Beet Salad with Pecans and Feta

It All Starts From A Seed
I already have my beet seeds ready for spring planting in early April (in Toronto, Ontario, CANADA). It’s been a chilly March which may force me to plant my seeds in late April this year. I really enjoy beet salad, especially when paired with goat cheese. Soft goat cheese or feta cheese both work well in this salad. I was inspired after I made Wolfgang Puck’s Goat Cheese Napoleons for the first time. Amazing! I love beets so much that I now grow them in the garden at the lake house. Last year, as most years, they were left unattended ..and Mother Nature watered my beets.  I liked to pick my baIMG_0003by beets when they are about 1″ in size. When I served my beet appetizer to Chef Jamie, a weekend guest, his eyes immediately opened wide. He couldn’t believe the flavour. I bought the same type of seeds this year; golden and ruby beets. My favorite golden beets are sweeter than their deep red sibling. Even the greens from the golden beets are sweeter.
This year, I decided to grow beets in my balcony pots in Toronto. I will still faithfully plant them in the north country by the lake. I fear the Toronto smog may take its toll on my city beets. It will be interesting to see how they both turn out; the country beets and city beets.

MY FAVORITE BEET SALAD
Ingredients
6 medium beets
1/2 cup feta cheese, cubed
3 cups baby arugula or other tender greens(like watercress, baby spinach, etc.)
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
freshly ground pepper
salt to taste, if you wish
Optional: 1/2 cup toasted pecans
Serves 4 people.
Single Servings: refrigerate what you don’t plan on eating. It will be hard to resist not having this salad the next day for lunch or dinner.

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Rinse the beets and cut off the greens, saving them for another use. Hint: chop and freeze the greens if you are not using soon.
3. Bake beets in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes until tender. I am using my glass baking containers for this instead of the classic foil.
4. Let them cool and then slip the skin off using gloves or paper towels to protect your hands from colouring. Cut into edible sized pieces.
Optional: You can toast your pecans in the oven for about 10 minutes, leave them untoasted (healthier but not as tasty) or candy them (not as healthy but yummy!)
5. Combine ingredients for the salad dressing. I do not use any salt in this dressing. I find that I do not miss it. The feta is salty enough.
6. Toss the greens in the dressing reserving some to drizzle on top of the salad. Place the greens in the serving bowl. The beets and pomegranate seeds are scattered on top. Then I layer on the feta and pecans but do not toss them. The feta will just stain from the beets. Drizzle more dressing on top and serve.

WHEELSVARATIONS: Finely chop some of your beets. Toss the beets and pomegranate seeds in the dressing and place this mixture on the ends of  endive leaves.
When making my salad I substituted 1 tablespoon of brain octane oil for one of the tablespoons of olive oil.
Candied PECANS
For candied pecans, add a pinch of cayenne pepper to 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Toss the 1/2 cup of pecans in the syrup and roast in the oven on a parchment lined baking sheet at 325F for 10 minutes. Yummy! If you have guests, you need to make sure to make extra candied pecans. While the pecans are cooling, you will inevitably find those taste testers in the kitchen. Some pecans will magically disappear.
Sprinkle finely chopped feta cheese on top of the minced beets that are on the endives and serve as an hors d’ourve or appetizer for your guests.
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WHAT’S NEXT. . .
You can freeze your beet greens or leave them in the refrigerator. NEXT…I will provide a new and unique recipe on how to use your beet greens. I am tired of just steaming, sauteing, or putting them in soups. Something new coming up on my next blog. A healthy, tasty recipe you may have never thought you would dream of making.

Massimo Bottura

OH WHAT A NIGHT …IT WAS SUCH A NIGHT!
The stars were out tonight, as we waited in anticipation to meet Massimo Bottura at George Brown College. All the chefs-in-training, clad in their best whites were waiting with joy on this cold, crisp February night.stars-animated-gif

Massimo Bottura told interesting stories. Many of which are described in his book “Never Trust A Skinny Italian Chef”.  He dropped out of law school to follow his passion as a chef and his father would not speak to him for some time.  Massimo was awarded his third Michelin Star just weeks before his father passed. His restaurant has been named as the best restaurant in the world twice now.  The San Pellegrino site states:  Massimo Bottura’s three-starred Michelin restaurant, Osteria Francescana  was voted #1, 2018.

“So, how do each of these initiatives blend together to address the future of food? “One only needs to look at it with the right eyes,” Bottura said,

” One of those passions is reconsidering society’s changing relationship with food and the surrounding landscape. Alongside his wife and business partner, Lara Gilmore, Bottura is about to unveil Casa Maria Luigia, an 18th-Century villa-turned-bed-and-breakfast nestled in the hills of Emilia-Romagna that, as Gilmore puts it, “offers a 3D image of how we see Italy” published by bbc.com

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Me and Chef Massimo  – Book Signing

Massimo Bottura spent a summer at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli (awarded best restaurant in the world for several years before closure) in Spain and a year at Alaine Ducasse’s restaurant in Monte Carlo. He was invited to be their head chef. An honour in itself. Massimo’s book “Never Trust An Italian Skinny Chef”  is an interesting read. I was up until 4:00 am reading his life’s journey.  In his talk and in his book, Massimo speaks about the difficulty in making a “simple” dish spectacular.  The stages of parmigiano reggiano was particularly interesting.

Parmigiano Reggiano SALAD
As an homage to Massimo, I am making a favourite salad of mine, which incorporates reggiano. I took this pictures right before leaving to meet Massimo Bottura for a second time. He is speaking again tonight at George Brown along with Canadian celebrity chef’s including Claudio Aprile, our own molecular gastronomy chef.
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RECIPE
Mushroom, Reggiano Salad

* 2 portobello mushrooms
* arugula lettuce
* balsamic syrup (home made)
* parmigiano reggiano, shaved slices
* thin slices of prosciutto or seranno ham

Sauté slices of portobello mushrooms in some olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt. Not much since the prosciutto will be salty enough. No pepper.  The arugula is peppery enough. Set mushrooms aside. Fry  until crispy like bacon (who doesn’t love bacon?), slices of Serrano or prosciutto, adding more olive oil if required. Place arugula on a platter. Layer on top the sautéed mushrooms, fried prosciutto, shavings of regianno, and drizzle with the syrup.

HAT2FOOD TIPS: There are no quantities in this recipe as you will use as much as you need for the amount of servings. It would be best served on a flat platter with a serving spoon and people can help themselves. As there are only a few ingredients, the quality of the ingredients are paramount.  I buy the serrano fresh from the local St. Lawrence market (in Toronto, CAN). I have the butcher slice it for me.  I buy the reggiano from the same location.  I have them cut it from the wheel instead of buying the pre-cut sections.  I tell them that I need a larger slice, even if I don’t.  It gives me an excuse to have them cut it.  If you can, it would be best to buy the day the wheel is cut.  Reggiano is a living ingredient which deteriorates in quality the same way that a wine does after it’s open.  You can only appreciate this when you have tasted it.  I notice there are stores today that will announce that they are cutting wheels of cheese.  When they do, run…… It will be worth it!