There are a few ingredients that even I have been afraid to use. Well, not afraid, exactly, but...there are just some things that don't stay at the top of my overcrowded mind. I pretty much used all of those ingredients in this dish.
One of those ingredients is sherry. Now, there is cooking sherry, and there is drinking sherry. I used Spanish sherry wine, which I'd never even tasted until popping the cork on the bottle I used tonight. Frankly, it's not something I'd ever drink. I find that amber-colored alcohols are not to my liking. But for cooking, it's divine. Cooking sherry, however, is something else entirely - nothing you'd ever want to drink, to be sure. I had also been hesitant - for no logical reason at all - to cook with beet greens. Having never met a green I didn't like (I used to gnaw on grass as a child), I have no idea why I was so dubious. Turns out, beet greens are delicious! And the best part? They come attached to beets (also delicious!).
Everyone has a moment when they, well, get over the hump with a certain food. Most often, getting over the hump just happens over time, and goes largely unnoticed until one day, you find yourself "mmm"-ing over something you used to shun (cilantro, sushi, and rye bread are all things I used to dislike, and now regularly enjoy). Occasionally, the transition happens in one unforgettable moment - like it did when I realized I liked beets. Not the cloyingly sweet jarred beets of my childhood, but real, actual, beets.
This moment happened at Deleece, a great restaurant on the north side of the city. I ordered a beet and goat cheese salad (cheese is the ship that has delivered many a hesitant food pilgrim to the New World of ingredient love). The beets were roasted, the moment was perfect - and that was it for me. Beets and I have been inseparable ever since - at restaurants, that is. At home, nary a beet crossed my doorstep. Till tonight. Simply roasting them with olive oil and salt and pepper (the most basic root-vegetable-roasting method) made them absolute perfection.
Truth be told, I can't take credit for this recipe. It's a Mark Bittman recipe, from the New York Times. His was a bit different - he used Spanish chorizo, which I find nearly impossible to obtain in Chicago (the fattier, uncased, raw Mexican version of chorizo is all the rage here, but I don't like it, so whenever a recipe calls for chorizo I sub in andouille sausage). After watching an episode of No Reservations about Spain, a friend telling me I'd love Barcelona, and stumbling upon this recipe, I decided it was fate that I create this Spanish-inspired dish. Bittman also used only chickpeas, and did not include garlic, red pepper, flakes, or paprika. He also used spinach rather than beet greens. Despite my capricious swaps, the dish turned out nicely. I like that it's cheap, easy, and balanced. The perfect mealtime storm!
3-4 medium fresh beets, cubed
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted very dry
1 can white beans, drained, rinsed, and patted very dry
2 links turkey andouille sausage (or Spanish chorizo, or pork andouille, or kielbasa...you get the idea)
a few slices salami*
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes
dash of paprika
1 bunch fresh beet greens, washed, tough stems trimmed off, and cut into smallish pieces
1/4 c. - 1/2 c. sherry (I used a Spanish sherry found at Whole Foods for a reasonable $11; I also used the remainder of the bottle in a recipe you'll see here very soon - waste not, want not!)
2 cloves garlic
1 cup freshly made (or store-bought) bread crumbs**
more olive oil
*This is not necessary, but I had some salami I wanted to use up. It was good in there, though. You could use any deli sausage.
**Not having a food processor, I have never been able to make my own breadcrumbs. Until my epiphany: I can simply use my spice/coffee grinder as a mini-food processor! I toasted some stale-ish Italian bread, tore it into pieces, and placed it in the spice grinder, with incredible success. Voila! Fresh breadcrumbs. If you have neither processing equipment nor the inclination to make your own breadcrumbs, use store-bought Panko breadcrumbs. The world will continue turning.
Preheat the oven to 375. Toss the beet cubes, carrots, and onion in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for about an hour, turning a few times, until tender but not mushy.
Meanwhile, in a large oven-safe pan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chickpeas, beans and sausage, stirring until it's all in more or less a single layer in the pan. Add some salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and paprika. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring infrequently, until the sausage has released some fat and the chickpeas are lightly browned and crisp. Remove sausage and bean mixture from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving any remaining oil in the pan, still over medium-high heat.
Add the beet greens and sherry to the pan, and cook until wilted, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until cooked to your liking (cook longer for softer greens, less for crisper greens). Add the chickpeas/beans/sausage back to the pan and stir to combine. Top with the bread crumbs, a little salt and pepper, and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Heat under the broiler until lightly browned. Serve alongside the roasted veggies. Enjoy!