Sweet Potato and Asparagus Pizza with Vegan Mozzarella & Watercress

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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See that mozzarella above?  It is vegan and I posted my attempt at The Artisan Vegan Life’s recipe for it HERE.  My only problem with the result was that the cheese had a bit of a sour tang to it because it was made with vegan yogurt.  While I found that unpleasant when eating the cheese naked (because it seemed like real cheese that had gone bad) – I still had high hopes for what it would be like on pizza. I felt that – if this cheese had other flavors competing with it – the mild sour flavor might disappear.  I was also curious about its melting abilities.

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My first attempt with a pizza is above.  I used Rao’s Arrabbiata sauce because I love it & because I felt it would have enough flavor to make the sour yogurt element of the cheese go away.  I also made the pizza with half REAL mozzarella – so I could properly compare the melting.

On the top right of that image above, you can see how the real cheese melted – completely melted & released some fat & looks ooey-gooey delicious – and it was.  The rest of the image shows the vegan mozzarella.  While it never lost its shape – it did soften – a lot.  And more importantly – the sour flavor was undetectable!   Big victory!  Still – this cheese would never fool a real cheese whore – but I bet it would make a lot of vegans VERY happy – and really is a solid replacement for real cheese – whatever your reasons for wanting to avoid real cheese might be – beyond being vegan.  Also – melted – it has a texture very much like ricotta so – I imagine – this would be amazing in a vegan lasagna.

Encouraged by the success of the first pizza – I decided to make another – but one with more subtle flavors so I could see if the sour flavor was still mitigated.

I decided to make this Sweet Potato and Asparagus Pizza with Vegan Mozzarella & Watercress – primarily because I had been baking sweet potatoes for my dogs & they smelled so fucking good – I had to use some.  I also, predictably, had some random produce that was on the verge of spoiling (asparagus & watercress, to be specific) – so this pizza was born.  If you can’t find watercress – arugula would be great, too.  It is a VERY mild pizza – so – in lieu of watercress and arugula – you could top this with some fried sage or fresh, chopped rosemary before baking it for an even more autumnal combination of flavors.

And – good news!  Despite the mild flavors – the cheese blended in beautifully & the sour flavor was imperceptible.  And – as you can see in the photos – it did actually melt & brown.  So – I recommend The Artisan Vegan Life’s vegan mozzarella very highly.

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Sweet Potato and Asparagus Pizza with Vegan Mozzarella & Watercress

As with most of my pizzas – I suggest ingredients but not the quantity to be used because that is up to each person’s personal preference.


Pizza dough (I used this no-rise Easy Thin Crust Pizza dough)

Vegan sour cream

Slices of boiled or baked sweet potato (cut thinner than 1/4 inch)

Asparagus (tough ends removed like THIS)

Watercress or arugula

Vegan mozzarella


Cooking spray (I used an olive oil type)

Semolina flour (optional) or regular flour – for rolling your dough

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Heat the oven to 500 – or as close as your oven gets to that.

Prepare your veggies.

Put a little semolina (or regular) flour on a flat surface & roll your dough out.  Place it on a greased cooking sheet (or – better yet – use parchment paper).  Put a thin layer of sour cream on top & then arrange the sweet potato slices & asparagus.  Top with slices of mozzarella & a good dose of S&P.

Cook for 10-12 minutes (more or less – depending on your oven & the density of your pizza).   About half way through – I sprayed olive oil on the mozzarella & I think that helped it brown, a bit.  When your crust is done to your liking & the cheese has softened (maybe even melted & browned a bit) – take it out & top with watercress or arugula.  Yummy!

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Vegan Fingerling Potato, Avocado, Fennel and Watercress Salad

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Full disclosure – I saw this recipe on Foodness Gracious & had to try it.  I made it for my Memorial Day BBQ & was under great time pressure to cook everything & photograph things & still get the house prepped for guests etc – and I never got photographs of this salad that looked as appetizing as this salad actually is.  Even the edible flowers just look messy – so please forgive the sub-par images – but this salad is clean & light & different. Watercress is spicy & fennel has that mild licorice flavor (shave or slice the fennel very thinly to avoid pieces that might be overpoweringly flavorful) & the avocado & potatoes add a creamy mellowness that balances it all out.  Truly a delightful salad.  The original recipe had pancetta in it but I eliminated that.

