Friday, June 22, 2012

Market Bounty: Beet Carpaccio and Ginger-Lime Carrots

It's pretty much a given that I will spend at least one day on the weekend at a farmers market. The produce really can't be beat and there's also really tasty treats to be eaten. 
Last weekend my husband was in town (he travels back and forth between NYC and Denver until we figure out our next move, but one which will hopefully keep us near the Rocky Mountains). We decided to go to the big and always-crowded farmers market at Cherry Creek. It's a lot easier to keep track of the boys when there are 4 hands on deck.
There was tons of seasonal produce. I snagged a huge bunch of carrots and three kinds of beets (golden, red and chioggia) and while I didn't have a scale with me, I would approximate that I was shlepping about 15 pounds of produce around with me the rest of the day. Good bounty, indeed!
I also ate some fantastic pupusas. I had green chili & cheese, but there were tons of options including pinto and black bean & corn. They reminded me a lot of the ones I used to eat at the Brooklyn Flea...but without the hour-plus wait. Mine was topped with curtido (a fermented slaw) and a tomato-based sauced, plus a big dollop of avocado. Perfect.
We met up with some friends and hung around the market for about an hour. Then we ventured over to the 47th annual Greek Festival. More food, some dancing and lots of "Opa!" But that's a story for another post....
* * *
I use beets in soup (Lithuanian Borscht) and I've made my fair share of beet salads: Beets with Blood Oranges, Arugula and Macadamia Nuts, Beet and Apple Salad (with horseradish and pistachios), and Roasted Beets With Chiles, Ginger, Yogurt and Indian SpicesI try not to be too repetitive in my recipe selection, but I felt an intense desire to make another beet salad using the gorgeous vegetables I had just picked up at the market. I mean sometimes it's just hard to beat...beets. (Sorry, that was a bad one.) This time though I was making a salad without greens, and the beets were thinly sliced-- just like beef carpaccio, but with beets! The salad has goat cheese crumbles, but you can omit them if you are vegan or otherwise averse to dairy. I made a few modifications: I added the shallots to the vinaigrette in order to cut their bite a bit and I also made the salad with and without chives. I'm not convinced the chives added much. In contrast, the mint popped and it was an absolutely essential element to the dressing. 
I made a note below (see Preparation) about the time it took me to roast the beets. I also drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled a bit of salt and pepper on top before putting them in the oven.
I think this is a super elegant presentation of beets with goat cheese. It's delicious too. 
Beet Carpaccio with Goat Cheese and Mint Vinaigrette (Courtesy of Bon Appetit, via Epicurious)
12 2-inch beets, trimmed
1 cup crumbled soft fresh goat cheese (about 5 ounces)
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup walnut oil or olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
(Preparation follows)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place beets on sheet (if using both light- and dark-colored beets, place them on separate sheets to prevent discoloration). Sprinkle beets lightly with water. Cover tightly with foil. Bake until beets are tender when pierced with fork, about 40 minutes. (Note: after 40 minutes on 350 degrees, my beets were not even close to being done. I turned the temperature up to 425 and kept them in for another 35 minutes. That did the trick.) Cool on sheet. Peel beets. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Place in resealable plastic bag; chill.)
Using cheese slicer or knife, slice beets very thinly. Slightly overlap slices on 6 plates, dividing equally. Sprinkle with cheese, then shallot, salt, and pepper. Whisk vinegar, mint, oil, and sugar in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over beets. Sprinkle with chives.
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Ginger-Lime Baby Carrots (Courtesy of Richard Blais for Food & Wine Magazine
{I'm re-posting this recipe, which I made last year. It's a simple baby carrot recipe. The carrots are so sweet--this is really the time to be making them.}  
Serves 4


24 baby carrots, tops trimmed to 2 inches
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
Pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup chicken stock (I used vegetable)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon furikake (see Note)

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the carrots until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain the carrots.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.  Add the carrots, ginger and cinnamon and cook over moderate heat, tossing occasionally, until the ginger is fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and boil over moderately high heat until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool for 30 seconds.  Swirl in the butter, lime juice and Sriracha and season with salt.  Arrange the carrots on a platter and spoon the ginger-lime sauce on top.  (Sprinkle with the furikake and serve.)

NoteFurikake is available at Asian markets and many specialty food stores.  It is a mixture of dried and ground fish, sesame seeds and chopped seaweed.  I added a a few sesame seeds instead of making a pilgrimage to a Japanese market.   
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Denver Food Trucks (continued) at Civic Center Eats...

I think it's official: I LOVE food trucks. I have jumped on the bandwagon, er, truck. For a long time food trucks just weren't my thing because more often than not there were few, if any, vegetarian options on board. But things have really changed! Now I can always find something to eat-- and I'm talking about something substantial that guarantees I'll be sated after a food truck pit-stop! My quest to eat from as many of Denver's Food Trucks as I can possibly handle, continues... 

