Beet Pancakes and Frittatas with Bittman

Mark Bittman prepares to separate freshly picked beets from their red stems and green leaves.

Mark Bittman prepares to separate freshly picked beets from their red stems and green leaves. Charlie Mayer, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Charlie Mayer, NPR
Beets heating in a skillet.

After being chopped in a food processor, the beets are mixed with butter and transferred to a frying pan where they suck up the delicious flavor of melted butter. Charlie Mayer, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Charlie Mayer, NPR
Bittman shows off a colorful assortment of eggs that will go into making the frittata.

Bittman shows off a colorful assortment of eggs that will go into making the frittata. Charlie Mayer, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Charlie Mayer, NPR
Melissa Block holds plate of frittata and a green salad topped with asparagus and grilled beef.

Melissa Block enjoys lunch: A bok choy frittata and a green salad topped with asparagus and grilled beef. Charlie Mayer, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Charlie Mayer, NPR

On a recent spring day, Melissa Block and food writer Mark Bittman visited a farmer's market in McLean, Va. Their mission: gather a basketful of ingredients and see what they could cook up.

Their haul: bunches of tiny, muddy beets; chunky asparagus; lots of greens; long, fat spring onions; some hormone-free beef; and from a farm in Orange, Va., fresh, colorful eggs.

By the time they arrive back in Block's kitchen, Bittman has come up with a plan — a salad, with asparagus and grilled beef on top; frittata with bok choy and spring onions, and beet pancake. That's right, pancake.

Bittman is author of How to Cook Everything and the New York Times food column "The Minimalist." Below are his recipes for Beet Roesti with Rosemary and basic frittata.

Beet Roesti with Rosemary

 

Makes 4 servings

 

Time: 20 minutes

 

An almost unbelievably sweet and wonderful side dish. The sugar in the beets caramelizes, and the flavors of the rosemary, beets, and butter meld beautifully. With thanks to Michael Romano, the brilliant chef at New York's Union Square Cafe, who shared this recipe with me almost 10 years ago.

 

· 1 to 1 1/2 pounds beets

· 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

· 1 teaspoon salt

· 1/4 cup flour

· 2 tablespoons butter

 

1. Trim the beets and peel them as you would potatoes; grate them in a food processor or by hand. Begin preheating a medium to large non-stick skillet over medium heat.

 

2. Toss the grated beets in a bowl with the rosemary and salt, then add about half the flour; toss well, add the rest of the flour, then toss again.

 

3. Place the butter in the skillet and heat until it begins to turn nut-brown. Scrape the beet mixture into the skillet, shape it into a nice circle, and press it down with a spatula. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the bottom of the beet cake is nicely crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Slide the cake out onto a plate, top with another plate, invert the two plates, and slide the cake back into the pan. Continue to cook, adjusting the heat if necessary, until the second side is browned. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

 

Basic Frittata

 

Makes 4 servings

 

Time: About 30 minutes

 

The basic frittata is very much like the basic omelet, but even easier to master. The variations may be used singly or in combination, but they all spring from this single recipe.

 

· 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

· 5 or 6 eggs

· 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or other cheese

· Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

· Minced fresh parsley leaves for garnish

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

 

2. Place the butter or oil in a medium-to-large ovenproof skillet, preferably non-stick, and turn the heat to medium. While it's heating, beat together the eggs, cheese, salt, and pepper. When the butter melts or the oil is hot, pour the eggs into the skillet and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook, undisturbed, for about 10 minutes, or until the bottom of the frittata is firm.

 

3. Transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake, checking every 5 minutes or so, just until the top of the frittata is no longer runny, 10 to 20 minutes more. (To speed things up, turn on the broiler, but be very careful not to overcook.) Garnish and serve hot or at room temperature.

 

Vegetable Frittata: Stir about 1 cup cooked and roughly chopped broccoli, asparagus, spinach, chard, or kale into the egg mixture just before turning it into the skillet. Proceed as above.

 

Onion Frittata: Before beginning, sauté about 1 cup chopped onion in 1 tablespoon butter or oil until soft but not browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Cool slightly, then stir into the egg mixture just before turning it into the skillet. Proceed as above.

 

Herb Frittata: Mince about 1 cup of fresh herbs — chervil, parsley, drill, or basil should make up the bulk of them, but other such as tarragon, oregano, marjoram, or chives may be added in smaller quantities — and stir them into the egg mixture just before turning it into the skillet. Proceed as above, garnishing with whatever fresh herb you like.

 

From How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman.

 

Books Featured In This Story

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2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food

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