Mollie Katzen’s new cookbook The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation is full of recipes that layer different textures.
In her Brilliant Beet Arrangement, Katzen roasts beets, combines them in the food processor with garlic-spiked olive oil, and spoons the mixture (she calls it Beet Crush) over Greek yogurt. She tops the dish with smashed pistachios and crispy fried lentils.
Katzen goes through the recipe step by step in this outtake from her conversation with Evan on Saturday’s show. You can also find the recipe below.
Brilliant Beet Arrangement
(Excerpted from THE HEART OF THE PLATE, (c) 2013 by Mollie Katzen. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.)
1. Spread a modest layer of thick yogurt (Greek or otherwise) on a plate.
2. Heap on some room-temperature Beet Crush (see below).
3. Sprinkle the top with Pistachio Smash (see below).
4. Toss on some Fried Lentils (see below).
5. Scatter a few leaves of baby arugula on top and/ or serve some olive-oil-and-garlic-sautéed beet greens on the side or underneath.
Makes about 4 servings
Summer beets, recently harvested, are best for this recipe, which has you doing so little to them that they get a chance to show their true essence. I like to use yellow beets for this—they are so pretty and unexpected. That said, beets of any color will do just fine. And if the leaves are fresh, crisp, and unfaded, you’re in for a treat. Stemmed, cleaned beet greens cook very quickly over medium-low heat in garlic and olive oil with a little salt and pepper and are delicious served alongside or on top of the Beet Crush.
The beets need to be put into the oven to roast at least 90 minutes (and up to several days) beforehand. This will allow them the time they need to cook, cool until comfortable to handle, and get peeled—an unpredictable process. Sometimes the peel lifts right off, and other times it needs guidance from a paring knife. You can also simply boil the beets until soft enough to slide a fork into, if you don’t feel like heating your oven. The flavor will be less intense, but still fine. The peels will rub off easily after the beets are drained, refreshed under cold running water, and cooled.
This will keep for 3 to 4 days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. It also freezes beautifully and reheats well, covered, in a 250°F oven or in a microwave.
3 pounds (9–12 medium) beets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
4 teaspoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar, or more to taste
¾ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1. Remove the beet greens (save them to cook separately, if they’re nice) and trim the stems to within an inch of the beet. Cook the beets, whole and unpeeled, either in simmering water until fork-tender, about 30 minutes, or by roasting. To roast them, preheat the oven to 400°F, with a rack in the center position. Line a baking sheet with foil. Lay the beets on the foil, add a splash of water (a tablespoon or two), and press together the edges of the foil to form a packet. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until the beets are fork-tender. (Be careful when opening the packet. There will be steam.)
2. Place the olive oil and garlic in a small, microwave-worthy bowl and cover it with a plate. Zap for 30 seconds, then remove from the microwave and carefully remove the plate. Let the mixture cool until safe to handle.
3. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut into quarters and transfer to a food processor. Scrape in the oil-garlic mixture and add the vinegar and salt. Buzz into a coarse crush a few degrees short of completely smooth.
4. Taste to adjust the salt and vinegar and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Makes 1 generous cup
Sometimes when you crush something, even though you’ve added very little to it, it ends up tasting like a different food from the one with which you began. Perhaps it’s because extra flavor gets released in the process. Who knows? Whatever the physics (or metaphysics), this pistachio treatment is darned good. Sprinkle it on grains, salads, goat cheese toasts, and hither and yon, and especially on top of Beet Crush in the Brilliant Beet Arrangement.
This will keep for a month in the refrigerator—and 3 months in the freezer, sealed airtight in a heavy zip-style plastic bag.
1 heaping cup shelled pistachios, lightly toasted
¼ teaspoon salt (start with less if the nuts are salted)
1 tablespoon grapeseed or peanut oil
1. Combine the pistachios and salt in a blender or a small food processor and buzz until the pistachios become the size of bulgur.
2. Keep the machine going as you drizzle in the oil, then continue just long enough for all the nut pieces to become moistened.
3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl or container with a cover or a heavy zip-style plastic bag. Refrigerate or freeze.
Makes 1½ cups
Revelation: You can fry soaked, uncooked lentils. Result: The coolest snack food/crunchy topping this side of Mumbai.
After making these in minutes, sprinkle them on many things: tossed salads, cooked grains (a great riff on beans and rice), or any kind of modular plate. They are also a great snack.
Use the smaller—red (aka orange), yellow, or black beluga—lentils for the crispest, most delicate results. If delicate results are not your goal, go ahead and try this with the larger, standard brown lentils—or even with yellow split peas. They will have a slightly chewy center, rather than becoming all-the-way crisp.
You can soak and drain the lentils well ahead of time, and then leave them on the towel to dry for a few hours, or even overnight.
These are at their best within an hour or so of being made, but will remain quite good for up to a day after that. Store uncovered at room temperature, if your kitchen is not overly humid. Also, they are easily freshened up in a 200°F toaster oven, spread out on foil in a thin layer. It will take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to take them back to crunchy.
1 cup lentils, any kind (see note)
3–4 tablespoons high-oleic safflower oil, olive oil, or grapeseed oil (possibly more)
1. Place the lentils in a bowl with water to cover. Soak for 1 hour.
2. Drain the lentils into a fine-mesh strainer, shaking out as much excess water as you can, then lay them out on absorbent towels in a single layer to dry. (You can help this along by gently shaking the lentils around a bit on the towel to air them out.)
3. Set a paper towel–lined plate and a slotted spoon by the stove. Pour 2 to 3 tablespoons oil (enough to generously cover the bottom) into a large (10- to 12-inch) skillet and place the pan over medium heat. When it’s hot enough to sizzle a lentil on contact, carefully add about half the lentils, spreading them out into a single layer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until they crisp and become ever-so-slightly translucent around the edges. (Red lentils will turn yellow.) You can keep them in the pan a little longer, if you like, until they reach a more dramatically crunchy state. Just be sure to extract them before they become overdone.
4. Lift out the lentils in batches with the slotted spoon, holding and slightly tilting each scoop over the pan to let the oil drain off, then transfer to the paper towels. Salt lightly.
5. Repeat with the remaining lentils, adding additional oil as needed, and being sure to wait until it is instant-sizzle hot before adding the lentils.
6. Serve warm or at room temperature.