At a Cape Cod wedding earlier this summer, our table was diving into lobsters, steamers, clam chowder and corn on the cob when a dear friend posed the question "What is your favorite food?" I have answers to this question once you add qualifiers... favorite dessert, favorite vegetable, favorite drink, etc. But favorite food? Impossible!
After asking the question, Kate pointed to her husband attacking his lobster and her look said it all - his favorite food is clearly lobster! I thought for a few minutes about my response and then said something that surprised me - beets! It is not that they would be the food of choice for my last meal, but beets are a food I can eat every day and never grow tired of and I am always looking for a creative way to cook with them.
After stating this, Kate told me about their favorite recipe containing beets and kindly passed it along. I love turning beets into a main dish rather than a side (e.g., beet gnocchi) and incorporating an ingredient that is new to me - farro. The recipe reminded me of a dinner we had in Provincetown last summer at Tiny's, a farm-to-table restaurant with truly awesome food and a great view of the main street in P-Town. We rode our bikes from Boston to P-Town over the course of two days and our meal at Tiny's was a great way to end of the journey. One of the many delicious items we ate that night was beet risotto (pictured below). I remember sitting outside, watching people walk by below and telling Rob that I was going to try to make that beet risotto! I haven't yet, but this dish was inadvertently close.
Back to the recipe at hand! I sent Rob hunting for farro at a mainstream grocery store (unsuccessful) but I have since found it at both Vitamin Cottage and in the bulk foods section of Whole Foods. Once cooked, farro is a moist, chewier version of pasta that I really liked. Dare I say that this dish tastes both healthy and delicious?
Farro Spaghetti, Beets, Brown Butter, Poppy Seeds
Adapted from this recipe published in New York Magazine
1 1/2 pounds red beets
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 pound good quality farro or whole wheat spaghetti
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 heaping tablespoon poppy seeds, plus addition poppy seeds for a garnish
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup pasta water
12 tablespoons fresh, soft goat cheese
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F. Place the beets in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Cover with olive oil and water. Bake until a tester easily passes through the beets, about 1 1/2 hours. Let cool.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Peel the beets. Cut into chunks and add to the bowl of a food processor. Process until a rough purée is achieved.
Add the farro to the boiling water.
Add the butter to a room temperature 10-inch skillet. Turn heat to high and brown. Toast the poppy seeds in the brown butter for about 2 minutes. Add the puréed beets, salt and pasta water to pan. Stir to fully incorporate.
Use a wire mesh strainer or tongs to remove the farro directly into the skillet toss to combine.
To serve; divide the farro into equal portions and place on warm plates. Use 2 round or oval soup spoons to create little balls with the goat cheese and place one on top of each serving. Garnish with a light sprinkle of poppy seeds.