Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beet Tart with Beet Green Pesto

Beets. Growing up, one of my least favorite foods. I learned later in life that this was nothing to do with beets and everything to do with the can they came in at my house. Not delicious.

What I found recently is that the fresh ones are not only delicious and pretty versatile, but they are two vegetables in one. I've been reading and thinking a lot lately about food waste and am trying to make a conscious effort to waste as little as possible. We are buying less, recycling more, and my personal favorite...pureeing the leftovers and putting them in the freezer for Little Gurgly. It's working pretty well so far, but the frilly greens at the top of the beets are a revelation. They taste like a cross between beet roots and Swiss chard. I sautéed some, and they were delicious, but I had something else a bit more creative in mind for the rest.

I've been trying to work through one of the contents of our freezer and found A LOT of nuts. Walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, pecans. Pistachios (those won't end up anywhere but in my belly straight from the shell). A friend suggested I make pesto, so I worked on a few different versions. Different veg, different nuts, different uses. I've got three variations in the fridge, and I plan to share thm all.

Today's is a beet green pesto.

Greens from the top of one bunch of beets, triple washed and spun in a salad spinner if you have one
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
Olive oil (I used just a tablespoon, but can adjust for taste and consistency)

The first three ingredients go into the food processor. Begin pulsing. The greens will grind down fairly quickly. Once the greens are reduced most of the way, begin streaming in the olive oil until desired consistency is reached. Taste, and adjust seasoning. I found it to be salty enough and "bright"enough not to need any salt or acid added.

I used this pesto as the base of a phyllo crusted beet and goat cheese tart.

8 sheets frozen phyllo pastry, thawed overnight in fridge
Olive or vegetable oil, melted butter, or cooking spray (I used olive oil cooking spray to lower fat)
2 large beets, steamed or roasted until cooked through and sliced ~1/4 inch thick
4 oz. goat cheese
1/2 of the beet green pesto recipe above

Layer phyllo pastry sheets, one at a time, into pie/tart pan. Brush or spray oil between each layer. I did this by laying two perpendicular to each other, then turned the pan slightly and did the same, repeating four times.

Once the pastry is down, spread the prepared beet green pesto onto the bottom of the crust. Layer the beets on top of the pesto, working in concentric circles. Break up goat cheese into small crumbles over the top of the beets. Bake at 350 degrees F until phyllo hanging over the sides is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

The flavors of this recipe work really well together. The beet greens make a slightly salty and slightly bitter pesto, which provides a good counterpoint to the somewhat sweet beets, and tangy goat cheese.

Another assembly option which would also be great would be to start by spreading the goat cheese on the bottom, topped with the sliced beets, and then drizzled with a wetter version of the pesto. If you feel there isn't enough pesto flavor, you could also try assembling according to original directions, then adding a bit more oil to the remaining half of the pesto recipe and drizzling that over the tart when serving. Any way this is assembled, it is delicious!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pancake Day

When I think of Mardi Gras, and Carnival, I think of topless women painted purple, green and gold. I think of stuffing myself with chocolate in preparation of going almost six weeks without it. I think of people the world over engaging in drunken debauchery so they can bid it farewell the next day. And then I heard about how the Brits celebrate: Pancakes.

Now, I understand that when this tradition of eating pancakes on Fat Tuesday began, times were leaner, and the eggy, buttery, sugary goodness of a pancake was considered indulgent. But, my, times have changed. In a world of deep-fried butter balls, Joel Robuchon's mashed potatoes, and even breve Frappuccino's at the corner coffee shop, pancakes seem so tame. Leave it to the Brits to live up to the (very often misinformed) stereotype of restraint, even on this day of complete decadence.

So, I will go on to say that pancakes are a big deal in our house. A Very. Big. Deal. This started when I was early in pregnancy, and couldn't think of going near meat, eggs, or most dairy products. Just try building a baby out of bananas and rice cakes...see what happens. Mr. Gurgly loves to make Saturday morning breakfast (and until then it was mostly omelets). He needed to change up his game and came up with pancakes. Eggs, yes, but hidden well enough that I could still get some protein without getting squeamish. Every weekend...pancakes. I'll go so far as to say Mr. Gurgly got a shade obsessed. Researching recipes and "pancake philosophies" (whatever THAT is...), perfecting techniques, learning ratios, and eventually "riffing" on recipes he found to concoct his own. Last Christmas, I was at a loss for shopping, and when I said, "but you don't collect things and you have no hobbies," he replied that he makes pancakes. (I ordered some high end maple syrup from VT.). A Very. Big. Deal.

