As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I am always fascinated by the exotic foods that I discover in Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. This week, I am focusing on an ingredient that is not very exotic for most Jews, but the way that I am preparing it is unlike any traditional Jewish recipe. Often times, chefs talk about their “bag of tricks”. This represents an arsenal of ingredients and techniques that chefs use when they want to impress people. Sometimes these tricks are complicated and convoluted, and other times they are incredibly simple. This week, I am revealing one of my favorite simple tricks, purées.
From borscht to chrain, beets are a fundamental ingredient in Asheknazic cuisine. This week’s recipe showcases beets in a new way. I am making a beet and orange purée. The procedure is very straightforward. First, peel the beets and simmer them in a mixture of orange juice and vinegar. When they are very tender, purée the beets in a blender or food processor with olive oil, salt and pepper. File this recipe next to mashed potatoes and kugels, as it goes along with any meal just the same. It is a pareve, healthy, starch substitute that has incredible color and a lively flavor.
Cooking is a craft. In order to develop and mature as a cook you must explore new techniques with common ingredients. I love borscht and chrain as they are, but part of being a chef is finding new ways of presenting the same ingredients. My ability to work with unusual ingredients was put to the test when I competed on the Food Network’s Chopped. I invite you to watch and see what I create on the show this Sunday, August 18th when my Chopped episode airs (titled "Keep on Trucking" Food Network link here). As always, my Jewish roots provide me with great inspiration and a helpful arsenal in the kitchen. If you like what you see, come to my popup restaurant, Fress, in Santa Monica on Thursday night to savor my creations in person.
2 lbs Beets, peeled and diced
1 quart Orange Juice
½ C Rice Wine Vinegar
2 C Olive Oil
To taste Kosher Salt
To Taste Black Pepper, freshly ground
1. Peel and dice the beets.
2. In a medium sized pot, add the beets, orange juice, vinegar and a generous amount of kosher salt.
3. Simmer until the beets are very tender.
4. Remove from the heat, and strain the beets but be sure to reserve the cooking liquid.
5. In a blender or food processor, add the warm beets and some cooking liquid along with olive oil and salt and pepper. Purée until smooth.
6. Once the purée is seasoned properly with salt and pepper, it is ready to serve.