Friday, August 15, 2008
I love my CSA. The abundance of summer vegetables is pure joy to me every week. I get such a thrill of anticipation as I enter the produce barn and discover what I will bring home. My path often crosses Erick the farmer and his wife Wendy. Their smiles, enthusiasm and love of the land are contagious. It is their generosity that comes through in the colorful bounty we receive. This keeps us connected to them, the land and what we feed our families.
Amongst the many delights I get to bring home are sweet, plump lovely beets. Not the beets of my childhood, which came in a bottle labeled Borscht-- No, no, no we are talking the palatable, delectable kind of beets that one would be willing to eat at every meal. The bottle variety, lets face it, is a crime against humanity and thankfully will never show up in the beautiful barn of my CSA. These beets are pure crunchy sugar that can be eaten like an apple, their juice dripping on your chin like some horrible crime scene. My kids get a real kick out of that one. My six-year-old likes to point out that beets are full of blood. I correct him: "close, honey, full of antioxidants". It doesn't matter to him. He won't eat them. His siblings were like him and now they see only the benefits. I make it a mission in life to see how I can get him to eat what he won't eat. I have this philosophy that there is no food that a person doesn't like, it just hasn't been prepared the right way for them yet. So how do I get my little boy to embrace beets? I decided to turn it into a dessert.
I started out by doing some research. Isn't the internet wonderful? I found recipes for beet ice cream, beet chocolate cakes or muffins, and an indian beet halva. When I saw the ice cream recipes, I thought: mousse. When I saw the halva recipes, I thought: mousse. It seemed like a logical conclusion that I would venture into creating a beet mousse dessert, and in honor of the enticing halva recipes I decided that it should paired up with cardamom.
The color alone is reason enough to make this dish. It transports you, envelops you, saturate your every pores with this deep, rich, sunny ocean of passion. That red is like no other, so strong it is purple, so playful it is dull and bright at the same time, so warm and inviting you want to dive into it head-first--or mouth-first in this case. It makes sense that a vegetable that elicits such emotions would be perfectly cloaked as the farewell to a fine meal. This mousse is light and delicate. The dark chocolate cup adds a depth of flavor which enhances the earthy flavor of the beets, the fruitiness of the orange zest and the hint of cardamom. The flavor is so unique and subtle that no one, unless you tell them, will be able to tell what the secret ingredient is. After all, some people have had one too many bowls of bottled Borscht in order to be open minded about having beets in their mousse... Know what I mean?
Beet Mousse with Cardamom (serves 6)
I used agar agar (available in health food stores) instead of gelatin. It does the same thing and I don't have to think about where gelatin came from. If you would rather, feel free to substitute with gelatin according to instructions on package. I used instructions found online for the chocolate cups . Except, I melted Traderjoe's imported dark chocolate instead of Kraft's. Make sure that you paint on a thick layer of chocolate on the walls of the cups or paint multiple layers, this will make it easier for you to remove the papers without breaking them.
1 pound of peeled beets, boiled and cooking water reserved
1 tsp of agar agar
1 1/2 tsp of ground cardamom
1 tablespoon of orange zest
1/4 cup agave nectar or simple syrup
1 cup of heavy cream
6 dark chocolate cups
For the garnish:
1/2 cup of whipping cream
1 tablespoon of agave nectar
1 tablespoon of orange flower water (optional)
Shaved dark chocolate
Transfer cooked beets to a blender. Take 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and put in a small saucepan with the agar agar. Bring to a boil and whisk until well combined. This will take about 5 minutes. Transfer with the beets and blend together until creamy and smooth. Add the cardamom, orange zest and nectar or syrup. Blend a little more. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until mixture has cooled completely ( about 1-2 hours).
In a mixer, whip the heavy cream until strong peaks form. With a spatula, incorporate the beet mixture gently into the cream and refrigerate for 8 hours or more. Fill each cup with the mousse.
Prepare some more whipped cream in a mixer. when peaks form add agave nectar and orange flower water (if using). Garnish each mousse cup with whipped cream and some shaved dark chocolate.