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Vegan Fingerling Potato, Avocado, Fennel and Watercress Salad

Serves 6


1 pound very small potatoes

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup finely sliced (shaved) fennel

1 teaspoon chopped fresh lemon thyme (or regular thyme)

1 large ripe avocado

Salt and cracked black pepper

1 large bunch watercress leaves

Edible flowers as garnish (optional)

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Bring 1½ quarts of water to a boil.

Add the potatoes and cook for about 10 minutes or until you can pierce them easily with a sharp knife.

Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and fill the pot with cold water and ice to. Set aside to cool.

Combine the lemon juice and olive oil and whisk well.

Drain the potatoes once more from the cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.

Transfer to a large bowl, chopping any large sized potatoes in half.

Add the fennel and thyme.

Peel the avocado and cut into dice. add to the bowl.

Season with salt and pepper.

Add the watercress leaves and gently pour in the oil and lemon mixture.

Toss well and serve at once.

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Saffron Risotto with Asparagus & Fava Beans, Ziplock Omelettes, Pasta with Watercress & Lemon Cream and Disturbing Pedicures


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.


All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.


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YUP!  I wrote a very funny novel!  I hope you will read it!  www.BathingBook.com


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OK.  First of all, let me say that I like risotto.  A lot.  But I am finding that, when I make it, it tastes pretty much the same no matter what I use as the highlight ingredients.  That can be disappointing.  Also – there is an art to cooking it just right & to not presenting some waterlogged, mushy rice mess.  The risotto I made last night disappointed me primarily because the saffron color & flavor both somehow got lost.  That was certainly not the case with my Saffron Cream Pasta with Cauliflower.


That pasta dish was exactly as delicious as it is stunning to see.  But my risotto – not so much.  I’m not saying it didn’t taste good.  It did.  But it has no big wow factor.  So – I am going to use this blog to post a few different items I’ve made that, while I recommend them, I didn’t feel they merited their own post.

But first – let me tell you about a recent experience I had at the nail salon.  This week, my friend Laura is in town from Boston.  She suggested that she & I (and her 12 year old daughter) all go for pedicures & maybe some lunch.  Sounded good to me so I picked them up & brought them to my local, strip mall nail salon.  When I go on my own, I just sit in the regular chairs & eschew the massage chairs because 1) they add $4 to the tab & 2) I think massage chairs are pretty lame.  But, Laura & her daughter were already planted in them & Laura insisted that I join them for the experience.  As I crawled into my chair, Laura said, “Hey!  This chair is pinching my butt!”  I made some lame joke about being desperate & lonely enough to welcome a little grab ass from an electronic chair & plopped myself down.  Now, I don’t know if there is a default setting on the chairs or if the staff sets them a certain way or if you just get it the way the last resident left it but my chair was on full assault mode.  The remote control for it was more complicated than trying to set a VCR to record a TV show & so, as I fumbled, I was victim to the existing settings.  The settings included words like “flap” & “knock” & “knead.”  Flap?  What the fuck is flapping?  I knew what knocking was because it was actively happening to me.  I felt like I was at Super King in the sorry position of standing in front of an especially impatient (and rude) woman with a mustache, black socks & Jesus boots prodding me from behind, angling to cut me in line at the cheese case.  I was in the middle of trying to express something or other to Laura when the chair commenced its “lower body” massage.  I froze mid-word, clamped my mouth shut & my eyes widened in surprise & horror.  Laura looked back at me & knew exactly what had just begun with my chair.  “Right?” she asked rhetorically, her eyes as wide as mine.  And she laughed.  The butt pinching she had mentioned was no butt pinching at all.  It was more like there was a little person under the chair wearing a boxing glove – who was using that boxing glove to massage our taints.  The glove rolled around, providing pressure from front to back & back to front again.  It was very disconcerting and, quite frankly, a shocking violation.  Who thinks they are going to get a vulva massage at a low end nail salon?  Not me.  Was this some sort of “happy ending” house of prostitution?  Did this require a bigger tip?  Ugh!  And if you think sleeping in a cheap motel on a bed with sheets of questionable sanitation is gross – just think of the places that boxing glove has been!

