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To beet or not to beet...Shakespeare and root vegetables

Shakespeare lovers love beets
Shakespeare lovers love beetsinternet/Rus Pishnery

So a few months ago I jetted across the pond to a tiny village on the island of Anglesey across from the Strait of Bangor. It is a quaint little Welsh hamlet and my reason for going was the 457th annual Shakespeare Festival and Roasted Beet & Leek Cook-off. In case you didn’t know, Wales is nuts for good drama and the leek is the national symbol of this country. The quaint village is called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, (I swear to God I am not making this up) and sits on the water nestled next to the Lea-Key shipyards.

To beet or not to beet...Shakespeare and root vegetables
To beet or not to beet...Shakespeare and root vegetablesinternet/Rus Pishnery

But what I discovered while strolling through this ancient hamlet by the sea was not anything about Shakespeare that I didn’t know before, but that leeks and beets around here are often roasted before they appear on a plate. Huh. What a nouveau idea.

Both of these root vegetables are hearty and go well together. Both are available year round and both can be blanched, sautéed, fried or
roasted.

Let’s see what we got going on here.

Roasted Leeks and Beets

4 Medium Leeks, Trimmed and Sliced in Half Lengthwise

4 Beets

1 Tbs. Olive Oil, plus more for oiling pan

Sea Salt/Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1/2 cup Chicken Broth

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In oiled roasting pan with sides, brush leeks with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast leeks and beets until tender, about 35 to 45 minutes. While roasting, drizzle leeks and beets with broth a few times to keep moist. When done, peel beets and slice when cooled.

Now that we have that done let’s move on. Aren’t peeling those beets a bitch? And messy too.

Roasted Beet Salad with Frazzled Leeks and Bacon

2 Lbs. Roasted Beets (Mix Golden and Red) Skins Removed

2 Large Leeks, White and Light Green Parts only

2 Tbs. Olive Oil

6 Oz. Bacon (about 8 strips), Cut into 1-inch Pieces

1 Tbs. White Wine Vinegar

Sea Salt/Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Combine leeks with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper on a foil-lined baking sheet. Toss to combine. Arrange the bacon in an even layer on top of the leeks. Bake for 30 minutes, redistributing halfway through, until the leeks are cooked through and caramelized and the bacon is
browned.

Toss the roasted beets with the remaining olive oil and the vinegar. Arrange on a serving plate or bowl, and top with the crispy leeks and bacon.

But wait! There’s more!

Roasted Beet and Leek
Pizza w/ Goat Cheese

1 Lb. Beets with Greens

2 Cups Leeks

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt/Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1 Shallot, Minced

Dough for 1 Pizza, Homemade or Store Bought

Cornmeal, for dusting

4 Oz. Goat Cheese, Crumbled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil. Cut beet greens from the beets and reserve. Trim the stems from the beets and peel them. Then cut them into 1/2 inch cubes and spread them on the foil-lined pan. Drizzle the beets with about 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, stirring
or tossing to coat completely. Loosely cover the pan with another sheet of aluminum foil and cook in the oven for 40 minutes to 1 hour, removing the foil after about 20 minutes. Beets should be tender when pierced with a fork.
Reserve until you're ready to assemble the pizza.

Meanwhile, remove any tough stems from the beet greens and roughly chop them. Wash them thoroughly and dry them in a salad spinner or by squeezing them gently in a clean dishtowel. In a skillet heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil, tilting pan to spread over the bottom of the pan. Add the shallot and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the shallot is translucent. Add the greens and cook, turning with a spatula, until they begin to wilt down. Cover the pan and cook
over low heat for 5 minutes, until wilted and tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the pizza, turn oven temperature up to 400˚F. On a flour-dusted surface, roll or pat pizza dough into a circle, about 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Dust the pan with flour or cornmeal and form the dough on the pan. Brush the pizza with olive oil, and evenly spread the roasted beets and beet greens over the pizza. Sprinkle evenly with crumbled goat cheese. Bake at 400˚F for 10 to 15 minutes, until exposed crust is turning golden and firm, and goat cheese is beginning to turn light golden. Let pizza rest for a few minutes before slicing.

And for Act III.

Chilled Soup of Leek, Potato and Beet

1/2 Cup Leeks, Sliced

3 Tbs. Olive Oil

3 Med. Potatoes, Thinly Sliced

3 Med. Beets, Grated

5 Cups Chicken Broth

1 Cup Cream

1 Tsp. Minced Dill

Put oil, leeks and potatoes in a medium-sized saucepan.

Sauté over medium heat, stirring constantly, until softened, about 8-10 minutes

Add grated beets, sauté 1 minute longer and add broth to pan.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for approximately ½ an hour,
until vegetables are practically melted into the broth.

Puree them in a blender or using an immersion blender (be careful
with the immersion blender!).

Season to taste.

Add the cream and heat well, do not boil.

Cool and refrigerate.

Garnish with dill.

Can’t go wrong with Shakespeare and roasted root vegetables. Check out the slideshow. Next week, the bard and rutabagas.

“Oh Rutabaga, oh Rutabaga, wherefore art thou Rutabaga?”