them open, removing the stem and seeds. If you want a hotter paste, retain some of the seeds. Retain about half a cup of the soaking water.

Place chilies, garlic, ginger, salt, and oil in a food processor or blender. Puree, adding a spoonful of the retained water every few seconds until it becomes a thick paste.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Citrus salad

This is an old standby of mine, but I whipped it out to follow Jon's fish tacos, and it served as the perfect dessert. I know the goal is to eat more vegetables, but when fruit is so delicious, how can we stop ourselves? It still feels really good for us...


Time: 10 minutes

1 ruby red grapefruit
1 tangelo
1 honey tangerine
1 blood orange
fresh mint
powdered ginger

1. Supreme the fruit over a bowl, retaining as much of the juice as you can.
2. Add a teaspoon and a half or so of honey, powdered ginger, and cinnamon to taste.
3. Toss in a few fresh mint leaves, which you'll use later for garnish.
4. Chill for at least half an hour.

Yield: 4 servings

This post is part of Sugar High Fridays #43: Citrus.

Fish tacos with gingered mango salsa

There's a spirited, longstanding, ongoing debate in food writing over who invented the fish taco. Ensenada certainly gets the most credit for it, but that may simply be the spoils of convenience – Ensenada is right across the border from my hometown, San Diego, making it easy for foodie luminaries like Calvin Trillin to sample the wares and declare it, unequivocally, the best, and probably the first, fish taco in the world.

San Felipe, on the other hand, is almost three hours' drive from the border towns of Calexico and Mexicali, which themselves are in the middle of nowhere. I've been there twice, and it wasn't easy either time. The trip requires passage through a windswept, empty desert, not to mention two or three sketchy-looking military checkpoints. But it's worth it – San Felipe's population of fishermen/cooks, for my money, make the best – and probably the first – fish tacos in the world. My mom was in town this week, reminding me of our first trip there together, and so I made this dish.


Time: 30 minutes

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless perch fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 scallions, chopped

Mango salsa:
2 mangos
1/2 red onion
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/4 cup lime juice
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced, with half its seeds
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all salsa ingredients, veggies roughly chopped, in a food processor and pulse.

Heat three tablespoons oil in a large skillet. Saute scallions for one minute, then saute fish for two. Pour over lime juice, and saute for another minute, until cooked through.

Serve fish in corn tortillas. Pour salsa on top, and garnish with cilantro.

Yield: 4 servings

Black bean cakes with strawberry salsa

When I was a vegetarian in high school, it was easy. I just ate pasta all the time, and shook things up once in a while with couscous or rice. What we're attempting here is different, even beyond the fact that we're certainly not giving up meat completely: refined grains might still feature as a side dish from time to time, but we're trying to avoid putting them at the center of the plate.

So, I've been scouring the internet for vegetable dishes that can star on their own, and one of the first I came across was this recipe for black bean cakes, which I modified slightly (see below). They use brown rice and an egg to bind them, and the result was almost like a veggie burger, but more complex and flavorful, with a surprisingly appealing texture.

It's strawberry season, so I searched for a way to incorporate some into our meal, with the idea that balsamic vinegar might tame the sweetness enough to pair them with the bean cakes. I found a recipe that called for balsamic strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and cilantro, and of course I was sold.


Time: 40 minutes

1 cup cooked brown rice
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
3 chopped scallions
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cloves minced garlic
freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine cooked rice, beans, scallions, cilantro, cumin, red pepper flakes, garlic granules, salt, and pepper to taste in the bowl of a food processor. Process until combined. Add egg and continue to process until well combined. The mixture will be very soft. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Drop large spoonfuls of bean mixture into hot oil to form cakes.
3. Gently fry the cakes about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Garnish with the remaining cilantro.

Yield: 4 servings (8 cakes)


Time: 5 minutes (with food processor, 15 without)

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pint fresh strawberries
8 green onions, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro

Add all ingredients to food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped (absent a food processor, feel free just to chop everything by hand). Chill at least 1 hour.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chilled pea soup with mint

The mint plant on our windowsill has been threatening to reach all the way outside, so I spent the afternoon thinking about what I could make to use up a nice branch of it. Pea soup came to mind -- and, in this weather, it seemed right to serve it cold. A quick bit of googling landed me on this recipe from a forum on Jamie Oliver's site. I'm glad I didn't let the association with the naked chef stop me from trying out this perfect paean to early spring.


Time: 30 minutes (prep), 1 1/2 hours (total)

3 large onions
4 stalks celery
1 large bag frozen organic petite peas
1 large potato
2 pints vegetable stock
fresh mint
black pepper
sour cream or Greek yogurt (for garnish)

1. Chop the onions and celery and saute with pepper in olive oil until golden.
2. Peel and chop the potato and add to the pan with all peas and stock.
3. Simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Add a few sprigs of mint and blend until smooth.
5. Chill for at least an hour.
6. Garnish with a leaf or two of mint and a swirl of sour cream or yogurt.

Yield: 4-6 servings (we froze most of it in a ziploc bag)

Beet rosti with rosemary

Ali and I are in the middle of a Dan Barber-stoked love affair with beets, and beet rosti is an extremely easy way to prepare them. They're essentially beet latkes, and if you make them with rosemary they come out tasting like the best kind of earth. Be liberal with the salt. Ali made the salad out of the beet greens attached to our six organic beets, and topped it with some chevre left over from our party. The recipe comes from the Union Square Cafe via Mark Bittman.


Time: 30 minutes

2 pounds beets (3 very large or 4 to 6 medium)
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
Minced parsley or a few rosemary leaves for garnish.

1. Trim beets, and peel them as you would potatoes; grate them in food processor or by hand. Begin preheating 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.
2. Toss grated beets in bowl with rosemary, salt and pepper. Add about half the flour; toss well, add rest of flour, and toss again.
3. Put butter in skillet; heat until it begins to turn nut-brown. Scrape beet mixture into skillet, and press with spatula to form a round. With medium to medium-high heat -- the pancake should gently sizzle -- cook, shaking pan occasionally, until bottom of cake is nicely crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Slide cake onto a plate, top with another plate, invert the two plates, and return cake to pan. Keep cooking, adjusting heat if necessary, until other side is browned, another 10 minutes or so. Garnish, cut into wedges, and serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: 4 servings.

This post is part of Vegetables, Beautiful Vegetables.

The beginning

It all began with Jon's inspired purchase of a food processor.

We were throwing a housewarming party for our new place, and we just dove into the possibilities, whipping up all sorts of dips for the chips we'd bought at Trader Joe's and the crudite we'd cut up from a FreshDirect delivery.

But, really, it began with Michael Pollan. We'd both read The Omnivore's Dilemma, which confirmed our suspicions about the agricultural-industrial complex, but we'd recently borrowed a copy of his new book, In Defense of Food, and were starting to take steps toward reclaiming our diets.

Now, as we make an attempt to cook and eat at home more often -- despite living amidst the world's richest concentration of restaurants -- we plan to document that effort and show how it's possible to "eat food, not too much, mostly plants" even here in the heart of New York City.

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