Monthly Archives: February 2013

Heart Beets


All week I’ve been dreaming up a perfectly pink (non artificially colored) dessert for Valentine’s Day. Normally I would do something in the vein of decorated heart-shaped cookies or cutesy cupcakes but I wanted to do something different and more challenging. I was inspired by a beet tart that we did at Scratch recently —(chocolate crust with a filling made of beats poached in vanilla bean and cream). It was absolutely a lovely sight but I wanted to do something else to make it my own. I also didn’t want too much of a pronounced beet flavor, all the while, still getting that gorgeous fuchsia color. Believe it or not, this was my first time working with beets and I was a little apprehensive about incorporating them into a dessert (even though it’s certainly been done before and Joy the Baker has a delicious looking recipe for a chocolate beet cake that she swears by and well, I trust Joy the Baker). I feared the earthy flavor of the beets would be overpowering or slightly off-putting in a dessert. Well, much to my elation and surprise, I found that they weren’t. When mixed with cream cheese, goat cheese (which is brilliant in a cheesecake), and sour cream, they yielded just the right balance of beet (just enough so you know it’s there), giving the cheesecake a rich purply-pink hue and contrasting beautifully with the chocolate crust.

This recipe is definitely a keeper and one I’m proud of and the perfect treat to enjoy on Valentine’s Day. So it just goes to show you never know if you don’t try. Now I’m eager to get my hands on other beet recipes, like these ravioli  with poppy seed butter which looks like an exact replica of a dish I had at Al Di La in NYC awhile back, which was phenomenal. I also want to try this DIY cheek stain! How cool is that?! No more spending $30 at the Benefit counter! I had to make a red velvet cake tonight for an event and I used some of the beet water that I saved from boiling the beets for the cheesecake for the coloring and it was perfect! I doubt I’ll use artificial food coloring again.


Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Beet and Goat Cheese Cheesecake Tarts with Chocolate Crust

*This recipe can either make three 4-inch tarts, two 8-inch tarts and one 9 or 10-inch tart; two 9/10-inch tarts (you may have enough dough and filling leftover to make one or two minis); OR one 9-inch springform cheesecake.

Chocolate Tart Dough by Martha Stewart

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream, chilled
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • Place flour, cocoa, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Add yolks, cream, and vanilla; process until mixture comes together.
  • Turn out dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, and flatten into a disk. Wrap well; refrigerate at least 30 minutes or until ready to use, up to 2 days.
  • Crumble bits of dough into the tart pans (make sure you use ones with removable bottoms), using your fingers to flatten the dough and push it up along the sides, making sure it’s even. Pierce with a fork. Pre-bake at 325 for about 10-12 minutes.

Cheesecake Filling:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese (at room temp)
  • 4 oz. goat cheese (at room temp)
  • 8 oz. sour cream (at room temp)
  • *1/2 cup of cooked  puréed (about 1/2 lb.),puréed with 1 TBS heavy cream
  • 2 eggs (at room temp)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla


  • Whip the cream cheese, goat cheese and sour cream in a mixer (on medium) until well blended (about three minutes). Add the sugar. Then add the eggs (one at a time), scraping with a spatula after each addition. Add the vanilla and then the beet purée, mixing just a minute or two more. Make sure everything is smooth and incorporated. If you’d like a more muted color, just add 1/4 or 1/8 cup of beet purée.
  • Pour into tart pan (s), allowing some of the crust to still show (make sure you don’t fill it to the brink of overflowing).
  • Bake at 300 for about 20 minutes. Let cool on a cooling rack for 30 minutes.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

*To make the beet purée, peel the beets and cook in boiling water until tender. Blend in a food processor with 1 TBS of heavy cream until smooth and well-blended.


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Right now I’m feeling pretty luxurious. It’s 10:47 am and I slept in (especially a luxury since yesterday I got up at 3:45), am still in bed (still in my comfy elephant pajamas), with coffee, enjoying one of my favorite breakfasts—toast with a touch of butter, farmer’s cheese and jam. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend you do. Though for us it’s definitely not a regular occurrence because farmer’s cheese is kind of pricey (we get ours from Chapel Hill Creamery) and it’s wonderful. And we finally broke out our cute cheese paper from Murray’s Cheese.

