Faux-lognese, Purple Haze, and Golden Beets

In Italian, Lentils, Nuts, Pasta, Salad, Vegetables on May 7, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I’ve been a very good girl since my last post.  Last Saturday I cleaned out my fridge, wiped the counters, and finally did enough dish-washing to have an empty machine!  Taking inventory of a very empty fridge, I made a shopping list and headed to Fairway.

Pretty much sticking to my list, I only selected a few extras to add to the cart.  One of those items were some golden beets.

I’ve been pretty obsessed lately with roasted beet and goat cheese salads, both on a plate and in a wrap.  Unfortunately, these dishes cost a pretty penny to buy premade, which is why I vowed last week to make a version at home.  Although they are usually made with red beets, the store was fresh out of the ruby variety, so I opted to use the golden kind that were available.

The one item I did forget – which is probably the most important for this recipe – was soft goat cheese.  I got caught up tasting 12 kinds of cheeses at the cheese monger station, and I completely forgot what I needed for this salad.  This is why I need to be better at writing and following my lists!  Anyway, on Monday I went to a cheese/meat shop near my office (It used to be called Grab, but I think they changed it to The Ploughman) and I asked for a soft goat cheese to complement the beets for my salad.  The guy recommended one called “Purple Haze”, which I’m assuming garners its name from the lavender surrounding the mound of cheese.  I don’t think any of the other Hazy herb variety were used for this product :).

I came home with such great intentions of making this salad.  However, for reasons I cannot recall at the moment, I think we ended up eating leftovers or freezer items instead.  This pattern had ensued for the next 2 nights, each day with the promise that “I’ll make that salad tomorrow.”  Well, what do you know – tomorrow finally came on Thursday.  I told Nick “I’m finally gonna make the salad tonight!” – but what to make as an accompanyment?  In case you don’t know, men don’t really eat just salad for dinner.  I ended the dinner message with “and some sort of pasta dish,” which is usually a satisfactory plan.

I mentally went through my catalog of pasta recipes, debating between a primavera, fagiole, or plain old marinara.  Then I remembered a recipe I had made several times from Giada that was a vegetarian version of bolognese made with mushrooms instead of beef.  I definitely had some mushrooms at home, as well as the other veggies required for the dish.  The only downside to the recipe was that it incorporated a lot of both parm and marscapone cheese, which would be cheese overload paired with the salad.  Instead of cheese, I would use some lentils – to bump up the protein, reduce the fat, and give a meatier texture to the sauce.  I’ll start with the pasta, and then show you how to assemble the salad.  Great; now it’s party time!

Whole Wheat Penne Rigatti Faux-lognese
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis

Serves 4-6

1 tbsp EVOO
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 small or 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 colored bell pepper (not green), finely chopped
10 oz mushrooms (I used white), chopped
2 tsbp tomato paste
Salt, pepper, and oregano to taste
2/3 cup red wine
1.5 cups cooked lentils
1/2 cup broth (or residual liquid from cooked lentils)
1 cup water
8 oz whole wheat penne rigatti (or any short cut pasta with ridges)
Parmesano or Pecorino cheese for garnish (optional)

First of all, I want to warn all of you that this dish is surprisingly filling.  That is why (especially paired with a salad) I budgeted this recipe as 4-6 servings.  Even if you wanted to eat a lot of it, you’re digestive system will thank you later if you have just a primi sized portion.

To get the party started, make sure to chop the veggies up nice and fine!  I am not really an expert at differentiating between a dice, fine chop, mince, etc.  Here’s a photo of how they were all cut up.

I sauteed them in the EVOO for about 10 minutes on medium heat, just until they were tender.  During that time, I chopped up the mushrooms.

Then those mushrooms joined the party.  Woohoo!

During their big dance, they create a lot of brown bits that stuck to the pan.

Those brown bits ended up messing around with some tomato paste, salt, pepper, and oregano…

…but the bits were stubborn and still stuck to the pan.  Grr.  Just needed to get them drunk with the red wine, and then they were ready to go with the flow.

They kind of sobered up after 2 minutes, and then it was time for the lentils to arrive.  If you don’t already have cooked lying around, better to cook them before starting with the veggie chopping.

Once they mingled, they were all very thirsty and needed some water.

Okay, now enough party talk.  It’s time to get serious…so I lowered the pan to a simmer, and boiled the pasta water.  I cooked it for about 9-10 minutes, until al dente.  I scooped some pasta in a bowl, and mixed with the fauxlognese, topping with some shredded cheese.

Kinda looks like meat.  And by kinda, I mean it is brown and chunky.  Awesome.

Okay, so now we can review how to make the salad.  It really is very simple.  Lettuce, beets, goat cheese.  You can add dried cranberries/blueberries, some nuts, even some sliced apple!  Whatever you have lying around is great.  Just as long as you have those first three ingredients, you are good to go.

To roast the beets (which you kind of do in advance, since they take about an hour to cook and some cool off time in the fridge), you have to wash them and scrub them first.  Beets are very dirty.

You wrap them individually in tin foil, and then roast them at 400 degrees for an hour, rotating half way through.

I don’t know about you, but to me that image reminds me of sci-fi movies, the ones on a space ship with alien tentacles all over the place.  Weird.

Once roasting is over, take those suckers out of the oven, and place the tray in a cool place (i.e. not on top of the stove, which is on top of a probably still 375 degree oven).  A couple of minutes pass, and you can try (preferably wearing oven mitts) to unwrap each beet.

After a few minutes, they should probably be cool enough to handle.  They will still be warm, but you won’t incur any scars to your precious paws.  You can rub the beets with your fingers to start peeling off the skin (similar to the process of peeling a boiled potato).

Look at the difference between the original and peeled version.  Big difference.  Now you can see why they are called golden beets.

You can slice them up before or after refrigeration, but doing it before will help it chill even faster.

Before assembling, you can whip together some dressing.  Any classic vinaigrette will do, but I prefer a very mustardy style dressing, especially for offsetting the earthiness of the beets and tartness of the goat cheese.  I’m not sure if it would classify as a true vinaigrette, but I like it.

Agave, Champagne, and Dijon Salad Dressing

Makes 5 servings of 1 tbsp each

2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp champage vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tbsp EVOO

In a bowl, combine all ingredients, except the oil.  Whisk together with a fork or whisk.  Slowly stream in the olive oil.  Tada!

To assemble: Add the dressing to the greens (about 1 tbsp per person).  Mix them in a bowl (or directly on the plate) and create a bed for the other veggies.  Spread the beet slices around the edges of the plate, place 1 ounce of soft goat cheese in the center, and sprinkle some chopped walnuts and dried blueberries all around.  Beautiful!

This salad is also surprisingly filling, so you may want to have only half of what I suggested along with the pasta.  It is super delish though, so if you feel like having your fill of it, go right ahead!

I really do love this salad.  Not only is it super flavorful, but it also has loads of colors – especially purples when using the more reddish colored beets.  I love purple!  I am also reminded of my alma matter, using both purple and gold hued veggies for this dish.  Now if I only I cared enough to share that with the alumi association.


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