My day job mandates that I write about food, and though I should probably think better of publicly admitting it, more times than not, I find myself publishing in a hurry. This will change when I receive my Fairy God Servant to help me edit and remind me of my meetings with chicken sales people. (I believe this perk comes after 15 years of service.) The three words that prove my incompetence at self-editing, more-so than any other cluster are beet, beer and beef. That final crucial letter means all the difference. (And yes, I’ve sent out an “e-mail blast”* talking about our upcoming beet tasting.)
This past Sunday, my three typo-tendency words came together in one meal, cooked for my friends Bill and Lisa. Bill spent most of our high school years following me around, making fun of the way I pronunciate certain words and telling me my feet smell. (He was also my first-ever real guy friend and always encouraged me to stand up for myself on the important non-pronunciation and non-feet related things.) His lady friend Lisa recently taught me how to draw. I wanted to thank them for their collective impact on my life by making them beet / beer / beef.
My recipes came from books that I often use for reference during the summer: In Season: Cooking with Vegetables and Fruits and Edible: A Collection of Local Foods. It was a pleasure to flip toward the never-viewed chapters of these guys. It was also a pleasure to use my new mise en place dishes to portion out my lentils, juniper berries and cayenne. (Thank you Cindy!)
The former book gave me this simple salad: arugula, mint and beets tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. I cooked up a few thyme-kissed Luna Burgers to toss on top. The verdict was a perfect combination of textures and flavors.
My main course was an adaptation of an Edible recipe: beer and sauerkraut and apple braised short ribs. Heaven.
Cooked for two hours in a sauce made up of sixteen or forty ingredients, including a bottle of Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Edmund Fitzgerald, these falling off the bone tendrils of beef made me rethink my whole “beef once a week” policy. I served this savory and soupy mix alongside mashed potatoes.
The flavor of lemon bookended the meal with Madisono’s Lemon and Basil Sorbet (a Cincinnati gem) and my friend Taryn’s homemade orangecello, a tangy and sweet pairing. I’ve always favored fall, then spring, when it comes to seasonal and local cuisine, but this meal (and the rarely visited pages of my trusty seasonal sources) shows me that winter can bring about a well-balanced and mouth-watering menu. And we all know that it’s the best time of year for beer / beets / beef.
* I loathe this phrase.
Arugula, Beet and Feta Salad
adapted from In Season: Cooking with Vegetables and Fruits by Sarah Raven
Serves 8 to 10
4 medium-sized beets (or 8 small), cooked and cut into chunks
8 handfuls of arugula
2 handfuls of mint
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (I omitted)
I added two cooked and crumbled Luna Burger patties
for the dressing:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
Leaving their skins on, simmer the beets in a pan until they’re tender (20 to 30 minutes, depending on size). Let them cool slightly and rub off the skins, using your fingers. Cut them into chunks and allow them to cool. Combine the dressing ingredients. Put all other ingredients together in a salad bowl, reserving several mint leaves. Pour over the dressing, toss well and garnish with the reserved mint leaves just before serving.
Brew-Braised Beef Short Ribs with Apple Butter and Sauerkraut
from Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian
6 beef short ribs (1 lb. each)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or another neutral-flavored oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 large carrots, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch lengths
3 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 bottle (12 ounces) dark beer
2 cups chicken broth
1 large can whole tomatoes, preferably organic
1/2 cup sauerkraut juice (drained form a jar or can of sauerkraut)
1 cup drained sauerkraut
1/2 cup apple butter
1 small rutabega (about 1 pound), peeled and ut into 1-inch chunks
1/3 cup dried red lentils (I used green)
5 sprigs fresh thyme (tied together with kitchen twine) or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried juniper berries, lightly crushed, optional
3 bay leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 325º F. Dry the short ribs well. Sprinkle the short ribs on all sides with salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Cook three of the short ribs until deeply browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Repeat with the remaining three short ribs, lowering the heat a bit if necessary to prevent burning. Remove the short ribs to a plate. Spoon out all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan.
2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan, for 3 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cayenne and cook for 1 minute. Increase the heat to high. Add the beer and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the beer is reduced by half, 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Add the broth, canned tomatoes with liquid, sauerkraut juice, sauerkraut and apple butter. Stir well to combine, lightly breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil. Stir in the rutabaga, lentils, thyme, juniper berries (if using) and bay leaves. Return to a boil.
4. Transfer the contents of the sauté pan to a roasting or braising pan large enough to hold the short ribs in a single layer. Add the short ribs and any juices to the pan, nestling them in among the vegetables and spooning over some of the liquid. Cover tightly with the pan’s lid or with foil. Bake in a 325ºF oven until the lamb is fork tender, about 2 hours. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Remove the short ribs to a platter. Spoon off and discard any visible fat from the sauce, then stir the sauce well. Serve the short ribs smothered in sauce and vegetables, accompanied with mashed potatoes.