“OMG!  How do I turn it off?!”  I was panicking.

Laura was laughing and, sotto voce, asked, “What do you think…” and she subtly gestured over her shoulder where her 12-year-old daughter sat placidly in her chair.  Oh jeez!  Was that chair molesting her daughter, too?  These chairs had succeeded in freaking out a jaded 48-year-old & a mother of two.  What damage was that third one doing to the psyche of Laura’s innocent middle-schooler?  Methinks – in retrospect – that her chair must have been set differently because, if she was getting the full “lower body” treatment (vagina massage!  Let’s call a spade a spade here) – she gave no indication & I have a really hard time believing anybody could field the initial goosing & not have THIS reaction:

So – after much fumbling, I managed to get the pelvic exam part of the massage to stop.  But in my panic, I apparently upped the “knocking” part & couldn’t turn that off.  I tried to ask Laura but I was getting punched so hard, my speaking voice got all choppy – like I was Katherine Hepburn in the final grip of Parkinson’s.  “La-a-aur-a?  H-how do-o-oo you-ou t-t-u-uh-urn th-is-is o-o-offf?”  While I was speaking, I looked down at myself & noticed that my boobs & every other loose bit on my frame (and there are lots of bits looser than I would like) were being jostled around like a bowl of Jello.  I looked at Laura, a woman gifted in the breast department, and saw her body also looked like it was being wrestled by one of those old-fashioned fat loss jiggle machines.

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By the way – I am old enough to have belonged to a gym in Boston (Gloria Stevens) that actually HAD those things AND the stupid roller machines.


Jesus.  Had I known what this chair would get up to – I might have worn a corset or some other support device.   A full body Spanx.  Something.  A wet suit.

As Laura and I jiggled & giggled & poked randomly at the remotes to no avail – ah, yes!  Cue the creepy male proprietor.  Here he comes to position himself before the display of waggling female appendages.  He not only stood there taking it all in – he also engaged us in conversation & passed his phone between us – sharing his remarkable weight loss photos.  This effectively kept us from being able to focus on our remotes & end the shaking that would eventually take a harder toll on our boobs than gravity.  “Oh, yes!  I see!” we said, politely enthusiastic.

“Exercise & eating!  I eat a lot of cheese!” he declared.

Good for you, buddy.  Now take your “before & after” photos & your prominent moles with three-inch whiskers dangling from them & get outta here!  I need to adjust my bra straps!

Eventually, we were able to get the chairs to settle down & we got down to the business of the pedicures.  Here is a photo of Laura & me – exhibiting the post-rough-sex glow we had – courtesy of those perverted chairs with anger issues.

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Notice the Bat phone in the background?  Look at this thing.

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Maybe Fu Manchu there was more than just a thinned down, lusty boob man.  Maybe he was a superhero & this was his special superhero phone?  They also had this throwback-looking thing.

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Maybe that was his teleporter.  I have no way of knowing.  What I do know is that I got glittery, red toenails meant to draw your eye from my increasingly problematic bunions.

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Are feet copacetic in a food blog?  Likely not – and for that – I apologize.

I also know that when we went to lunch – I opted not to take any chances on this place –

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– because I still felt violated by the massage chair & was in no shape to roll the dice on the “anal beer” these guys seem so proud of.  Even if it is served ice cold.

That really is an unfortunate breakdown of a perfectly decent word, no?

Alright – now that I’ve gotten that off my chest – I can share a few underwhelming recipes!  YAY!

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I grilled shrimp for this but you can lose them if you want to.

