beet brain. that’s been the best way to describe how i’ve felt since entering the brooklyn roots-themed food experiment a few weeks ago. i wanted to showcase my ‘hood greenpoint’s polish culture, and used the excuse to make a dish with one of my favorite foods… beets, of course! i wanted to show off the rugged vegetable’s surprising sweet side and the right flavors to make that happen. but what form? cake, gratin and ice cream tests later, it hit me- like most of my ideas – because i was craving it. i wanted sweet beets and bread… so howsabout bread pudding! it was as divine as i imagined, but not without the horseradish cream cheese ice cream, orange zest and toasted walnuts on top. the dish won third place from the judges (melissa clark from the new york times, the franks behind one of my fav restaurants frankie’s, sherri eisenberg from “food lover’s guide to brooklyn” and ed levine from serious eats), which is enough to keep me playing in the kitchen for a very long time. i wouldn’t have survived without help from my brilliant friend danielle gould, co-founder of the inspiring food + tech connect; check out more pictures HERE and the recipe below.
recipe #8: “just beet it” – beet bread pudding
ingredients: 2 large beets (about 3 cups when chopped), 3 stale sweet rolls, torn into big chunks, 4 eggs, 2 cups half & half, 1 fresh orange, 1/2 cup of white sugar, 1 tablespoon nutmeg, 1 tablespoon vanilla, olive oil for roasting beets
1. preheat oven to 425 degrees. scrub beets and remove their greens (save for a nice pasta!). cover each one in olive oil and wrap individually in aluminum foil. roast until tender in center, usually between 35- 45 minutes. wipe skins off with a paper towel. yes, it’s that easy!
2. chop beets coarsely and blend with fresh juice from one orange in a blender until desired consistency (i like mine chunky – more rustic!). add nutmeg and vanilla. save the orange rind for a little zest on top later.
3. in a bowl, whisk the 4 eggs with the 1/2 cup of sugar. whisk in 2 cups half & half, then the beet mixture until all is well-blended.
4. line the bottom of a 9×13 cake pan with stale chunks of your preferred bread (you can also toast fresh bread in the oven on 350 degrees until crisp). i used old-fashioned sweet rolls from old poland bakery in greenpoint. pour beet mixture over the bread, making sure all are immersed in the liquid. let sit for 30 minutes, then bake at 350 degrees for around 45 minutes or until the middle is cooked through. let sit overnight if you can wait (it’s better that way!).
horseradish cream cheese ice cream
ingredients: 1 package of cream cheese (8 oz.) at room temperature, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 3/4 cup white sugar, fresh juice from 1/2 of a lemon, pinch of salt, 3 tablespoons creamy horseradish (add more or less depending on personal taste)
1. blend together all ingredients except for heavy cream and horseradish in a blender until mixture smooth. pour into mixing bowl (metal if possible).
2. whisk heavy cream into mixture, then add horseradish to taste. chill mixture in the refrigerator for 45 minutes, then pour into an ice cream machine to harden. if you don’t have an ice cream machine, you can whip and serve as cream topping!
3. use the orange rind you saved from the beet bread pudding for some zest on top. add toasted walnuts for a little crunch, or anything else you might have handy (i even tried potato chips and kind of liked it!).
hope you enjoy this as much as i did. i look forward to making a pumpkin version for fall. another round of thanks to nick & theo at the food experiment, danielle at food + tech connect, guerrilla ice cream for listening to me talk about flavors non-stop during their superb ice cream making class, asphalt orchestra for providing the best live soundtrack we could ask for, bacon marmalade for supplying an awesome prize/being awesome people, everyone who came out to the experiment despite the rain, and to brooklyn in general for making me finally like living in this crazy city.