The theme of the day is change. Change in plans. Change in approach. Change of heart. External change. Invisible change.
I changed my mind about making Korean food and testing out a new cookbook this week. I saw this beet salad from Lottie + Doof and recalled a few lonely beets sitting in my fridge. I then remembered that The Flavor Bible was sitting, similarly neglected, on the bookshelf. I pulled it down, looked up beets. I picked out every ingredient I had and loosely matched them. Dijon mustard, Parmesan, chives, balsamic vinegar. I remembered my mini muffin pan, which could do double duty as a tartlet pan (although purists would decry calling these little bites tartlets, I say, this is a welcome shortcut for the home cook). The result: A little bit sweet, a little bit savory, and very, very good. Is it strange to say that the taste evoked childhood memories of a small McDonald's hamburger with pickles and ketchup? Well, it did.
It's not easy for me to put down the recipe and improvise. But I'm glad I did, and I hope to do more of it. Slowly, I'm learning that the way to become a competent cook is not to memorize hundreds of recipes but to learn techniques, and how to taste.
On another note, my parents are staying over tonight. Now that their daughter is grown up, she can hopefully show them that she no longer eats snacks as meals. Maybe she will even cook for them.
See? Change is good.
Beet Tartlets with Mustard, Parmesan, and Chives
Makes about 24 tartlets
For the filling:
4 small to medium sized beets
Grated Parmesan cheese
For the tartlet shells:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes
For garnish (optional):
Roast the Beets | Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the stems and leaves from the beets, wash them well, and pat them dry with paper towels. Put the beets in a small ovenproof dish and toss them with olive oil and salt. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for about an hour. You'll know they're done when you can pierce them easily with a fork (or chopstick, in my case).
Prepare the Tartlet Dough | While the beets are baking, prepare your dough for the shells.. In a small bowl, combine your flour, salt, and sugar. Add the cubed, cold butter to the bowl and use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour mix until it resembles coarse meal. Add 3-5 tablespoons of ice water, one by one, using your hand to gently bring the dough together. Form the dough into a round disc, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour in the fridge.
Prepare the Tartlet Filling | When your beets are done, remove them from the oven. When the beets are cool enough to handle with your hands, run a paring knife vertically down the skin of each beet and peel away the skin. Cut each beet into quarters and add to a food processor. Add a sprinkle of salt, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and about a tablespoon of dijon mustard. Pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse paste. Set aside.
Bake the Tartlets | Once the dough is chilled, remove it from the fridge and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Hopefully your oven has still retained some heat from roasting the beets, so preheating won't take long. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough until it's about 1/8" thick. Cut out small circles about 2.5" in diameter (I used a 1/3 measuring cup). Reroll the scraps once and cut out more circles. Press the dough circles into a mini muffin pan. Add about a teaspoon of the pureed beet mixture into each shell. Sprinkle a bit of grated Parmesan cheese over each shell. Bake for about fifteen minutes, until the shells turn a golden brown. Slide out the tarts with the tip of a butter knife. Let cool for a minute or two. Garnish with minced chives and enjoy.
- You could substitute other cheeses. The most obvious choice being goat.
- A shortcut method would be to make one big tart using a tart pan, and slicing the beets instead of pureeing them. You could layer sliced beets with the cheese, too. But I like these little guys because you can eat them in one bite, and the pureed texture lends itself well to a small tartlet.
- Toasted nuts (like walnut or hazelnut) would probably be very good.