Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hazelnuts, Continued

In my last post, I failed to mention that Henry also loves beets. Again, not my favorite, but when we were up in North Georgia recently and stumbled upon some at a local farmstand, I caved and bought a few.  Anything for Henry, right?

Of course, since I was in the middle of testing hazelnut recipes, the challenge then became how to pair them with beets.  Well, why not?  A beet salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts is certainly not unheard of.

But the idea of candied hazelnuts did not excite me.  Nor did yet another variation on a beet and goat cheese salad.  I perused a few cookbooks.  Nothing.

Then I picked up my copy of "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook" by Judy Rodgers.  (This book was published in 2002 and it is a treasure.  If you can get your hands on it, I would strongly advise adding it to your library).  I came across her recipe for Watercress Salad with Beets and Walnut-Mascarpone Crostini.  Hmmm....

I replaced the watercress with arugula (because that's what I had on hand and I couldn't find watercress anyway) and the walnuts with hazelnuts.  Here is the delicious result:

(adapted from "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook" by Judy Rodgers)

For the beets:
1 lb. whole, fresh beets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups arugula leaves, washed and dried

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Scrub beets well and trim both ends. Place in a baking dish and add enough water to come up to ¼-inch. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until beets are tender, about 35 – 45 minutes, depending upon size of beets. Test for doneness by inserting a skewer or cake tester into the center of a beet. Remove from oven and leave covered for about 5 minutes to finish cooking. Let cool briefly until they are easily handled.

Rub or peel skins from beets (it’s a good idea to wear plastic gloves if you have them so your hands won’t turn purple). Trim ends again and slice beets into wedges. Place in a bowl and dress with salt and pepper, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Let marinate 10 minutes, then add arugula. Toss gently and taste to adjust seasoning. Place in serving bowls or plates and garnish with the crostini.

For the crostini:
8 small baguette slices, toasted
½ cup mascarpone cheese
½ cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts

Spread each bread slice with mascarpone and sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts.

Serves 4

As you know, I am a salt freak and it is a rare day when I don't use it.  My instinct was to sprinkle a little over the crostini but I resisted the impulse and I was right.  The richness of the mascarpone paired with the sweetness and crunchiness of the hazelnuts was subtle and perfect - and it would have been ruined by the added salt.  Trust me on this one!

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