Last week I had the opportunity to gather beets from a friend’s garden. It is such an experience for me when I get to harvest fresh from the garden. It is a moment I do not take for granted. It is something about seeing vegetables growing in the ground and picking them with the dirt on them-the ground that has nurtured them. I was very grateful to my friend’s hard work that has resulted in a garden of abundance.
Now, I know what you are probably thinking, no on the beets! Most people I know do not like beets. In fact, I remember when I was young, opening up a can of beets, pouring them into a bowl, and walking around the house eating big mouthfuls of them at a time only to gross my brother out. I used to eat them with a dab of mayonnaise! I rarely eat mayo nowadays, isn’t it funny how your tastes change?! My brother’s taste hasn’t changed. He hated beets then and he hates them now. My hubby, however, and I love them, all of them, stems and leaves! If you are like my brother and cannot even imagine eating just a bite, then scroll down to the Pecan Chicken!!
Roasted Beets: Look at our beautiful bounty! There are many ways to cook beets, much like potatoes. They can even be baked like a potato! But this is my preferred way: Scrub the beets. Cut off the root and the stems. SAVE the stems and leaves. Put the whole beets into a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and simmer for 30 minutes. While beets are simmering, remove the leaves from the stems. Put leaves into bowl of water. (Helps to remove any grit). Chop the stems.
After 30 minutes, remove the beets (save the water) to a bowl of cold water. The cold bath will loosen the skin making them easy to peel. I just use my hands to rub off the skin.
Cut the beets. You can slice them, cube them, or cut them into wedges! Put on a sheet pan and toss with Balsamic Vinegar and black pepper. The beets are almost done. I just like to finish them in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes for a great roasted flavor.
Now for those stems and leaves: In a small skillet over medium heat, drizzle olive oil and add 1 minced garlic clove (You could also add a chopped onion or shallot) and the chopped stems. Add a little of the beet cooking water. Saute for 10 minutes adding in additional water as needed. Drain the leaves and roughly chop them. Add the leaves to the stems in the skillet.Continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. Time’s up! All the beets are done!
Tasty Note: If you have never had a sprinkle of blue cheese crumbles on hot roasted beets, it is a must try! Try the sautéed stems and leaves on a hot ham sandwich…if you have any leftover!!
Pecan Chicken: Have some pecans and rum leftover from making the Butter Rum Pecan Caramel cake? http://wp.me/p57UhS-gV Great!!If not, you can use any nuts you have on hand-cashews and almonds, are a good choice, too! In a food processor, grind the nuts to a coarse grind.
Set up a breading station. 1st station: Flour seasoned (I use Cajun seasoning) 2nd station: Egg wash or buttermilk (This is why you don’t get a picture of my breading station. I had to put the egg wash in a bowl that I could cover with my flour plate so my hubby wouldn’t see the eggs!! He was too close to the action. He wouldn’t eat the chicken if he saw I was using eggs-remember he hates them! Please keep my secret safe!!) 3rd station: ground pecans
I use chicken tenders. Dip the tenders into flour, then egg wash, then nuts. Set on a lined sheet pan. I find parchment paper does wonders for this chicken. Spray the coated tenders with non-stick spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. The natural oil from the nuts will help keep the chicken moist.
Pecan chicken is great on a salad with mandarin oranges. So good it became one of my items on the restaurant’s menu! Sometimes I am not in the mood for a salad but love the orange flavor with the pecans. So I make an orange marmalade dipping sauce for the chicken. You can use any orange jelly or marmalade you have on hand, or any combination like apricot or pineapple. Put 4 TBSP of orange marmalade in a small saucepan over low heat. Add 1/2 tsp dijon mustard. Next is where you can have a little fun. Add 1/2 TBSP dark rum or a cordial like Amaretto! If you want to omit the alcohol, add 1/2 TBSP pure maple syrup.
Stir and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Sauce will thicken upon standing.
That’s it!Drizzle over pecan chicken or serve on side for dipping!
The pecan chicken is wonderful cold the next day, so save a few for your lunch or save a few to cut up and make a salad for dinner with mandarin oranges and Romaine lettuce. Need a quick dressing to toss it all in? Add a little plain yogurt to the leftover sauce!
Put your TO COOK IS TO CREATE thinking cap on: What other nut and sauce pairings would be good? What kind of jelly or jam do you have? What flavor would compliment it? I like to use Amaretto and orange pineapple marmalade, just like a cocktail-orange Amaretto pineapple! Don’t forget to think of your liquor cabinet as an extension of your spice drawer. Thinking of spices, what spices could you add to the sauce? Adding in some fresh ginger would be nice. What about grinding something else with the nuts? A total game changer…coconut! Coconut pecan chicken is a winner!! Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!!
FOOD FUN: Use the remaining beet juice colored water to boil some pasta for a pasta salad. The pasta will be a pretty pink color and will have a mild beet taste.Toss the cooled pasta with a little balsamic vinegar and add some cheese (goat, feta, or blue) and some black olives. Isn’t the color of beet juice a pretty shade? According to the lovebeetroot site (yes, there really is a site dedicated to beets and it has some amazing facts about beets!!) since the 16th century, beet juice was used as a natural red dye that the Victorians used to color their hair! Some women still use beet juice today as a natural temporary dye!! I love my beets, but can’t imagine beet colored hair. However, if I knew this tidbit of info when I was young torturing my brother that may have been an additional weapon to have on my side!! It may have even worked better than the peroxide I poured over my hair!