Roasted Beets, Dried Cherries and Cabrales Straight from Spain, Garlic Scape Pesto Too
Cabrales is an artisanally made blue cheese much in the vein (oops, sorry) of France’s Roquefort. Like Roquefort, it is aged in caves, aging and blueing from the outside in, and brought to market wrapped in heavy foil. While Roquefort is made with sheep milk, Cabrales is made with a combination of sheep, goat and cow milk. Both cheeses are pungent, salty and slightly crumbly. And both go well with something a little sweet: dried fruit, honey, a dot of jam or a wine with some residual sugar, which is what we had on hand, quite accidently, yesterday. Last night a friend brought an Alsatian Pinot Gris to dinner, one he bought expecting it to be light and bright, but which, instead, was golden and syrupy and just right with the farmers’ market + a-slice-of- Spain salad I’d made.
Yesterday was opening day of the Lyme Farmers Market — at last! — and I returned from my outing with small beets and leafy arugula, garlic scapes and Stonington shrimp, all the fixings for an easy and delicious dinner.
THE ROASTED BEET, DRIED CHERRY, CABRALES AND ARUGULA SALAD:
This is hardly a recipe. I made it up as I went along and you should too.
A bundle of beets
Arugula, washed, dried and cut into ribbons or torn
Moist, plump dried cherries (mine were coarsely chopped)
Shards of Cabrales
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sherry vinegar or fresh lemon or lime juice, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toasted walnuts (I wish I’d had them)
To roast the beets: Cut away the leafy greens from the beets (if they’re fresh, you can add them to a mixed salad; if they’re limp but still tasty, you can add them to a saute of greens) leaving about an inch or so of stem attached to the beets. Leave the wispy roots too. Scrub the beets and lay them in a single layer in a roasting pan. Add a little water (just a couple of spoonfuls), cover the pan with foil, poke a pair of holes in the foil and roast the beets at 425 degrees F until you can pierce them easily with a paring knife. My beets were small and took just 30 minutes, but average-size beets usually take 40 minutes or more. Remove the pan from the oven, carefully lift off the foil (you don’t want to be hit with a puff of steam) and, when the beets are cool enough to handle (or cool), trim and peel them (the messy part). Cut them into small chunks or thick slices.
To assemble the salad: When you’re ready to serve, toss the arugula with a little olive oil and, if you’d like, a drop of vinegar or juice. Season with salt and pepper and make a layer of arugula in the bottom of a serving platter. Season the beets with oil, salt and pepper and a squirt of vinegar or juice, if you want, and pile them in the center of the greens. Scatter the dried cherries, pieces of Cabrales and toasted walnuts, if you’ve got them, over the beets and drizzle the salad with a little (very little) honey. Toss the salad at the table.
For a main course we had LINGUINE AND SHRIMP WITH GARLIC-SCAPE PESTO and I laughed when I searched for the garlic-scape pesto recipe and discovered that I’d made it almost exactly to the day a year ago and, just as I had yesterday, I’d bought the scapes on the market’s opening day.
Last night, I didn’t add nuts to the pesto. Instead, I made it with just garlic scapes (make sure to chop them before putting them in the blender), olive oil and grated cheese (last night it was Pecorino). I was going to grill the shrimp, but in the end, convenience got the better of me: when the linguine had two minutes to go, I tossed the shrimp into the pasta pot and let them boil. In the end, I think it was better than grilling because you got more of the pesto flavor in the dish – not that you could ever miss the pesto: Garlic scapes are no wallflowers.
Back to the Farmers Market … now.