November 2010 Archives

the macro shiny brie 2.jpgI don't often make hors d'oeuvres but I've noticed that when I don't provide something to snack on while making Thanksgiving dinner everyone starts getting edgy and unthankful. 

I'm not a person who gets up at the crack of dawn to brine a turkey, partly because the thought of shoving my hand up a dead turkey's "cavity" to remove its innards isn't something I can handle before 5pm (when the experience can be fortified with strong drinks), but mostly I don't make turkey because I'm a vegetarian.  In fact, I don't labor in planning Thanksgiving dinner much at all.  A day or two before my family gathers (we're a very small group) my mom and I discuss options.

This is the exception.  I have been planning to make this again since I made it twice last fall.  I took notes last year on the improvements I wanted to make and have been looking forward to making it again ever since. 

the cherry factor 2.jpgPeeling shallots takes a lot of time.  The ones from the store are slightly easier than the ones I grow myself which have a thin dry skin that doesn't like to come off.  I made my sister do the peeling last year so this year I performed an experiment in an attempt to improve the tedium of peeling.  Garlic roasts well in its papery skin and squeezes out afterwords very easily, so why not roast the shallots in their skins the same way? 

I peeled all of the bigger cloves and left the rest.

shallot experiment 2.jpgUnfortunately, the experiment didn't prove successful.  Yes, shallots can roast well in their skins but they are just as difficult to remove when they're sticky as when they're dry.  Most importantly, the bulbs that were skinned first got browned nicely whereas the ones left in their skin were browned on the skins only.  So the lesson is: peel your shallots.  Even though it's a pain in the butt.  Better yet, assign a minion to do the peeling.

This appetizer takes time and effort to make.  It's worth it.

godlike food 2.jpgCiabatta, Caramelized Shallots, and Brie with Sour Cherry Sauce


2 lbs of shallots, trimmed and peeled by your minion
1/2 cup olive oil

Sour Cherry sauce:
1 quart sour cherries, pits removed and chopped in half
4 cups sugar
(Alternatively: 1/2 jar sour cherry jam loosened up with water)

1 loaf of Ciabatta bread (or other good quality rustic bread)
2 wedges of Brie cheese, room temperature (Camembert is a good substitute)

the setup 2.jpgMethod:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spread the shallots out on a baking sheet, drizzle all of the olive oil over them, then sprinkle with salt and grind some pepper on them.  Put on a rack in the middle and bake for up to an hour and a half, making sure to turn them with a spatula every ten to fifteen minutes.

Sour Cherry Sauce:

Add the sour cherries and the sugar to a medium sized sauce pan.  If the cherries are frozen, let them thaw enough to start liquefying the sugar before turning the heat on.  Once the cherry juice starts mixing and dissolving the sugar turn the stove on to high heat.  Bring the cherries and sugar to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.  Remove from heat and let cool until everything else is ready.  As it cools it will thicken.

When the shallots are done (they should be browned but not scorched, see picture above) remove them from the oven and put them in a bowl with a couple of forks for serving.

Pour the cherry sauce into a bowl and provide a spoon for serving.

Slice the Ciabatta bread in appetizer sized pieces (each slice cut in four pieces worked well for me but you can cut them bigger if you like) and arrange them on a plate. 

Place the brie on a plate with knives.

If your guests are unfamiliar with or worried about the presence of fruit near their cheese and bread, go ahead and serve them up a piece before they have time to think about it. 

Each piece of bread gets a generous bit of cheese, a shallot or two, and a small spoonful of sour cherry sauce. 

sans cherry blood 2.jpgRecipe Notes:  If you can't get your hands on sour cherries, cranberries would make an excellent substitute.  The important thing is to make a sauce that is both tart and sweet.  The shallots are sweet by themselves so using a fruit that is just sweet will result in a somewhat vapid experience.  A red currant sauce might be good here too.  Please don't use sweet cherries.  They don't work. 

About the rind of the cheese:  I don't eat cheese rind.  I will dig into a wedge of brie completely gutting it, leaving just the velvety moldy exterior like a cheese-hungry termite which has caused some gasps of shock from others.  Some people view it as a crime to eschew the rind.  Some simply view it as the act of a philistine.  I've been told by many people that the French ALWAYS eat the cheese rind, however, I was finally gratified to find out from an actual French person that this isn't true.  He said many French people don't care for the rind either and it is a question of personal taste, not a point worthy of hysteria or snobbery.  I included the rind in these pictures and then fed them to my rind-eating relatives.  I think the rind is picturesque and since most people I know eat it, it seemed natural to include it for the shoot. 