I decided to take the boys to Civic Center Eats, a food truck gathering that runs over the summer months on Tuesday and Thursday. I knew we wouldn't last long given the rising Celsius (read: 100 degrees), but I thought we could handle it for a few moments before heading over to the (air-conditioned) Denver Art Museum.
Despite the heat, the crowds were out-- but people in Denver are so freakin' nice, that waiting in the hot sun didn't seem to ruffle anyone's feathers. We waited and then we ate. 

I finally got to sample a Banh-Mi sandwich from Manna From Heaven-- voted the best food truck (2012) in the Westword Magazine. I had heard really good things, but I wasn't sure what to think of this Vietnamese food truck with a name that doesn't quite ring Southeast-Asian to me. So, the verdict? Delicious. They had a vegetarian version of Banh Mi that was packed with tofu, pickled carrots, sprouts, potatoes (which I had not seen before) and topped with a generous handful of cilantro. It was coated in a fabulous (traditional) chili-sauce that reminded me of the sauces I put on everything when I was in Vietnam. The sandwich was really good. I now get the hype. 

I quenched my thirst with a gigantic limeade because one has got to keep hydrated in this weather! I also packed up a Mile High Mocha cupcake from The Denver Cupcake Truck which had a chocolate-mocha base, toffee bits and an espresso cream frosting that I ate at home with an iced coffee. Um, heaven? Yup, I think so.

Otis cooled down by having a scoop of snickerdoodle ice cream from Coaches Scoop. He ate it so fast that I almost didn't have time to get my own spoon in there! I think the perfection of the ice cream, coupled with the near 100 degree temperatures, were to blame. It hit the spot...

Only one thing could cool this guy off...snickerdoole ice cream from Coaches Scoop.

Based on today's positive response (from all parties concerned), I think I'll be heading back next week. I'm looking forward to trying the Veg Head (falafel balls with seasonal slaw, yogurt sauce, and tahini) from Stick It To Me and maybe a little somethin'-somethin' from Little India. I'm also going to have to try the grub from Vegan Van, which is only at Civic Center on Thursdays. 
I should also mention that I was eavesdropping on a bunch of guys sitting next to me (shameful, I know!). They were raving about the food and talked about a lot of trucks I still haven't tried-- so I know that it's going to take all summer to go through the menu options. I also learned that Mo's BBQ has a spicy-tofu BBQ sandwich, so I'll report back on that after I try it.
And one more thing: please note that I do not know any of the vendors personally, nor am I compensated for reviewing any of these street eats. I write about the trucks (and local businesses) because I love food. And I'm finding lots to talk about here in Denver. That's why I do it and it just makes me happy! 
If you're in Denver, check out the scene-- and click here for a list of vendors and their days at Civic Center Eats. 
Vroom. Vroom. 
Update: I went back to Civic Center Eats today (Thursday). The Sesame Seed Truck and The Vegan Van are where I made my pit-stops. Lunch included "The Ludacris"-- a vegan-take on "chicken" and waffles, which was really tasty, and Tofu Crisp-  fried tofu with pickled cabbage, pickled daikon, cilantro, carrots, cucumbers and I opted for the peanut-sauce. Perfect and fresh- a delicious bite.
Both trucks served dishes that made me certain I would stop by again for other menu items. 
Happy Eats!

The Vegan Van's "Ludacris"-- "chicken" (seitan) and waffles.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Day Poppy Seed Cake

I'm pretty sure I love poppy seeds more than your average person. I'm border line obsessed: my bagel of choice is poppy seed, I crave beet ravioli with butter and poppy seeds (from Al di La in Brooklyn), and one of my favorite dressings (particularly delicious on grilled peaches) is, you guessed it, poppy seed. And of all the recipes I've made, I find myself making Dorie Greenspan's Lemon Poppy Muffins time and time again. Nom. Nom. Nom. Poppy seeds! I love their crunch, color and taste.
Recently Saveur Magazine had a great article on poppy seeds and the photographs were magnificent. Since I don't have a microscopic lens on hand, and there is no way I could ever capture the amazingness of these little seeds, I decided to show you this shot of magnified poppy seeds taken by Todd Coleman.
How neat is that? 
Anyway, last year I took out a whole bunch of cookbooks from my local library. I wanted to test different recipes, experiment with spices and flavors and see which dishes I liked the best before buying yet another cookbook. My favorites were: Dorie Greenspan's tome Around My French Table, Anna Thomas's Love Soup, Moro: East by Sam and Sam Clark and Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
One of the recipes I really wanted to try, but never got around to making (it turns out you do have to return the library books eventually!), was from Deborah's book for Poppy Seed Cake. I was reminded of the cake when Luisa of The Wednesday Chef posted it a few weeks back. 
I finally got around to making it and it was delicious-- crunchy, spongy and moist. Can a cake be all those things at once? You bet! 
Since I'm posting this recipe on Father's Day I think it's a good time to make two personal shout-outs. First, I want to thank my husband for being a terrific father-- he takes the boys on hikes, shows them how to skip rocks on the lake, he gives them his time and he gives them his love. 
I also want to thank my own father ("Daddykins") for showing me how to make masks out of paper bags when I was little, giving me an appreciation for art, introducing me to classical music, always trying to help me with my math homework-- an undertaking that was pretty difficult when I was a teenager--and for being one of the most patient and kindest human beings I know. 
Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there. Thank you for doing what you do...and enjoy this delicious poppy seed cake on your special day!
Poppy Seed Cake (Courtesy of Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by way of The Wednesday Chef) 
Makes one 9-inch round cake
1 cup poppy seeds
1/2 cup milk, heated, but not boiling
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the poppy seeds and the hot milk. Set aside until needed. Heat the oven to 375ᵒF. Butter and flour a 9-inch spring form pan. Set aside.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium-high until firm but moist peaks form. Transfer the egg whites to a small mixing bowl. Using the same bowl as for the egg whites, but now using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, then beat in the egg yolks, adding one at a time and beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, as needed.
4. Drain the milk from the poppy seeds, discarding the milk. Add the buttermilk and the drained poppy seeds to the batter. Beat until well combined, then again scrape down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula. Add the flour mixture to the batter, in thirds. Again scrape the bowl with the rubber spatula, making sure it’s all well mixed. Fold in about a quarter of the beaten egg whites with the spatula, then fold in the rest, mixing gently until just combined.
5. Transfer the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing the top with the rubber spatula. Bake until golden and firm, with the sides just beginning to pull away from the pan, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. Carefully run a sharp, thin knife along the sides of the cake, just against the pan, then gently remove the rim and allow the cake to cool to room temperature before slicing.
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Monday, June 11, 2012