Saffron Risotto with Grilled Shrimp, Asparagus & Fava Beans


Shrimp (optional)

2 cups Arborio (risotto) rice

1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)

4 cups stock (I make 5 just in case the risotto needs overcooking)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1 large shallot (or small onion)


Saffron (3 TBS of the liquid or a generous pinch of saffron threads steeped in 3 TBS hot water)

1 (16 oz) can fava beans (or white beans of any kind)

4 cloves garlic – minced (or to taste)

olive oil


1/2 lemon

Basil or parsley as garnish (I happened to have red basil)


Put the shrimp (if using) in a Ziplock bag or a bowl & squeeze the 1/2 lemon over them.  Add a glug or two of olive oil & some S&P and maybe a minced garlic clove or two.  Blend well.  Set aside.

Drain the fava beans & puree in a food processor.  Set aside.

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Hold each asparagus spear by the far ends & bend until they snap.  They will naturally break at the point that the spear is too tough to eat.  Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a stock pot.  Add the asparagus & some garlic & saute about 3 minutes over medium heat or until the asparagus is vibrant & softens a bit.  Set aside but keep the pan for re-use.

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Grill or pan-fry the shrimp until just pink.  Set aside.

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In a clean pan – heat the stock to just simmering & keep it there.  Add the saffron to this stock.

Heat 2 TBS olive oil in the asparagus pan.  Add the shallot (or onion) and saute until soft – about 3 minutes.  Add garlic & the rice & saute for about 2 minutes over medium-high heat – stirring constantly – until the rice is translucent at the edges.

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Add the wine (if using) & cook for a minute or so.  Then, add the stock in 1/2 to 1 cup increments, stirring almost constantly and allowing the liquid to be mostly absorbed before adding more.  You might need more or less stock – depending on the softness you like – but do not add so much that the rice is mushy.   Be sure to add enough broth, though, so that the risotto is creamy.

Add the asparagus & the cheese & the pureed beans.  Serve with grilled shrimp on top & with some chopped herbs.

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OK!   Onto another recipe that I could not post because I hate all the photos I took of it.  That is really the only reason – as it is quite tasty.

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That is my Watercress & Lemon Cream Stacenate (stracnar) Pasta.  It is the same pasta I made for this dish:


That is Stracnar (Stracenate) Pasta with a Pan-Fried Cauliflower, Tomato & Clam Ragu using the labor-intensive but really pretty cavarola-boarded pasta.


I don’t expect anyone to hunt down a cavarola board & make this stuff – so – just use bowtie pasta or something.

Watercress & Lemon Cream Pasta


1/2 lb bow-tie pasta (or pappardelle or something)

4 oz cream cheese

1/2 cup ricotta

1/4 cup grated Parmesan (plus extra for garnish)

1 bunch watercress

Olive oil

2 garlic cloves – minced

juice & zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp salt

1 TBS pepper

1 tomato – diced (optional – but it would add nice color)

Parsley or basil or reserved watercress as garnish


Wash the watercress & remove any large stems.  Chop it up.

Heat the olive oil in a pan & add the minced garlic.  Saute 1 minute & then add the cream cheese, ricotta, Parmesan, juice & zest of the lemon and the S&P.  Blend & heat through.

Cook the pasta.  Drain & toss with the lemon cream sauce, add the watercress & serve topped with chopped herbs & tomatoes (if using) and lots of ground pepper.

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And lastly – this dish – Ziplock Baggy Boiled Omelettes.

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I saw this posted on my friend Cheryl Patrick Van Allen’s Facebook page & tried it out immediately.   Basically – you take eggs & whatever else you want in your omelette & put it all in a resealable baggy.  Squeeze out the air, seal the bag & smoosh everything around until well-blended.

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Whether camping or just serving several folks that require different ingredients in their omelettes – this is an easy way to make a bunch of varied omelettes all at one go & in one pan of boiling water.  Just be sure to write everyone’s name on their bag.

Then – boil them for 13 minutes.  Be careful the plastic doesn’t melt on your pan – a problem that actually bothers me & is a main reason I didn’t post this as a stand-alone recipe.   Folks say the omelette slips out of the bag onto your plate – and it does – but mine slipped out & looked more like an eggy heart than an omelette.

