Sunday, August 24, 2008

They turn your pasta pink!

For some reason, I've always thought of beets as a winter vegetable. Maybe it's that they're a root, or maybe it's that they (sometimes) come in that Christmas-y red color (and also in candy cane-esque red and white stripes). Either way, I was pleasantly surprised a couple of years ago when I realized that they are, in fact, part of summer's ridiculous bounty (and are in season all the way through October).

Pleased because they go so well with another of summer's denizens, green beans. For some reason, the sharp, slightly peppery flavor of the beans plays gorgeously against the sweet, earthy beets, resulting in some of the best salads of the season - particularly when you throw some sherry vinegar, greek yogurt and fresh dill into the mix.

Last weekend, looking for a way to use up the second half of the Knoll Crest pasta I bought, I decided to turn one of my favorite summer salads into a pretty summer pasta - egg fettucine with roasted beets, green beans, dill and yogurt.

I started off by roasting the beets, which is a pretty simple task. You wash them, trim the ends off, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast them in a foil packet for about 45 minutes. Once they're cool, peeling them is a cinch - just start yourself off with a small paring knife, and rub the skins off with your fingers. Yes, you'll get beet juice all over your hands, but, don't worry - it washes off.

You can marinate the beets overnight in a little oil and lemon juice, or you can use them right away. Either way, they're delicious. The beans just need a quick blanching in salted water - this will par-cook them and also make sure they are at their brightest green color.

And, if you're going low-carb these days, just leave the pasta out - this makes an excellent warm salad, too.

Fettucine with Beets and Beans

1/2 lb. assorted fresh beets
1/2 lb. fresh green beans
Olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely minced
1 tbs. sherry vinegar
1/4 cup chopped dill
1/2 lb. fresh fettucine
1/3 cup plain yogurt
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Clean and trim the beets. Spread a piece of foil on a cookie sheet, place beets on the foil, and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Fold the foil to form a packet, and place the packet (on the cookie sheet) in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the beets are tender when poked with a fork. Remove pack from oven and set aside to cool.

Once beets are cool, peel them and cut into 1-inch cubes. Set aside. Meanwhile, trim the beans and blanch them in a pot of boiling, salted water. Cut each bean in half (on an angle, if you're feeling fancy) and set aside.

Bring the water to boil again (yes, you can use the same water, just add a little extra salt), and cook the pasta while you make the sauce.

Add about 1 tbs. of olive oil to a medium skillet set over medium heat, and cook the onion until fragrant and softened, about two minutes. Add the sherry vinegar and cook down until it has become a bit thick and syrupy. Add the beans and beets to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until warmed through and coated with the vinegar and onion. Add all but a couple pinches of the dill and cook for another minute or so.

Add the cooked pasta to the pan, toss everything together, and transfer to bowls to serve. Top the pasta with the yogurt, dividing between the two bowls. Do the same with remaining dill, adjust seasonings to taste, and dig in!

Serves two.

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