Springtime Walks and The Farmers Markets

Every few weekends I like to take a long walk through the Highlands-- it's a big section of the city and it's where I live and play. I usually start the walk around Potter Highlands Historic District, grab a coffee along 32nd Avenue, and then cross over the 3 pedestrian bridges that link the Lower Highlands (LoHi) with Downtown, by way of the Platte neighborhood. I like the fact that there is no car needed for this excursion. 
Each of the three foot bridges cross a thoroughfare that's impossible to traverse by foot: the I-25 highway, the Platte River and the train tracks that carry coal, freight and the light-rail commuter train. It's an incredibly smart way to connect downtown with some of the surrounding residential communities and it was all done relatively recently. Kudos to the designers behind this green, urban idea.
Since Otis seemingly has an unlimited amount of energy and can pretty much walk/run anywhere for any amount of time, and Theodore is super happy in his umbrella stroller, this (very) long walk is a really nice way to spend a couple of hours. Sometimes we sit on the grass at Commons Park, sometimes we watch kayakers at Confluence Park, and sometimes we stroll along the busy streets of the Platte. But no matter what, we always seem to wind up at Little Man Ice Cream...and usually it's when they've stocked their Salted Oreo flavor. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe not!  
The Highlands Farmers Market is now open on the weekend, so if I do this walk on Saturday, I stop by. I love market season! 
What flavor should I have today?

And after walking, it's time to hit the farmers market...
The Highlands Market is a block long and much smaller than the Cherry Creek market. But there is something really nice and local about it-- there's that neighborhoody-feel. There are a few stalls dedicated to produce and I picked up some scallions, baby lettuce, beets and a whole bunch of herbs including dill, thyme and basil. Many vendors sell other edibles such as fresh bread (I picked up a delicious foccacia), cheese, fresh pasta, and locally-sourced honey. And there are food trucks (big, big exclamation mark!)! So far I've tried:
Arepas de Domino (black beans and cheese) from Quiero Arepas. Yum!
Quinoa Salad from Eat Eatcletic. Perfect!
A Watermelon-Orange pop from Aikopops. Delish!
Today I also picked up a Chocolate Pecan Pie from the Denver Pie Truck and it was AMAZING! Lip-smacking good. 
Next week I'll be sure to try some latkes from Latke Love-- "Potato Latkes Piled High." I'm going to start with their traditional latkes to see if they remind me of home. (For the meat-eaters, there's also "The Confused Rabbi"-- a latke meat and dairy combination that may or may not have pig product inside, I can't remember. I dig the title though I won't be trying it for obvious reasons...and it's not because I'm kosher.) I'm also going to leave room for a(nother) pie from The Denver Pie Truck. And I'll have to try some more of Eat Eatclectic's treats. Of course it should go without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that I'm 100% certain that by the end of the summer I will have eaten at every stall/food truck at the market. I'm a big fan of street food-- it's just how I roll! I'll be sure to report back. 
Now I just couldn't wait for the next Saturday market (a painful 7 days away), so I went over to Old South Pearl Street which has a market that is open on Sunday. Flowers, produce, antiques, food trucks, and pops...the whole gang was out.
Strawberry-Rhubarb pop hit the spot!
These are the recipes that I'll be making this week, inspired by the Farmers Market:
Black Bean (Domino) Arepas, Courtesy of Hungry Sofia
Chilled Cucumber Soup, Courtesy of Ina Garten
Quinoa Salad, Courtesy of TasteSpotting
Garlic Scape Pizza, Courtesy of Three Clever Sisters
Baby Lettuce with Strawberries, Feta and Almonds, Courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine (scroll to the end of the post)
Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie with Crumb Topping, Courtesy of My Trash and Treasure

See you next weekend...and happy cooking/eating!
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