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That isn’t very appetizing.  But – it is nothing a fork & herbs & some peppers cannot fix.

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The other reason I didn’t post this before is because of the controversy about boiling in the bags that are not meant for that task.  It seems that the plastic can leak chemicals etc into your food.  Eh – but that is true of every dish you ever zapped in the microwave in or on something plastic.  I hate microwaving anything because I believe it alters the food in such a way that your body cannot even identify it as food – but I have been known to succumb to the convenience occasionally.  Still – I try to put things (even things meant to be zapped in their packaging) onto paper or glass before the nuking.

So – there you have it – boiled baggy eggy weggies!  Try at your own risk!

You know what isn’t risky?  A bottle of smiley face wine!

Bon appetit!

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Grilled Fig & Watercress Salad with Goat Cheese, Toasted Walnuts & Balsamic Glaze

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.


All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.


First of all – an update on the gorgeous Piglet.  Here she is about three weeks ago – fresh out of the shelter with epic mange.  (First two images stolen from her rescuer – Fairy Dogfather.)


Here she is about a week later after some meds & one mange dip.  All pink & ALL bald.


And here she is – yesterday.


All we have been doing is steeping supermarket jarred garlic in warm water & giving her a sponge bath in it two times a day (plus a little antibiotic medication) and her fur is coming in so fast you can almost watch it grow!  She is the most incredible little girl!  I am so honored to know her.

In other news – by boyfriend (Miles) lives in Little Rock.  Sometimes, he shares some Arkansas flavor with me.  Lots of bars with great names.  Lots of bars that look like you could find trouble if you wanted it.  Maybe even a mullet or two.  Certainly a few gun racks in the parking lot.  Definitely some misplaced anti-Obamacare sentiment from a lotta folks who probably need it the most.  God bless America!  (Photos by Miles Miller.)


And even cooler – authentic southern BBQ joynts like Bubba’s here.


It reminds me a LOT of True Blood’s Merlotte’s!!!


And looky what they serve up at Bubba’s!



Looks like cold beer, fries & the charred forearm of an adult human.  Yum!

Speaking of yum – this salad is outrageous!  Easy & bursting with different flavors & lots of different textures.  Pretty, too – no?


I have a grill on my stove & I love it enough to consider marrying it.  If you do not have one – but you like grilling things – maybe invest in a grill pan.  You don’t have to marry it.  I use my grill pan a lot, too, even though I have the real grill.   I won’t let anyone grill MEAT on my stove because it just gets disgusting fat everywhere & I don’t want that.  I have enough disgusting fat on ME – I don’t need it in the catch pan of my Viking, too.  So – if folks want to grill meat on my stove – they use a grill pan.  It also makes for pretty quesadillas – see!


That’s my Squash Blossom Quesadilla.  As enjoyable to eat as it was to look at.

Anyway – the figs don’t HAVE to be grilled but it adds a nice look & a subtle flavor.


These are green figs.  The ones that are purply-red inside are prettier but the green ones were all that were available so I grabbed them.  You can eat the outer skin of figs, too, so these guys can be eaten like giant grapes.

The toasting of the walnuts is a bizarrely important step in this recipe.  It changes their flavor significantly – so do not skip it.  Quantity here is really up to you so I am only going to list the ingredients I used.  You can use more or less of each to suit your taste.  Also – I used watercress but arugula or baby mixed greens would do very well, too.


Grilled Fig & Watercress Salad with Goat Cheese, Toasted Walnuts & Balsamic Glaze


Lots of balsamic vinegar

Watercress (or arugula or other mixed greens)

Walnuts – chopped


Goat Cheese

Olive oil

Fresh ground pepper



To make the balsamic glaze, boil some balsamic & then reduce it to a simmer.  Cook it down until it thickens.  It reduces quickly & 1/4 cup of balsamic produces about 2 tsps of glaze – so – keep that in mind when deciding how much balsamic to add to the pan.  If it gets too thick – add more balsamic or some water.  Set aside.  Here it is on my Grilled Watermelon & Feta Salad with Mint, Arugula & Balsamic Glaze.


