Fall has officially come, and mood is changing rapidly toward a more calm and contemplative state of mind and soul. The earth is giving its best to provide us with beautiful food to face the upcoming cold season. Squashes, beets, kale and winter greens are slowly taken the place of colorful tomatoes and peppers.
I am fondly in love with summer and summer food: berries, watermelon, tomatoes, aubergines just make me think of long, warm nights and late, lazy dinners. However, there is something magical and a bit misterious about fall vegetables that reassures me and fascinates me equally.
I got the beautiful beetroot in the picture from a collegue who received way too many from a friend and farmer. I stared at its shape all the way home: clumsy and dirty, but strong and secretly bright inside. The morning after, I woke up seeing the cold light touching it from afar, from the half open window, and it was in that exact moment that it revealed all its beauty.
I have a love-hate relationship with beetroot. It always leaves me with an umpleasant, earthy feeling. I started to appreciate it in dishes where flavors are contrasting rather than matching: spicy mustard or horseradish cream, sweet fruits like apples and pears, and very savory cheeses like feta or parmigiano. This are fixed rules for me now. From here on, there was just space for trial.
The time to experiment with millet isn’t over, yet. Like many things in life, I undervalue its versatility and the power of this grain to make me feel good and nourished. After the millet pudding, I tryed to treat it as it was its luckier cousin rice, and attempted a risotto style millet. It ended up being a very different dish from a risotto –less creamy and starchy– but very interesting nonetheless. Kernels were well separated and perfectly combined with the rest of the ingredients: very simply beetroot, parmigiano and thyme.
Millet Beet Risotto with Parmigiano and Thyme
Ingredients (serves 2):
- 1cup uncooked millet
- 5 cups hot vegetable stock
- 1 garlic clove, pealed and slightly pressed
- 1 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups steamed beetroot, diced
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- salt, to taste
- fresh thyme, to taste
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, lower the flame and add the garlic. Let it fry for 5 minutes before removing it. Add diced beetroot and stir fry for 5 minutes. Add millet and toast it over medium fire, stirring from time to time, about 3 minutes. Add hot stock 1 cup at a time, letting it absorb each time. Once stock is almost all absorbed and millet cooked, turn off the fire, season with 1/2 T olive oil. Stir in parmigiano. Stir well until cheese is blended and melted. Serve warm with thyme leaves and parmigiano to taste.
After the novelty, back to the usual –yet, quite unusual. The rest of the beetroot was used to make a carpaccio salad, alternating beet slices to apple slices, seasoning it all with a dijon mustard vinagrette and some crumbled feta on top. I am now ready to welcome fall in my life.
Apple Beetroot Carpaccio Salad with Mustard and Feta
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 1/2 big beetroot, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 gala apple, thinly sliced
- 1 cup feta, crumbled
- 2 tsp grainy dijon mustard
- 1 T extravirgin olive oil
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp fleur de sel
Prepare the vinaigrette simply shaking mustard, salt, lemon juice and olive oil in a small closed jar. Place beetroot slices and apple slices on a serving plate, alternated. Spoon vinaigrette on top, and cover with feta crumbles.
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