This time of year there is not much coming from the farms. In the Northeast, once the frost starts arriving at night, the farmers begin to harvest and put up the last of their storage crops. Foods like potatoes, onions, apples, beets, rutabagas and winter squash start showing up on the lists for the next few months. Now is the time we dig in and start enjoying a heartier fare. Gone are the summer nights with crisp, field grown lettuces with succulent tomatoes and herbs. For the time being, some of the studier, cold loving greens are around such as kales and mâche.
As far as wild edibles go, the pickings are quite sparse. One thing you can pick pretty late into December is staghorn sumac. You may have seen this shrub lining the side of the road while driving on the highway or on back roads. Sumac is a shrub that grows a beautifully deep, red colored cone which you can harvest and grind into a fine seasoning. The easiest way to detach the berries is to hold the red cone in your hand and rake the berries with a fork over a bowl. At this point, grind the berries in a motor and pestle or blender.
Taking a cue from mother nature, I wanted to make a dish that reflected this transition of seasons.
This recipe focuses on the balance of sweet, salty, sour and earthy. I have been told for a while now that I need to find more balance. Seems the only place that I can actually find that is in seasoning the dish.
I like to cook my beets in a pressure cooker as it drastically cuts down the time needed to cook them
Winter Beet + Mâche Salad With Foraged Sumac
2 pounds beets, a mix of red and golden
1 pound mâche, rinsed
1 bunch radishes, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, rinsed and finely chopped
1/2 cup roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 375° (if using a pressure cooker skip this step)
Toss beets in 1 tablespoon of oil, and season with salt. Place beets into a roasting pan, cover with aluminum foil and place directly into oven. Roast beets for one hour, or until a knife slides easily into the center of a beet. If using a pressure cooker, place beets into the canister, add half cup of water or enough to cover a third of the beets. Secure top and bring to 15 pounds pressure. Cook for 30 minutes; remove cooker from heat and allow pressure to naturally dissipate.
When beets are finished cooking, remove either from the oven or the pressure cooker and allow to slightly cool so you may handle them. If you have latex or kitchen gloves, now is the time to slip them on. Using a kitchen towel or paper towel, gently rub the beets to remove their skins. If you have a mixture of beets, do one color at a time as to not taint the beauty of the golden beets. Half the beets and cut into wedges; if you are dealing with larger beets you may need to cut them down after wedging them.
Once all the beets are cut, transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the mâche, radishes and parsley. Add a small amount of the vinaigrette to dress and season to taste. Layout four plates, build the salad in mounds and garnish with chopped pistachios.
2 tablespoons sumac
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Fresh ground pepper
Combine all ingredients into a mason jar and shake vigorously until combined. Season to taste. Vinaigrette will last for one week in the refrigerator.
Note: Sumac is also available at any specialty store in the middle eastern section.
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