Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kumquat Beets & Buttered Carrots

When I picked the vegetables for the dinner I'm featuring this week, I have to say it was a far more pleasant experience doing so in the tranquility of Barbara's garden rather than at the grocery store.

What a pity that most of us rely on store-bought food over growing our own. However, such is life for people like me who don't have a plot of earth to tend. One day though ...

The beauty of having goats, chickens, and a compost area is that very little went to waste on the farm. I often wish there were something I could do with the tops of carrots, other than chopping them off and tossing them. While at the farm, I fed them to the goats, along with other vegetable trimmings (excluding allium; goats don't do well eating members of the onion family).

The brown or inedible beet leaves, I either tossed out to the free-range chickens or fed to the goats, and the beet leaves that were in good order, I washed, drained, and stored in the fridge. Beet greens are delicious braised in a little oil or butter. Such is the beauty of beets; you can eat both the red bulb and the green leaves.

Barbara's carrots were about 2 -3 inches long. Some were a bit gnarly. Noting the natural imperfection of the carrots' shape, I was reminded of my culinary training days and the tedious hours we spent learning how to shape or turn vegetables.

Because they're dense, root vegetables lend themselves well to the art of reshaping, which is done with a small paring knife.

Traditionally, the vegetable is carved into small oblong shapes, which is the intention of turning -- creating a perfect, symmetrical shape from an otherwise gnarly, misshaped carrot, potato, beet, turnip etc.

The vegetable shavings cut away in the process of creating the oblong shape, were, in my class, never wasted but used to make stock.

Turning was my least favorite lesson. I couldn't help but wonder "why?" "what for?" despite the fact that once cooked and on the plate, I could see that a turned veggie had eye-appeal. In other words, it looks really pretty.

Probably I questioned turning because I wasn't very good at it. Much to my chagrin, there was a woman in my class who was. In fact, she was an artist at turning vegetables and she was apprenticed to a chef at one of Melbourne's top restaurants where she created masterpieces out of gnarled vegetables. I can't believe I was jealous of her talent, but I was.

As you can see from the picture above, I simply cut the carrots I harvested from the garden into chunks. There is not one turned carrot in that dish. In fact if you look closely, you'll see that all the gnarly little bits are still intact.

Buttered Carrots
1) Place carrot chunks in pot of water. Bring to boil. Boil rapidly for about 5 mins. or until carrot is slightly soft on the outside, but still crisp to bite, rather than soft and mushy all the way through.
Root veggies are placed in cold water and brought to the boil, whereas green veggies are plunged into rapidly boiling water.
2) Drain carrots, return to pot, and return pot to a warm hot plate. Toss in a chunk of butter and a handful of chopped parsley. Spoon carrots into a serving bowl as in the picture above.
Note: Here's an easy way to chop parsley: shove a washed and dried handful into a coffee mug, and using kitchen scissors, chop the parsley in the mug.

Kumquat Beets
1) Wash and scrub a couple of beet bulbs, trimming the beets of hairy tentacles. Leave skin on.
2) Toss into a pot and cover with water.
3) Boil gently for about 20 mins.
4) Drain and cool; once cool, peel beets by slipping the tip of a paring knife under the skin and peeling the skin back.
5) Slice peeled beets into quarters.

Toss beet quarters back into a pot, return pot to stove and medium heat. Add a glob of kumquat marmalade, or your favorite orange marmalade. Gently stir with wooden spoon till marmalade has melted and coated the beet pieces. Warm the beets through; though be careful not to burn the marmalade.
7) Wash and chop a handful of fresh chives. Spoon beets into a serving bowl, sprinkle chives over beets, decorate with a sprig of green.

There are all sorts of delicious marmalade combination available now: orange/ginger, orange/lemon, plain orange, kumquat/orange, etc. etc. Any of these would work well with beets since it's the citrus bite of the orange, lemon or kumquat that pairs so well with the sweet earthiness of the beets.

No comments: