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Archive for February 4, 2014

RECIPE: Beet Mashed Potatoes

Beets and mashed potatoes are a delicious side with any protein, and a perfect color for Valentine’s Day.

At any time of year, this lavish mash recipe is sure to impress. It’s easy to prepare when you use packaged baby beets, typically found shrink-wrapped in the produce department. This recipe is courtesy Love Beets. Find more beet recipes at

The recipe serves two: prep time 5 minutes, cooking time 20 minutes.



  • 1 pound all-purpose potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 package baby beets (3.25 ounces) or
    equivalent canned or fresh-cooked beets
  • 4 tablespoons crème fraîche*
  • Salt and pepper


    Purple passion: mashed beets and potatoes. Photo courtesy

    *Buy crème fraîche or make your own with this recipe.



    Serve the mash with your favorite protein.
    Photo courtesy Love Beets.



    1. PEEL the potatoes and cut each into 8 pieces. Put them into a large pan of salted water and bring to boiling. Simmer for 10 minutes until the potatoes are fork-tender. While the potatoes cook…

    2. CHOP the beets into quarters.

    3. DRAIN the potatoes and add the quartered beets and crème fraîche to the pan. Mash everything together well until you have a smooth pink mash. Season to taste.



    Beets, Beta vulgaris are a root vegetable: leaves grow above ground, and the edible root is below. In America, the shortened form, beet, is used instead of the longer beetroot.

    Beets evolved from wild sea beet, which grew in places as wide-ranging as Britain and India. It was first cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East—although only the leaves were eaten. (Even today, beet greens are delicious. Don’t throw them away: Sauté them in olive oil with some minced garlic.)

    Roman recipes included cooking beets with honey and wine. Apicius, the renowned Roman gourmet, included a beet broth recipe in his cookbook as well as beet salad with a dressing of mustard, oil and vinegar. All are still fine recipes today.

    The original beet roots were long and thin like carrots. The rounded root shape of today was developed in the 16th century; by the 18th century it was widely cultivated in central and eastern Europe. Many of today’s classic beet dishes originated in this region, including borscht.

    In 19th century England, beets’ dramatic color were often used to brighten up salads and soups. The high sugar content made it a popular ingredient in cakes and puddings (and in the U.S., led to the creation of red velvet cake).

    Today there are many varieties of beets sizes large and small, including candy-striped (with red and white concentric circles), orange, white and yellow. Look for these specialty beets in farmers markets.


    You can use cooked beets in any recipe that requires raw beets. Just reduce the cooking time accordingly.

    Alas, beet juice does stain. If you aren’t a very neat cook or eater, wear dark clothing! But beet juice is a water-soluble dye, so try one of these methods to clean up stains:

  • To remove from hands, rub with lemon juice and salt before washing with soap and water.
  • To remove from fabric, rub a slice of raw pear on the stain before washing or rinse in cold water before washing in detergent.
  • For cutting boards and containers, use a bleach solution.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Drizzled Soup Garnish

    Have you ever been served a bowl of soup with a drizzle of oil? Floating on the surface of the soup, it’s a fashionable garnish at better restaurants.

    But the oil does more than look pretty. It adds a rich dimension of flavor to the soup and creates a more complex aroma. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to go from everyday to gourmet.


    In our book, a drizzle of flavored olive oil elevates a bowl of soup to top tier restaurant level. A tablespoon or less—depending on the size of the bowl—does the trick.

  • Depending on the soup, you can match an olive oil infused with basil, chile, garlic, oregano, rosemary, sage, smoked, truffle or wasabi, among others. You can use plain olive oil, of course; but we far prefer the exciting hit of flavor from infused oils.
  • You can also “go nuts” with almond, hazelnut, pecan, pistachio, walnut and other nut oils.
  • Other oils you may have in your pantry, from pumpkin seed to sesame, are also delicious accents.


    Cucumber yogurt soup with a kick of chili oil, a garnish of thin-sliced baby radishes, fennel and diced orange. Photo courtesy The Chocolate Lab | San Francisco .


