Monday, June 18, 2012

Spring! Beet Gratin with Mint and Feta

The other day I went to happy hour with some co-workers, several of whom are part of the career services department. We ended up discussing the common interview question "if you were a vegetable what type of vegetable would you be?". Here's a tip: Employers are apparently looking for self awareness, do you know what your skills are? As well as critical thinking and the ability to link ideas.

Anyway, I said that if I were a vegetable I would be a beet because they are traditional but they are also purple (unlike many other traditional vegetables) so they change things up. They are also earthy and sweet. It needs some work. Also beets are my favorite vegetable, but you are apparently not supposed to say that if asked in a job interview. It doesn't show critical thinking. Luckily I am not applying for jobs right now.

This recipe for beet gratin came from epicurious I think this is a good spring recipe because, as I mentioned, beets are my favorite vegetable and they are available in spring. I think mint makes everything taste fresh. Gratins often seem heavy, more appropriate for winter. This on is light, little sweet, a little salty, and creamy. In terms of "cheap" "quick" and "local" right now it's not too difficult to get beets and mint locally and they are both affordable. Well, affordable if you have a source for mint other than the grocery store as it is expensive in the store but grows like a weed. The cream is expensive and not particularly healthy. When I made this originally I used the cream, because I wanted something somewhat rich and special. I will have to try making it with lower fat milk, or possibly just the feta cheese and post about that later.

Epicurious suggested serving this dish with lamb, which I think would be great. Even though several of these posts include meat, I don't actually eat meat very often. Legumes are generally much more affordable, and meat is a special treat. I served this with a lentil pot pie. The lentil pot pie was good, but I still haven't mastered pie crust so I am not going to post about it. But pretty much you could follow any recipe for a pot pie or Shepard's pie and just substitute an equal amount of COOKED lentils for the meat (lentils expand so you wouldn't want to sub dry lentils) I really like lentils as a meat substitute. I think the texture works well and they are quick and versatile. 
  • 3 2 1/2- to 3-inch-diameter red beets, trimmed, scrubbed
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 fresh mint sprigs plus 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (for garnish)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled, smashed Butter (for dish)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place beets in small baking dish. Add enough water to reach depth of 1/4 inch. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil. Bake until beets are tender, about 50 minutes. Uncover carefully (steam will be released) and cool. Peel beets; cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring cream, mint sprigs, and garlic to boil in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly butter 1 1/2-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish. Arrange sliced beets in even layers in dish, sprinkling each layer lightly with salt. Strain cream mixture over beets in dish. Sprinkle feta over. Bake until cream is bubbling at edges and feta is browned in spots, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle pepper and chopped mint over. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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