The heat and cooking time: You can cook the shallots in less time at a hotter oven temperature but the results will not be quite as good.  Less heat keeps the shallots form scorching and consequently takes longer.  A good caramelization time.  Give it the time. 

best food ever 2.jpg
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Lemony Beet Salad

beet feta salad 2.jpgI was six the first time I remember eating a beet.  I pulled it up out of my mother's garden and ate it standing right there in the back yard, dirt and all.  I have since decided that I like my vegetables washed before eating as the grit of soil fails to please, but my love of beets has never wavered.  I offer you my favorite way to eat them here.

Most people I know either roast or boil beets.  I think roasting is nice sometimes but I find that roasting makes a beet have a stiffer drier texture (even with plenty of olive oil) so that I don't roast them often.  I never boil beets.  In fact, I never boil anything.  I always steam vegetables.  I steam because that's what my mother always did.  She steamed because she believed more of a vegetable's vitamins and minerals were retained using this method.  I don't know if that's true but whenever a recipe calls for boiling, I steam instead.

This beet salad recipe can be served plain or it can be served on a bed of lettuce with feta cheese.  You can use any kind of beets.  I used a combination of golden beets and dark red beets.  Because I cooked them together the golden beets turned red.

To peel or not to peel?  I only peel off the rough parts of beets.  Sometimes this means I peel the whole thing but often it means I just peel the tops.  The golden beets were mostly smooth skinned so you can see a lot of it was left on.  My mother influenced me in this matter just as she did with steaming.  She believed that peeling vegetables removed some important vitamins and minerals and should only be peeled if the skin is tough or compromised in some way.  You will find that I rarely suggest peeling vegetables in my recipes.  You can always peel if you prefer it.   

golden beets 2.jpgLemony Beet Salad
Serves 4 to 6

8 medium sized beets, cut into 1/2" to 3/4" cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
3 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

To serve as shown in the picture:
(ingredients are per person)
2 cups lettuce
1 to 2 oz feta cheese
1 tbsp vinaigrette to dress lettuce


Fit a pot with a steamer basket, fill with water up to the basket (but not above), bring water to a boil.  (I have a steamer pot and prefer it to the baskets but either will do).  Add the cubed beats and steam for 15 minutes*, or until tender enough to pierce easily with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl mix together the oil, lemon, garlic, salt and pepper.  When the beets are done steaming add them to the bowl and mix together with the dressing.  Toss it several times as the beets cool.

If you're going to add the beets to a bed of lettuce, as shown in the picture, let the beets completely cool.  For each plate add two cups of lettuce tossed with a little vinaigrette, scoop about 3/4 cup of the lemony beets onto the bed of lettuce, and top with some crumbled or cubed feta cheese.

macro beet salad 2.jpg

Recipe notes:  If you're vegan you can leave off the feta and this salad will still be amazing.  I like the salty punch of the feta and if you'd like to have that same punch without cheese you can add a few Kalamata olives to each salad.  Croutons are also good here, but if too many extras are added I think you lose the fresh lemon flavor, so I prefer to keep it simple.  If you have baby spinach on hand that would be a great substitute for the lettuce.  I had this salad with regular spinach and I have to report that it was too tough to be enjoyable.

This recipe is Gluten Free
This recipe is Vegan if you omit the feta cheese

*I timed the steaming and 15 minutes was perfect, however, if you cut your beets a little bigger than I did it may take a few extra minutes.
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Recent Comments

  • angelina: We ate it up very fast! read more
  • Tarrant: oh my-this sounds appealling read more
  • Aimee: Oh, YUM. read more
  • angelina: For crying out loud, Angela, get on the vegan version read more
  • little big: I totally have that book! And the part II that read more
  • Angela (Cottage Magpie): Oh, that sounds gooooood! My favorite soup in all the read more
  • meigan1cameron: "White Bean And Basil Salad Recipe" is my one the read more
  • Karmyn R: I would not have thought to put squash with black read more
  • angelina: Allison- greet and compliment the snowdrops for me, will you? read more
  • Laura: Hi! This looks great, I always love your recipes! I read more