Monday, January 17, 2011

Meatless Week: Assorted goodness.

I'm not gonna lie, folks. I'm pretty happy that my second Meatless Week has come to an end. It's not that I don't love vegetables - you know that I do - but, for some reason, this foray into meatlessness was a lot harder than the one we took together last summer. No doubt the absence of truly superb and diverse local produce played a part, but I think there's just something about the colder weather that makes me want meat.

In any case, I stuck to it, and I'm proud of that, at least. After all, what's a challenge if it doesn't, in the end, challenge us?

One of the things I did to get me through the sushi-free days and hamburger-free nights was to make a couple of root vegetable salads. I ate these together and apart, but I think they make the prettiest picture paired up, in a take on the crudités plates so popular in French bistros.

These two salads - beets with walnut-garlic dressing and celeriac rémoulade - are two of my all-time favorites, mostly because they're full of flavor and don't feel at all like any kind of deprivation. The beet salad comes straight from Mark Bittman, who based his ultra-simple recipe on a technique taught to him by the inimitable Alsatian, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. (If there's anyone who knows how to make winter produce appetizing, it's an Alsatian.)

The remoulade is based on Ina Garten's super-easy take, with a bit of parsley thrown in for freshness and color and a touch of honey added for depth. I also say pooh to her suggestion of a mandoline or food processor for making the rémoulade; if you are serving a huge crowd, fine. But for a few servings, a sharp knife will surely suffice.

So go forth and make these delicious meatless creations - I certainly will, though the next time they appear chez Queenie, they'll likely be paired with glorious, wonderful meat.

Celeriac Rémoulade
Adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten

1 pound celeriac (also known as celery root)
3 tbs. lemon juice, divided
Kosher salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise (either homemade or Hellmann's)
1 tsp. Champagne or white wine vinegar
1 tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tbs. whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp. honey
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the knobby end off of the celeriac to create a stable way to brace it. Peel the celeriac by slicing down the sides with a serrated knife, removing the rough, brown peel. Discard the peel and cut the celeriac first into 1/4 slices, then into matchsticks about two inches long.

Place the sliced celeriac into a large bowl. Sprinkle with one tablespoon of the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustards, remaining lemon juice, honey, another 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper in a small bowl. Whisk together and set aside.

Once the celeriac has spent 30 minutes softening in the lemon juice, add the sauce to it a bit at a time. You want the vegetables to be lightly dressed, and will likely have a healthy amount of sauce leftover. (It's great on meats and sandwiches of all kinds.) Once you've dressed the salad to your liking, add the parsley and stir to combine evenly.

The rémoulade be made up to 24 hours ahead and stored, tightly covered, in the fridge. Bring to room temperature and adjust seasonings before serving.

Serves four as a side.

Beets with Garlic-Walnut Sauce
Adapted from Mark Bittman

2 pounds red beets, trimmed of their greens if need be
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
1/2 cup walnut halves
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the beets well, and let them remain a bit wet. Wrap each beet individually in aluminum foil and place them on a cookie sheet. Roast them in the oven, undisturbed, for 60 to 90 minutes, until a knife pierces them with little resistance. Smaller beets will take less time, and some mondo beets will take more. Check every 15 minutes or so and remove them from the oven one by one as they finish.

Allow the beets to cool to the point where you can handle them, then peel them and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

While the beets roast, make the garlic-walnut sauce. In a small skillet set over moderately low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and toast until it softens and turns somewhat golden. Add the walnuts and cook for a few minutes more, just until they begin to color. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool.

Transfer the walnuts, garlic and olive oil to a blender, or to a tall, narrow container. Blend in the blender or with an immersion blender until the mixture is smooth and the texture is even. Mix in the orange juice. The sauce should look a bit silky and will be light brown in color.

Once the beets are cut into pieces, add the walnut sauce and stir with a spatula to ensure the beets are evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I think it needs a healthy amount of pepper) and serve at room temperature. Garnish with the parsley just before serving.

The salad is great the day it's made, but even better the next day. It will keep, tightly covered in the fridge, for up to four days.

Serves six as a side.

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