Fresh Beet Pasta & Sautéed Cod
Growing up, I never liked beets. As a matter of fact, it is safe to say that I hated them. When I was a little kid, my mother would always try to sneak them in by putting a plate on the table in front of me filled with my favorites – roasted chicken, green beans – and I would get excited. Then my eyes would settle on the party crasher – those damned beets! I would cross my arms, look up at her and put on my most intense pout, one that nonverbally said, “Oh, that ain’t gonna happen today.”
She would counter with a nonverbal and equally intense stare that communicated, “You’re not getting up from that table until you eat them.” Thus, kicking off the ultimate test of wills. In the end, we would come to a non-negotiated truce. I would reluctantly eat half of the beets and she would let me go play with my Atari 2600. (I’ll admit it. I was a hyperactive little brat. If I was a child today, I’d be a prime candidate for Ritalin. But that was a different era.).
So, I NEVER liked beets. Then something funny happened. For some unknown reason, somewhere north of say, 30 years old, I suddenly got into them. I began to love their complicated flavor. Part sweet, part hearty. Sort of like liquorish but not really. I eat them quite often these days. And although it would make her day, this is something that I keep from my mother. She would take delight in the fact that although it took 30 years, she ultimately prevailed in the ultimate battle of the wills. I would never hear the end of it.
Besides simply roasting them, one of my favorite ways to use beets is in pasta. While it gives the pasta a very subtle flavor, what really stands out is the color – a bright, intense and deep reddish pink. It’s a show stopper. Only thing I struggle with is what to pair it with. Hot pink is not the easiest color to balance on a plate. So many things just look weird next to it.
As in most dilemmas, the answer is usually found in keeping it simple. So, in this post, I’m pairing beet linguine with a simple piece of sautéed cod and a Sauvignon Blanc reduction (the word ‘reduction’ makes this sound more difficult then it actually is…it’s a very simple sauce). For a garnish, I went to my old stand by – chiffonaded leeks wilted with salt.
I like how the elements of this plate play with one another – a nice balance of flavors and textures. The cod, delicate and mild is rounded off with salt and pepper and the taste from the butter it was sautéed with; the pasta, has a mild beet flavor; the sauce adds a ‘don’t forget about me’ sharpness that keeps your taste buds alive and finally; the salt wilted leeks complete the dish with a bit of freshness.
I hope you like it as much as I do.
Note: The beet pasta is really the subject of this post – thus no recipe for the cod and leeks is included. For this dish, I just salt and peppered the cod and sautéed it with butter. The leeks are cut into chiffonades and mixed with a ¼ teaspoon of salt and allowed to sit at room temperature until the leeks are wilted and pliable, about one hour. The Sauvignon Blanc reduction preparation is after the pasta recipe.
ON A RELATED NOTE: About two years ago, we remodeled our kitchen. I had my heart set on marble countertops but felt discouraged by all of the warnings about marble being porous and easily stained. After much research and deliberation, I went with marble anyway. After two years of heavy use (including making fresh BEET pasta), so far so good. So note to the daring, seize the day and live without fear!
FRESH BEET PASTA – LINGUINE
4 tbl pureed red beets (about two medium beets)
7 egg yolks
1 tbl milk
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting beets
¼ tsp salt
2 ½ cups flour, plus more for kneading dough
Preheat oven to 365˚. Wash, dry and lightly coat beets with olive oil. Tightly wrap beets in aluminum foil and roasted in oven for about an hour (or until the beets can be easily pierced with a knife). Set a side. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and puree in a food processor until they reach the stage of a smooth puree.
In a medium bowl, mix together the egg yolks, milk, 2 teaspoon of olive oil and salt. Stir in beet puree.
Mound the flour on the countertop creating a well in the center large enough to hold the beet mixture. Pour beet mixture into the flour well.
Using your finger or fork, begin making a circular motion in the beet mixture to slowly start incorporating into the flour. If needed, occasionally push a little of the flour into the well. Continue until the beet mixture becomes incorporated with the flour. Once the dough begins to form, mound it together into a rough ball (see unkneaded dough photograph above). Knead the dough on a clean, lightly floured area of the countertop. The dough will be sticky at first, but will be come smoother as you continue kneading. Sprinkle with a bit of flour if the dough is too sticky to work with. Knead the dough by pushing down and away from you with the palm of your hands and turning the dough onto it self. Knead dough for no less than 10 minutes. After kneading, the dough should have a smooth texture (see kneaded dough photograph above). Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 hour.
Cut dough into 6 equal parts. Starting at the widest setting, run each piece through the pasta press attachment of KitchenAid mixer. Gradually, press the dough through smaller and smaller settings until you get about 1/8″ thick (setting “5″ on the KitchenAid pasta press). Once you have pressed all six pieces. Run the pasta strips through the linguine cutter attachment. Separate and hang (or layout) linguine until ready to cook.
Alternatively, you can roll out the pieces of dough with a rolling pin on a lightly floured counter top until you reach the desired thickness. Roll pasta into loose cylinders and cut into strips of linguine.
Bring a large sauté pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until done, up to 2 minutes – overcooking will drain the pasta of its rich color. Drain and serve.
SAUVIGNON BLANC REDUCTION SAUCE
1tbl butter, unsalted
½ shallot, diced
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup Sauvignon Blanc (or any dry white wine)
3tbl heavy cream
Over medium heat, sauté shallots in butter in until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until the mixture reduces to about ½ cup of liquid, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream.