It’s fall! The weather has been really nice here in Torino. Sometimes I dread the arrival of fall because I like the summer so much, but I am enjoying the beginning of the season this year. We’ve had some chilly rainy days, but we are also enjoying many warm sunny days and generally pleasant weather.
I’ve been feeling a strong urge to cook traditional Italian seasonal dishes this fall. I’ll tell you something about myself: I like to cook but even though I live in Italy I don’t always cook Italian food. Many of my staple dishes are international ones like Pad Thai, spicy Moroccan fava beans, and squash curry. I also like to make American vegan dishes like black bean burgers, and when I don’t feel like cooking I’ll eat french fries and salad or frozen minestrone soup.
That said, I love going to the market and buying what’s local and in season and what looks interesting. Torino has a famous and very large outdoor market called Porta Palazzo and when I go there, I want to buy everything I see. There is a section in one corner of the market where the local Piemontese farmers sell their produce, and that is my favorite part. The prices are slightly higher than the regular part of the market, but I like to buy from the local farmers and the selection is vast and changes with the season.A random shot from the Piemontese farmers’ section at Porta Palazzo. The cavolo nero you see is dinosaur kale which is in season now.
So, with the fall weather, the scrumptious local ingredients available, and my desire to cook seasonal foods, I have decided to get to work making some classic Italian dishes. I started today.
Around this time of year you can find roasted beets and onions in the markets. I didn’t know what they were at first and I must say they aren’t that attractive, so I stayed away from them initially. Curiosity eventually got the best of me and I brought some home.
The first time I bought them, I peeled the beets with a knife and made beet salad, which is made with the beets cut into strips, olive oil, salt, and oregano. It was pretty good.Roasted Beets and Onions What they look like peeled Beet Salad with olive oil, salt, and oregano
The beets have a subtle roasted flavor which is very good, and I prefer it over the taste of canned or vacuum packed beets.
I didn’t really know what to do with the onions. I baked them with oil, salt, breadcrumbs, and capers, but they weren’t fantastic since they are already cooked and take on a unique flavor from their original roasting. If anyone knows how these onions are usually prepared, I’d love to hear about it!
A couple days ago, I bought some more roasted beets and onions. I just so happened to have all of the ingredients at home that are used to make a Northern Italian mountain recipe, Red Beet Pie, so I went for it.
I love recipes like this, local fare made with just a few simple ingredients. There’s nothing fancy about potatoes and beets, but the end result gives surprising satisfaction. It’s also a vegan recipe in it’s original form, so I didn’t make any changes.
The pie was pretty easy to make. Boiling the potatoes took the most time. I used a store bought puff pastry pie crust (the soft rolled kind), but if you feel up to it you can make your own.
Here is the recipe (photos after recipe):
Red Beet Pie
1 medium sized cooked beet, preferably roasted
3 medium potatoes
1 stalk of celery
1 clove of garlic
salt and pepper
1 puff pastry pie crust
1. Peel the beet if you’re using the roasted kind.
2. Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft. Let cool and peel the skins off.
3. Finely chop the celery and garlic.
4. Mash the potatoes and beets together, then add the celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Taste the mixture to make sure you’ve added the right amount.
5. Prepare a round pie pan with oil and flour, or use the oven paper that comes with a store bought pie crust. Lay the crust down in the pan. Spread the beet mixture evenly over the crust, and fold down the edges all around the pie.
6. Bake at 350°F/180°C for twenty minutes.
7. Let cool and enjoy at room temperature.
Mmmm this is really good. I can taste every ingredient that went into it. It has a subtle flavor enhanced by the celery, with the salt, pepper and garlic providing “oomph”. The potatoes give it a creamy consistency while the beet deepens the flavor and gives it an attractive rose color. Success! (Yes, I just tasted it after writing this whole post.)
Goodbye for now. I’m going to have another slice. Buon appetito!