Here I am, yet again…. avoiding my taxes like the bubonic plague…. 😀 After I write this blog post, I’m really going to try to make myself finish them – no matter how devastating the outcome. Time to face reality….
I had a most relaxing day yesterday, as one is wont to do on a Sunday. I found a new wine bar that’s so amazing – they have way better pricing than most wine bars do ($9 – $13 a glass as opposed to the typical $13 – $18), a great tasting menu (I had a cheese plate), and the bar was super cozy with a real stone fireplace, which I was lucky enough to sit right in front of. Major score on my part. The place is called Black Mountain Wine House, and despite being about a 15 minute drive from my apartment, was totally worth it. If you live in Brooklyn, I highly suggest.
The fireplace in the wine bar was super hot and cozy and made me reflect on Panther Room (the side room of Output, which closed forever a couple of months ago). I used to love going to Panther room on a Sunday night when I had Monday off and getting all kinds of funked up and then sitting in front of their fireplace… it was so perfect in the winter. I will always hold a special place in my heart for Panther Room and all the good times I had there… I digress….
So nostalgic right now… ❤ (sigh)
Moving on. I have recently become obsessed with beets. I really love foods with earthy (aka ‘dirt’) flavors, hence my love of anything with truffles, mushrooms, super rank cheeses, and BEETS. Lately, I’ve been cooking them once every couple of weeks. They pair so well with goat cheese, and also sour cream and dill – you can use them in a hearty winter salad, or as a main in a thick-ass borscht.
This weekend, I prepared beets for a salad with (you guessed it) GOAT CHEESE. A match made in heaven – right up there with peanut butter and jelly. I know… I get it – beets aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But this recipe is simple, healthy, and could honestly be made into a main meal if you want to add some hot lentils or quinoa to make the salad a main dish!
When you buy fresh beets, you’ll want to first trim off the beet greens (the leafy stems) as well as any root portion growing out the end of the beet. Next, while they’re raw, use a vegetable peeler and peel the beet all the way around. Give the beets a final rinse in cold water just to make sure any dirt is rinsed away (they are a root vegetable, after all). In order to ensure the beets cook faster and evenly (since a bunch of beets usually includes beets of differentiating sizes), quarter or cut them in half depending on their size.
Boil the beets in some salted water for about 20-25 minutes, at a rolling boil. Stab them with the tines of a fork to make sure they’re cooked through before removing from heat.
Baby spinach or baby kale pairs best with beets….beets are definitely not a good mix with romaine or iceburg lettuce (and lord knows I really actually prefer romaine to spinach or kale …). Then of course, the goat cheese is essential – any time you add cheese, nuts, beans or any sort of protein to a salad it becomes more than a salad… it becomes worthy of meal status… this is great if you’re trying to be healthy but also want to feel full.
I also threw in some pine nuts, which really complimented the beets, goat cheese and spinach. Cherry/grape tomatoes go well with just about anything (apart from blue cheese… the acids from the blue cheese and tomatoes do NOT mix… take my word), so I threw some of those in, and then drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar reduction, and sprinkled with freshly ground salt and pepper.
In the past, I have found thinly-sliced, green apples really pair well with beets and goat cheese, as well as walnuts – but this is more of a summer salad to me. As I previously mentioned, you can very well make this salad into a meal by adding some cooked lentils or quinoa.
Now for the main attraction:
The vodka sauce – yet another example of bastardized Italian food. Vodka sauce is uniquely Italian-American… doesn’t exist in Italy, only in America. But if you’ve had it, you’ll know it’s fucking amazing:
INGREDIENTS (for the vodka sauce):
- 1 cup vodka (can be cheap vodka – the alcohol cooks out regardless)
- 1 large can crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) (28 oz.)
- 1 tiny can tomato paste (6 oz.)
- 1/2 Spanish (yellow) onion, finely minced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 Tbs. butter
- 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano (aka Paremsan)
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. dried oregano flakes
- 1 tsp. dried basil flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley
DIRECTIONS (for the vodka sauce):
- Heat the oil over low heat, and add in the minced onions – cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and cooked through.
- Add in the minced garlic AND the red pepper flakes. Cook another 2-3 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally and being careful not to burn garlic.
- Add in the can of crushed tomatoes, stir and increase the heat to medium.
- Add in the vodka and continue to stir for another minute.
- Add in the can of tomato paste, and stir thoroughly.
- Add in all of the seasonings (basil, oregano, sugar, salt, pepper)
- Taste test the sauce to see if it needs more seasoning… add as necessary
- Add in the heavy cream and reduce to low heat. Sauce should be a nice orange color after adding the cream
- Add in the grated Parmesan cheese AND the chopped parsley, and stir until incorporated
- Add in the butter (this can be optional – it gives the sauce an extra richness)
This sauce is perfect to serve as is with the pasta of your choice after completing the above steps.
If you want to make a heartier meal, go ahead and make the ballz too. In this case, I used turkey meat (recipe for vegetarian ballz coming up this week…).
INGREDIENTS (for Ballz):
- One package (1.3 lbs) turkey meat (93% lean, 7% fat)
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesano
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. granulated garlic
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
- 2 Tbs. chopped parsley
- Dash of worcestershire sauce
- *** more bread crumbs if too soft when you attempt to roll into ball
DIRECTIONS (for Ballz):
- Add all ingredients listed above together in a large bowl, and mix thoroughly with your hands (yes, your hands… don’t be a pu$$y – a spoon isn’t gonna work)
- Turn the pasta sauce to a medium heat – you’re going to cook the ballz directly in the sauce this time! (it keeps them so tender and moist)
- Once all ingredients are mixed together, grab a chunk of the mixture at a time and roll into a small ball (or large, if that’s how you likey…. 😉 )
- Drop the ballz as you make them into the hot vodka sauce
- Keep making and dropping ballz into saucepan until you’ve used up all of the meat mixture
- Stir EVER SO GENTLY with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, so as not to fuck your ballz up and massacre them (gently rotate them around the hot saucepan)
- Cook on low-medium heat for 15-20 minutes
- Serve finished ballz and sauce over pasta or polenta (or if you’re on a “diet,” without either)
Yeah… definitely not doing my taxes now. Oh well. I should just pull an Anthony Bourdain and not file my taxes for years … except unlike Anthony Bourdain (God rest his soul), I will never get rich and be able to pay them off in a major lump sum someday after neglecting them for 10 years running.