Halve the figs & brush with olive oil.  Grill for about 1 minute or until grill marks appear.


Wash the watercress & remove any large stems.

Toast the chopped walnuts in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes (or until they become fragrant & just begin to brown a bit) being very careful not to burn them.  Set aside.

Now, simply assemble the salad with the watercress, figs, goat cheese & walnuts.  Drizzle a little olive oil over it & drizzle some balsamic glaze.  Grind fresh pepper over it liberally. Taste it & then lose all semblance of control and eat it with your hands whilst standing up. Grunting might happen.  Pleasure definitely will.


Valentine’s Day Roasted Beet Cavatelli with Caramelized Fennel & Beet Sauce AND a Beet & Watercress Salad with Edamame

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.


Valentine’s Day.  A perfect excuse for magenta food items.

I love beets and I am always surprised when people say they hate them – mostly because beet salads are such a common thing on menus.  That alone suggests they are popular but whenever I am questioning a person who claims to eat everything about whether they eat the most controversial foods (mushrooms, eggplant, seafood, garlic, peas, Brussel sprouts & beets) – I often get a negative response to all of those – including beets.

Anyway – I think they are wonderful and I love their vibrant color.  One note – if you eat these bright red vegetables – your subsequent visits to the restroom could be alarming.  All that pigment in the beets will go right through you and you might look into the toilet bowl & fear you are bleeding to death.  You are not.  Just FYI.

Another thing – beets WILL dye your clothes & hands – so – wear dark clothing or an apron when working with them.   Also – the cavatelli, the sauce & the salad all call for roasted beets.  So – roast a whole bunch at once – and roast some garlic along with them.  And lastly – cook the cavatelli within a few hours of making them.  I let mine sit out too long & I think they suffered for it.


First – the salad.


Beet & Watercress Salad with Edamame


Roasted beets


toasted pecans

goat cheese – crumbled

red onion – shaved VERY thin


1/2 cup olive oil

1 TBS apple cider vinegar

1 tsp honey

1 tsp Dijon

S&P to taste

Blend the last five ingredients for the dressing.

Halve the beets (tossed in olive oil) & roast at 450 for 45 minutes or until done.

Toast the pecans in a dry frying pan until fragrant – being careful not to burn them.

When the beets are done, cool them & slice or cube them up & toss with some dressing.

Arrange the ingredients on plates & add more dressing.


Valentine’s Day Roasted Beet Cavatelli with Caramelized Fennel & Beet Sauce


For the cavatelli

2 cups flour

3 TBS olive oil

2 eggs

2 TBS water

1 tsp salt

1 large roasted beet


Halve the beet (tossed in olive oil) & roast at 450 for 45 minutes or until done.


Puree the beet with all the other ingredients – except the flour – until the beet is completely broken up.  At this point – I put the flour & beet puree in my bread machine & let it do the dirty work of kneading the dough.  You could probably pulse the flour into the food processor in increments.  Or – create a flour well on a counter or in a bowl & blend into a dough.  Knead it until it is smooth & pliable.


In sections, roll the dough into snakes & then cut into 3/4 inch chunks & roll into little hot dog shapes.


Check out this woman (at about 2:00) and how she rolls out the cavatelli.

I rolled mine on a gnocchi board.


For the beet & caramelized fennel sauce


1 fennel bulb – shaved or sliced very thin – dilly parts saved for garnish

1 tsp salt

1 tsp fresh rosemary

1 TBS olive oil

3 shallots – chopped

4 roasted beets (tossed in olive oil and roasted at 450 for 45 minutes or til done)

4 roasted garlic cloves (roasted with the beets but removed from the oven after about 30 min)

1 tomato – quartered

4 oz goat cheese

3 oz cream cheese (or more goat cheese)

Fresh parsley – chopped

Fresh grated Parmesan or other hard cheese

S&P to taste


Roast the beets & garlic.

With a mortar & pestle, grind the rosemary into 1 tsp salt.


Heat 1 TBS olive oil & cook the shallots & fennel for 5-7 minutes – or until browned.  Add the rosemary salt.


