Last week I met some good friends for drinks and dinner at a place I have been meaning to get to for ages – The Purple Pig. I’ve read all kinds of reviews and praise. My chef friends love it (it’s a chef-y kind of place). It has a good chef pedigree – the Jimmy Bannos (both Jr. and Sr.), Tony Mantuano and Scott Harris. Yet for all kinds of reasons, I just couldn’t get my act together until now. Isn’t it annoying how that happens? You make a mental note to check someplace out and then when you look up again, it’s a year later. Oh life. You’re really screwing up my fun quotient.
The Purple Pig is exactly the kind of restaurant I like. One look at the menu makes me smile – it’s the kind of food chefs like to cook and eat themselves. Their tagline is “cheese, swine and wine” which just about says it all. There’s a great wine list and with an unseasonably warm night, I squeak in one more rose before the weather turns frigid. The food is a treat – a wide selection of small, extremely fresh plates of tasty goodness and we ordered a bunch of them. With so many delicious porky tidbits crowding the table – housemade charcuterie, crispy pig ears, braised pig tail – there was one dish that stood out in its simplicity. Salt roasted beets with whipped goat cheese. It had only three components: roasted beets, whipped goat cheese and some chopped pistachios. Delicious. We ordered it twice.
Always looking for new ways to prepare beets, I thought I’d try this out. It didn’t seem too difficult and turns out it wasn’t. Rather than salt roasting, as the Pig does, I went with my usual method – oven roasting. Trim up the beets (Save those greens! I’ll tell you what to do with them in the next post), wrap them up tight in some foil and into the oven until tender – at least ½ hour , longer if they’re big ones. This couldn’t be easier especially if you’re baking something else. Now that is terribly efficient.
Let the beets cool then – and here’s a great tip – spray your hands with cooking spray or rub in a little oil. This will prevent the beets from staining your hands. I know, brilliant. I had orange beets so staining wasn’t much of an issue but those red ones will leave you with pink hands if you’re not careful. Next, take a paring knife and peel the beets – the skins will pretty much slip right off.
Now let’s talk about whipped goat cheese. It’s a revelation. Light, ethereal with that signature tang. If you don’t typically care for goat cheese, I’d bet you’d like this. It’s wonderful with the earthy sweetness of roasted beets. I’m already making a mental list of other ways to use it. Add in the crunch of a handful of pistachios and this dish was spot on.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: 3 STARS. This is one of those deceptively simple dishes where the result is so much greater than the individual parts. This recipe receives a good ranking really for two reasons. First and foremost, whipped goat cheese is mighty fine. On roasted beets, on crackers, on your finger – it is a stellar little snack. Second, if you’re cooking the beets while something else is in the oven then you get the scout badge for efficiency and multitasking.
ROASTED BEETS WITH WHIPPED GOAT CHEESE AND PISTACHIOS
Serves 4 as a tapa or side dish
I particularly like orange beets but any – red, orange, Chioggia, yellow or a mix – will be beautiful. The directions below say to whip the goat cheese in a standing mixer but a hand mixer or even a bowl, whisk and some determination will work just fine.
1 bunch of beets (about 3-4 medium)
kosher salt and pepper
4 ounces goat cheese
1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons chopped pistachios
- For the beets: Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Trim the tops and scraggly root ends off the beets – save those tops! They’re delicious sautéed.
- Rinse the beets to remove any excess dirt.
- Place the beets on a heavy-duty sheet of foil, drizzle with a little olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper.
- Wrap the beets up tight and place the packet on a sheet pan just in case there are any drips.
- Place in the oven and bake for at least 30 minutes until tender. If the beets are particularly large, they’ll probably need some extra time – mine were huge and took about an hour.
- Let the beets cool until they can be easily handled.
- When the beets are cool, oil your hands either by spraying with cooking spray or rubbing with some vegetable oil – this will help prevent any staining.
- Using a paring knife, trim the skins from the beets. They should pretty much slip off.
- Cube the beets and set aside until needed. (Roasted beets will keep, refrigerated, up to a week.)
- For the goat cheese: place the goat cheese in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- On medium speed, begin to whip the cheese until creamy.
- With the mixer running, slowly drizzle in the 1 ½ Tablespoons of olive oil along with a pinch each of salt and pepper. (Whipped goat cheese will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 week.)
- To serve: toss the cubed beats with a drizzle of good olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper.
- Place in a bowl and top with a scoop (or quenelle if you’re fancy) of the whipped goat cheese and a sprinkle of chopped pistachios.