I have to be completely honest. I’m not usually a fan of beets. Whenever my roommate roasts them in the oven the entire house smells like sweet grass and dirt, which would be a fabulous smell if I enjoyed the taste of beets. And while root vegetables are traditionally fall crops, many varieties (including beets) also grow quite well in the spring. So I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful beets from the Two Acre Farm tent while trying to make a dish that actually made me like beets. I think I’ve found it!
This dish uses two other amazing ingredients – one extremely seasonal and one very versatile. Spring is asparagus season and we get thrilled when we see the tubs full of beautiful stalks. Asparagus is one of the fastest selling produce items right now at the markets. The crops are available from late February to early June, but April and May are the prime months. Due to high levels of Vitamin K and folate, asparagus has great anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant benefits. Not to mention it is extremely tasty, especially when it is fresh and local.
Twin Spring Fruit Farm sells a unique onion called a Candy Onion. They sample it, raw, on the tables in front of their stands. They are sweet and tender – perfect for the long and concentrated process of caramelization.
Do not look at this recipe and get scared away – it is not as involved and arduous as it seems. There are many steps, but the simplicity of the process becomes a lot clearer as you start cooking. And the complexity of the final dish shocked even me, a self-proclaimed hater of beets! Each ingredient is perfectly balanced to create a delicious, deep flavored dish that is perfect for a weekend picnic for a Mother’s Day lunch. Make sure you do your best to share it, although you may want to keep it all for yourself.
Beet Orzo with Asparagus and Caramelized Onions
- 2 Medium Beets (from Gorsuch Farms at the Two Acre Farm)
- 2 Large Candy Onions, halved and sliced thin (Twin Springs Fruit Farm) Olive Oil (All Things Olive)
- 1 Bunch of Asparagus, cut diagonally in 1⁄2 inch pieces (Westmoreland Produce)
- 8 ounces Orzo, flavor of your choice (Pappardelle’s Pasta*) *Pappardelle’s is only at Pike and Mosaic Central Farm Markets
For the Beet Puree:
Cover whole beets with water and bring to a boil. Partially cover pot and simmer over medium heat until the tip of a knife slides in easily. Cooking time will vary depending on the size and freshness of the beets (it took 15 minutes for a small beet, 25 for a large one). Remove from pot, cool to room temperature, and peel. Puree in blender with water, wine, or stock (enough to make a paste).
For the Caramelized Onions:
Using a wide pan, coat the bottom with olive oil on medium heat until hot. Add onion slices, spreading evenly and coating them completely. Let cook, stirring occasionally. Depending on your stovetop, turn the heat down to avoid burning the onions. To keep the onions from drying out, you can add some water to the pan.
Let cook for 30 minutes to an hour, stirring every few minutes. As the onions cook down, make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook and scrape until the onions are a rich, brown color. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
In a large saucepan, bring 3 quarts water to boil. Add orzo and boil about 10 minutes until it has a firm, chewy texture, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking together. Drain orzo in a colander. Toss orzo with beet puree, making sure to coat it evenly.
Slice the asparagus diagonally into 1⁄2 inch pieces. Place 2 Tbsp oil in a pan. When hot, add asparagus. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the green color of the asparagus starts to brighten. Add the caramelized onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add beet and orzo mixture and stir to combine, making sure everything is heated through.
Serve room temperature or cold.