In a food processor – blend the roasted beets, roasted garlic, caramelized fennel & shallots, tomato, goat cheese, cream cheese and S&P to taste.  Add water if it is too thick.


Cook the cavatelli in boiling water until they all float to the top.  Drain them & toss with the sauce.  Garnish with more crumbled goat cheese and grated Parmesan & chopped parsley and/or the dilly part of the fennel.

Enjoy!  And have a happy Valentine’s Day!



Truffled Celery Root Mixed Grain Risotto Tower with Roasted Beets, Pan-fried Cauliflower & Basil Jus

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.


This might look intimidating but it is not.  It just requires a few easy steps.  Most of it could be substituted with other ingredients, too.  For example – hate beets?  Use carrots or corn or sweet potato instead.  Trader Joe’s mixed grain thing not available to you?


Use a regular risotto.  Celery root unavailable or yucky to you?  Make your risotto with whatever ingredients you prefer.  Don’t have fancy food mold ring to create the tower?   Use a bowl or just free form it on the plate for a more rustic presentation.

I loved this dish.  The celery root absolutely held its own despite competing with a lot of other flavors here from white truffle oil to roasted beets & garlic to the fried cauliflower to the basil oil.   This dish was served closer to warm-room temperature than what I would call hot – primarily because there are so many ingredients to time properly – but I liked it just warm.  It might also be served hotter if you don’t spend 15 minutes trying to get the perfect photo of it.

Speaking of which – I am often asked what I use to photograph the food.  The answer?  My iphone 5 and a construction lamp.  See?


That is all I have going on.  I have limited dishware & napkins etc with which to present my recipes and I am beginning to feel my images are starting to look a lot alike but that is just the reality of doing it all DIY on a shoestring budget.  But THIS dish – this will definitely wow folks on any plate.  I hope you try it.

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Truffled Celery Root Mixed Grain Risotto Tower with Roasted Beets, Pan-fried Cauliflower & Basil Jus


For the risotto

1 lb Mixed grains (or risotto or other rice)

1 large celery root – peeled & diced

2 cups milk

1 cup Parmesan – grated

White truffle oil to drizzle – (VERY optional)

For the roasted beet & garlic puree

6 small beets

4 TBS heavy cream

4 cloves garlic

For the pan-fried cauliflower

1 head cauliflower

1-2 TBS olive oil

For the basil jus (basil oil)

1 cup fresh basil

3/4 cup high quality olive oil


For the beet & garlic puree

Halve your beets (or quarter them if the are large) & drizzle them with olive oil.  Toss them with the garlic cloves & roast them & the garlic (add lots of extra garlic so you can have some extra around for future recipes) in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes or until tender.  Check frequently & remove the garlic if it browns quickly & is done before the beets.  When roasted – cool a bit then puree the beets, 4 roasted garlic cloves & the heavy cream in a food processor.  Set aside.

For the basil jus

Plunge the basil in boiling water for 30 seconds.  Plunge it in cold water, drain & squeeze out the water.  Puree the basil with olive oil in a food processor.  Set aside.

For the pan-fried cauliflower

Slice the cauliflower into 3/4 inch steaks.  Heat the olive oil & fry the cauliflower until browned on both sides.

Alternatively – you could roast the cauliflower (tossed in olive oil) in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or until it is soft & beginning to brown.  My photo here is of florets roasted in the oven.  The assembled tower images show cauliflower pan-fried as steaks.


For the risotto

I cooked the bag of mixed grains as per the directions.

Bring the milk to a boil, add the diced celery root to the milk, reduce heat & simmer for about 20 minutes or until the celery root is soft.

Blend the celery root, the milk it cooked in & the cheese in a food processor until smooth.  Add to the cooked grains & blend completely.  Drizzle with truffle oil (if using) – sparingly, as it can really overpower the other flavors.



I used a food ring like this


and simply put a layer of risotto then beet puree then cauliflower.  I drizzled it with the basil jus & topped it with watercress.  You could build yours backwards in a greased ramekin & flip it or in a bowl & flip it – or just present it in a more casual, rustic, unformed way.