Speaking of breakfast…Alice once said, “Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” and lately I identify with that statement. Driving to Durham a couple times a week at 4am, with hardly any coffee coursing through my veins and certainly no breakfast (yet), I tend to do some of my best thinking. It surprises me the amount of good ideas that drift into sight at that early hour, at which I am oddly hyper-alert. So I guess while I don’t enjoy getting myself out of bed at such an ungodly hour, in a way I kind of value some good, quiet thinking time on an open road.

I never realized before, how packed February was with events—MLK Day, Superbowl, Mardi Gras, Valentine’s and Oscars. That’s a lot of celebrating! I think February definitely trumps January. I didn’t exactly celebrate Mardi Gras yesterday—there were no beads, parties, jazz bands or crawfish…but there were beignets. I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not but I happen to be in love with beignets. They’re yeasty and fried like doughnuts but even better because they’re hot little sugar pillows that melt in your mouth. So after work yesterday, in honor of Mardi Gras (or mainly just my intense love for beignets), I  walked right on over to Rue Cler (amazing little French restaurant in Durham) and ordered myself a half dozen of them. I sat in the corner, basking in the warm sunlight. It was the perfect treat.

beignets at rue cler

With Valentine’s Day approaching, several things are on my mind. A pink vanilla bean beet cheesecake baked in a chocolate tart crust (playing with beets today—stay tuned for recipe!). Cards (the one thing I will always) be fiercely particular about and will always splurge on)—here are a few of my favorites:

I can’t help but reflect on some of my favorite couples (whether they be fictional or real), so here you have them…

1) Jesse & Celine (in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset)

2) Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward

3) Harry & Sally

4) Julia & Paul Child

5) June Carter & Johnny Cash

6) Barack & Michelle

I also got to thinking of romantic movies about food…there are quite a few out there. I haven’t seen Eat Drink, Man Woman or Babette’s Feast, but I have to say, Big Night and Ratatouille are my two favorites, so if you’re hankering to watch something on VDay and haven’t seen either of them, you’ve got my endorsement.

And of course I made a pretty comprehensive Valentine’s Day playlist:

Under The Covers (a good portion are cover songs):

  • “Love you madly”—Cake
  • “Friday I’m in Love”—The Cure
  • “When you love somebody”—The Fruit Bats
  • “All I want is you”—U2
  • “Addicted to Love”—Florence and the Machine
  • “Love me tender”—Elvis
  • “Lovesick Blues”—Patsy Cline
  • “Ring of Fire”—Johnny Cash
  • “Loving Cup”—The Rolling Stones
  • “Be Mine”—Alabama Shakes
  • “I’ve been loving you too long”—Otis Redding
  • “Try a little Tenderness”—Florence and the Machine
  • “Dance me to the end of love”—The Civil Wars (one of my favorite covers)
  • “Sea of Love”—Cat Power
  • “Lover’s Spit”—Broken Social Scene
  • “True love waits”—Radiohead
  • “Please send me someone to love”—Fiona Apple
  • “I can’t give you anything but love”—Billie Holiday
  • “Lover Man”—Billie Holiday
  • “Easy to Love”—Billie Holiday
  • “Stardust”—Nat King Cole
  • “Living of Love”—The Avett Brothers
  • “Wicked Game”—Chris Isaak (Widowspeak has a great cover of this too)
  • “By your side”—Sade

Jay and I always stay in for Valentine’s Day and cook together, which I think is a lot more fun and romantic than going out. Last year we completely defied the typical Valentine’s Day menu. We dismissed recipes for oysters, duck—anything stereotypically romantic, fancy or French and opted for something (that we thought) was better…fried chicken, mac & cheese, green beans and a banana cream caramel tart in a walnut crust. It was incredible and fun and full of love.

This year, I think we are doing some short rib ravioli (inspired by one of the best things I’ve ever eaten—when I had dinner at Commerce a few months ago). We’ll probably pair it with a salad and/or a veggie side and wine of course (possibly French 75 cocktails before). And for dessert, Amaretto Bread Pudding—no chocolate *gasp!*

Whether you love or hate this silly mushy holiday and whether you’re flying solo or have a partner in crime this year, I hope your day is full of some kind of love—for your best friend, your dog, your lover or your gorgeous plate of pasta.

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