The last few years have seen a new niche in restaurant fare: vegetables as the main event. Ten years ago, no chef in his right mind would dream of substituting a regular-old veggie for a piece of meat in an entree. And, what kind of customer would pay main-course prices for what was usually a side dish?
But these days, what with all the eat mostly vegetables mantra and that whole Meatless Monday thing, there is a real demand for all things from the garden. The trick is to make these, well, garden-variety veggies hearty enough to be satisfying. There are a couple of chefs who are leading the charge and doing a fine job.
Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby are two of them. Their Philadelphia shrine to vegetables is so satisfying that it tricked this carnivore into believing that he could go without animal protein for a whole day. The chefs at Vedge roast, toast, spice, and slice their produce into sophisticated plates of vegetarian delights, and you’d never miss the meat.
Here we are in the thick of vegetable season, and I’m taking a cue from the folks at Vedge. This week I’ll take two run-of-the-mill vegetables, carrots and beets, and treat them with serious care. I’ll make them shine.
Carrots and Beets as an Entree
- 4 medium beets with greens
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds carrots with greens
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped roasted salted almonds
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Trim beets from greens, reserving greens. Place beets on a sheet of aluminum foil and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Wrap foil up around beets and place packet in oven. Trim carrots from greens, reserving greens. Peel carrots and place in a heat-proof skillet. Toss carrots with 2 tablespoons oil, paprika, cumin, coriander, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place skillet in oven with beets. Roast vegetables until tender, about 45 minutes. Remove vegetables from oven and let cool. Slip skins from beets and thinly slice beets using an adjustable blade slicer. Cut carrots diagonally into 2-inch pieces.
Slice beet stems crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces, reserving leaves.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat until hot, then sauté shallot until golden, about 6 minutes. Stir in beet stems and cook until stems are tender, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
Mince and mash garlic clove with 1/4 teaspoon salt until it is a paste. Whisk garlic together with lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Thinly slice beet greens into ribbons and pick 1/2 cup carrot leaves. Toss greens and leaves with dressing.
Place one layer of sliced beets on each of the 4 places. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a mound of carrots in the middle of each plate, then scatter beet stems over and around the carrots. Place a handful of the shredded beet green salad on top of each plate and sprinkle with blue cheese and almonds.