Wednesday, January 27, 2010

If we don't love our farmers, who will?

A couple of days ago my husband walked in the door and had with him, a present. No, not a bouquet of flowers. Definitely not jewelry (I'm not that kinda gal). Not even Season 5 of The Office on dvd (I am that kinda gal). Nope; he came in, set down a grocery sack on the kitchen counter and proudly proclaimed, "Kelsey sent us some beets, turnips, and eggs from Williams Island". Then he proceeded to jump out of the way as I lunged towards the bag of produce as if it were a wild boar and I was a starving Bear Grylls. I'm telling you the truth; I wouldn't have been happier if he'd sat a sailboat up there. What a treat this was; a fresh bag of organic produce and the most beautiful eggs, unexpectedly plopped into my afternoon! I actually got giddy. My mind started racing; this beautiful food was going to be treated well and I wanted to come up with the best way to enjoy it! After considering some of my favorite ol' stanbys like Roasted Beets with Walnuts and Blue Cheese, I decided to challenge myself. For me, "enjoying" this food meant not only that it be palatable in the end, but that I take pleasure in the process. Cooking is one of my creative outlets, one that sometimes ends in utter failure, but one that always teaches and inspires me towards something. Let the learning begin.So, here's what a dork I am...I sort of, um, pretended that I was on Chopped (you know, the Food Network show in which competitors are given a basket containing 3 or 4 ingredients and they have to create a dish that successfully highlights these ingredients). This scenario felt so similar, and just seemed like an opportunity that shouldn't be missed.

So, I quickly decided that I would try a roasted beet frozen custard with sweet and salty turnip chips. After washing the beets, I roasted them in a foil packet, cooled and peeled them, and then took a little "sample" bite for myself. Wow. It was really hard not to eat every single one of them. I mean, they didn't need a pinch of salt or a drizzle of oil. They were just plain ol' good. Next, I reduced them with some water, sugar, and balsamic vinegar. After pushing the reduction through a sieve, I discarded the solids and proceeded to make my custard using the thickest, brightest, most incredible egg yolks ever; this type of egg is only possible when bought fresh and locally. These eggs actually made me consider bustin' out some old-school sweats, cranking up Eye of the Tiger, and downing a couple u' raw ones. (But I imagined it, and that was enough).
The outcome, was, well....delicious. However, I'd be misleading you if I didn't mention a few things...I think next time I try this I will use more beets to get an even "beetier" taste. There was a slight earthiness that could be detected, but I would have liked to taste it more. Mostly, this just tasted like creamy vanilla bean custard, that happened to be beautifully colored. For the amount of work that it takes to make the beet syrup, I'm not sure that the flavor comes through enough to be worth it. Like I said, I'll try once more and see if I can improve it.

And the turnip chips....these bad boys could stand all on their own. They don't need any stinkin' ice cream (although they were an awesome accompaniment)! I washed, peeled, and sliced them paper thin (you can use a mandolin or the slicing side of a box grater), tossed them with extra virgin olive oil, gray sea salt, and spread them in a single layer on a sprayed baking sheet. Bake them at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from oven, sprinkle with just a bit of sugar, turn chips over, and return to oven for about 3 or 4 more minutes. Place on cooling rack immediately. Thin, crispy, salty, slightly sweet, flavorful. Good stuff. (These are also great as savory chips, without any sugar).

So a BIG THANKYOU to Williams Island Farm. We love what you're doing and are grateful for your hard work and your commitment to good things! If you're in the Chattanooga area, please check out their site and some of the other local farm's sites as well (listed on the right side of my blog). Don't miss the Main Street Farmer's Market; my Wednesday visits here are the highlight of my week. (Is that sad)?

Anyways, wherever you are, it's a fine idea to support your local farmers. Show 'em some love! I won't tell you all the reasons why you should do this because there are lots of people who can say it better than I can (like this guy and these folks). But really...why wouldn't you? Visit your local farmer's market and rediscover what food actually tastes like. You don't have to make beet frozen custard or even buy a turnip. Start with a summertime tomato and I'll be hooked!

Roasted Beet Frozen Custard with Sweet & Salty Turnip Chips
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted beets, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash beets (about 5 or 6 small ones), wrap up in an aluminum foil packet (sealed well so steam won't escape) and bake for 45 minutes. Allow to cool and then peel. Combine peeled and cubed beets in a pot with sugar, water, and balsamic. Simmer on medium, uncovered, about 25 minutes (or until reduced by half). Press through a sieve and discard solids. Reserve beet syrup.

In another pot, bring skim milk just below a boil. Remove from heat and set aside. In another pot, whisk egg yolks with beet syrup (should be about 1/2 cup of syrup). Add warm skim milk and vanilla bean seeds, return to heat and stir constantly until mixture starts to steam. remove from heat and add heavy cream, salt, and vanilla extract. Allow to age overnight in covered container in refrigerator. When ready to serve, pour custard into an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's recommendations. Garnish frozen custard with crispy turnip chips (recipe included in post above).

One more bonus recipe here...I had a few more turnips hanging around and since I also had some leftover World's Best Cornbread, I figured I'd better get to makin' some turnip dressing. This dish screamed THANKSGIVING, and though I'm sure you're over that right now, keep this in mind for next year. It was awesome!

Roasted Turnip Dressing

  • 4 turnips, peeled and cubed into 1/2 " squares
  • 1/2 pan of leftover cornbread (10" pan)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 3-4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2" rounds
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp. pumpkin seed oil

Toss everything together. Put in a sprayed 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes (may need to lightly stir once).


Simply Life said...

I'm with you there and would also love that surprise!

Lauren said...

I love Beetroot, and I thought I had been rather brave making muffins out of them. But wow, you really showed me up - beetroot ice cream - that's something else.

The thing is I can totally imagine how great this ice cream would be, and now I have no beetroot but a real craving to try it!

Brad said...

great pics and recipe thanks

Claudia said...

Love turnip chips!Now, beet custard - wow - I think I shall have to try it - and yes, try tomato custard and you are sending me of to another world... Gorgeous photos!

denise, the prime magpie said...

Cheers to you! Beautiful recipe and great resourcefulness! Every week felt like Iron Chef when we had a CSA delivery. Not knowing what was coming, it was always mysterious and somewhat frantic, but a good experience in cooking with what was fresh. Hoping to have a similar experience this year; instead of participating in a CSA, I'm hoping to be Farmer Wasabi, growing as much as we can and trading with other growers if we have enough surplus. Keeping fingers crossed!

Kathy Gori said...

Ok, so now I know I'm not the only geek in the world that pretends she's on chopped. This looks absolutely killer. I've got to try this!

Emily Ziegler said...

As if your blog already wasn't the best thing since chicken soup, you go and post this! Fantastic. Creative. I adore it.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

This is just about the greatest idea I've ever heard. Wow. It's gorgeous, and I love it. The flavor in local ingredients is just so superior to the run-of-the-mill grocery items. Maybe drizzle beet syrup on top next time for extra beety flavor?

megan said...

What a unique idea and such a pretty color. Bet you didn't get chopped (in your imagination)! :)

Cocina Savant said...

this looks gorgeous! i love the color you get from doing anything with beets, and the custard recipe sounds fantastic! its amazing the inspiration you get from great fresh ingredients :)

Brie: Le Grand Fromage said...

wow, amazing post! fantastic recipe - i would love to try this! :)

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