  • Avocado oil, lightly nutty and deep green, is delicious with black bean soup.
  • Basil oil, a lighter green, is wonderful with tomato soup (and any soup that could use a hit of basil).
  • Pumpkin seed oil, nutty with a dramatic deep green color, with gazpacho, tomato soup, roasted red pepper soup, lentil soup, split pea soup.
  • Rosemary oil is delicious with any bean or lamb-based soup.
  • Truffle Oil with to any soup, but we love it with chicken, beef and root vegetable soups like carrot and turnip. (Use less truffle oil than other oils, as it tends to have strong flavor.)
  • Sesame oil wherever you’d like an Asian accent (as with truffle oil, use less—droplets are the best option).
  • Walnut oil adds a toasty accent to puréed vegetable soups.


    The double drizzle: pumpkin seed oil and
    crème fraîche garnish squash soup. A few
    microgreens garnish the center. Photo
    courtesy The Grill Room | D.C.



    In a lighter soup you can contrast colored oils: a swirl of one with some contrasting droplets of another.

    With a darker soup, you can use a cream-based product—crème fraîche, infused heavy cream, sour cream, yogurt.

    You may have natural technique, or you may have to practice to get a nice swirl. Place the oil on a teaspoon and drizzle from the tip. If you want to practice, drizzle inexpensive oil on a plate.

    Another technique is to use a squeeze bottle or medicine dropper to create a circle of droplets, or a random pattern. In the top photo above, both swirls and droplets are used.

    You can combine both techniques and use a different oil, or balsamic vinegar, for the droplets.


    Heavy cream works just fine, but crème fraîche, sour cream and yogurt are too thick to drizzle; they need to be thinned. You can do this with water, milk or cream.

    While sour cream and yogurt contribute natural tang, you can add flavor to them, or to crème fraîche or heavy cream. Lemon zest, flavored salt and pepper are some options. You can infuse heavy cream with herbs: crush the herbs and let them sit in the cream for an hour or longer. Strain and discard the herbs.



  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons water
  • 1-2 dashes salt and pepper (to taste)

    1. BLEND the crème fraîche, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

    2. THIN as needed with water to a drizzle consistency.
    Soup’s on! And today, February 4th, is National Homemade Soup Day. Check out our favorite soup recipes.


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    VALENTINE GIFT: Favorite Gourmet Chocolate


    Wildflowers & Hearts chocolates (the box is
    in the photo below). Photo courtesy John &


    One of our favorite chocolatiers, year in and year out, is John & Kira’s. Using Valrhona couverture, the exquisite flavor, beautiful design and a touch of whimsey make us want box after box.

    We love the Chocolate Bees and Lovebugs (chocolate ladybugs). Our favorite product, perhaps because there’s nothing like it elsewhere, are the Chocolate Covered Figs, filled with a whiskey-accented chocolate ganache.

    But for Valentine’s Day, the Wildflowers & Hearts box seem spot-on. Order yours at A nine-piece box is $29.

    Red Chocolate Hearts are dusted with a golden sheen and filled with cinnamon-accented pistachio ganache. Wildflowers are 66% cacao chocolate ganache.

    A nine-piece gift box is $29.00.




    The holiday named for the Christian saint Valentine had its beginnings as the raucous annual Roman festival of Lupercalia, held on February 15th. Men stripped naked and spanked maidens with whips with the goal of increasing their fertility. It was a wildly popular event.

    In the fifth century C.E.—at least 150 years after Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire—church leaders sought to convert popular pagan festivals into Christian festivals. (Christmas is another example of this.)

    Conveniently, there was a legend about St. Valentine to which Lupercalia could be pegged. According to the story, in the third century C.E. the Roman Emperor Claudius II, seeking to bolster his army, forbade young men to marry. The priest Valentine helped lovers by performing marriages in secret. For his defiance, Valentine was executed in on February 14, 270.



    The nine pieces go quickly—but very happily. Photo courtesy John & Kira’s.


    The first Valentine note on record was a couplet penned in the 15th-century by Charles, Duke of Orléans to his wife. The earliest surviving Valentine notes in English were written in 1477.

    But it wasn’t until the 19th century that cards became popular. Handwritten cards gave way to mass-produced greetings. By the mid-20th century, tokens of affection extended to other gifts, including flowers and chocolates.

    The first heart-shaped box of chocolates in North America was produced by Ganong Bros in Canada (founded 1873). The boxes were originally used during the Christmas season but subsequently remained for Valentine’s Day (source: Wikipedia).

    Today, we know enough about chocolate to care about what’s in the box. Hold the cardboard heart; send us John & Kira’s.


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