Even with all that, we don't have one go-to recipe two years later. He still "riffs," and I even made pancakes a few weekends ago when he was sick (albeit following a recipe nearly to the letter). So rather than a "recipe," I am going to list some pancake tips that we have picked up along the way.

1) separated eggs and whipped whites = beautifully fluffy pancakes. It is absolutely worth the extra 2 minutes and dirty bowl. Whip to medium peaks (between soft and stiff peaks), and incorporate after mixing together the wet and dry ingredients. If using a hand mixer or stand mixer, use the whisk attachments (I thought this was obvious but Mr. Gurgly treated me like a genius for doing this a few weeks ago!)

2) Buttermilk is delicious, but there are options. If you don't have buttermilk, you can sour some milk at home by adding lemon juice or vinegar to some milk and allowing to sit for twenty minutes. Meyer lemon juice is especially good for this. If you do use lemon, add some zest, too. Yum!
A common sub we use is yogurt. If you keep strained "Greek" yogurt in the house, you'll want about 1/8 - 1/4 of the volume as milk and the rest as yogurt (so about 3/4 c yogurt and 1/4 c milk for most recipes), to compensate for the water that is strained off the yogurt. If you use all Greek yogurt the mixture will be dry.
Sour cream works well, also. If its super thick, mix with milk as above.

3) when it comes to topping a pancake, you can't beat real maple syrup. Grade B is my favorite...not so sweet. It is not cheap, but we have found that we use so much less (because it is more flavorful) that it ends up being about the same price. And extra bonus, no high fructose anything! We also love fruit compotes. I've been known (sorry again people who knew me as a vegetarian!) to put sliced apples and a little bacon inside, fold it over, and make a "taco." It sounds like a crazy pregnancy concoction, but trust me, it's good.

4) if you find yourself in the unique position of having leftover pancakes, they freeze quite well wrapped in foil. You can pop them in a toaster or toaster oven (microwave is ok too) to reheat them for a quick and easy weekday breakfast.

Little Gurgly had a pancake for breakfast this morning (left over from the weekend). He sure did enjoy it! He wouldn't even share with his mama!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Gurgly Bellies!/Pumpkin Pancetta Pasta

Welcome to Feeding the Gurgly Bellies! This is a blog that I've started as a way of creating, and passing along, food memories.

This blog gets its name from a joke at my husband's expense several years ago. The hospital where he did his residency had a pager system that would somehow convert the spelling of your name to a pronunciation. Our last name looks much harder to say than it actually is, and the machine ending up totally butchering it and calling him "Gurgly." His fellow residents ran with it, saying "Paging Doctor Gurgly" whenever possible.

Since this blog is focused on the food I buy, prepare, and otherwise feed my shall be called Feeding the Gurgly Bellies. I hope you enjoy it.

I have always tried to be a healthy eater. I have had prolonged stints of vegetarianism and short stints of veganism. Since becoming pregnant with my son two years ago, I have focused more than ever on healthy, balanced diet of quality ingredients (both vegetable and animal). Recently, I am trying to buy as much food as I can that is organic, and "higher welfare.". Fair trade, free range, eco-friendly. In short, astronomically expensive.
I am trying to balance shopping my conscience, our health, my taste and my budget (not always in that order). I am getting better at it, but honestly I still need some work. Part of this blog will include dollar-stretching ideas. Another focus will be child-friendly recipes, as I'm always in the market for a new way to feed the youngest Gurgly Belly.

As for today's recipe, here is a link to what I made for dinner tonight: Pumpkin Pancetta Pasta

I wish I had pictures but we tore into this one too fast.

This is a pasta dish almost entirely out of the pantry. It was tasty, balanced, and came together in a flash.

I should mention that for vegetarians, the pancetta could of course be omitted. Olive oil could substitute for the pancetta drippings, but I think butter would be better for the non-vegans. Butter and sage together are always a delight. Likewise, for a component with a little protein and an extra bit of heft, some toasted walnuts would probably work nicely. Of course, vegetable broth could be subbed for the chicken stock, too.

For the nutrition conscious:
Dairy free (without cheese) and egg free (as long as pasta is eggless)

For 1/6 the final recipe (standard 2 oz serving of taste is only 12 oz per box)

Calories: around 270
Fat: 6 grams (I am an über-nerd and weighed the fat I poured off. It was about 15 grams so I subtracted it from the total fat contributed by the pancetta)
Protein: 11.5 grams
Total carbs: 50 grams
Fiber: 9.5 grams