Who says you need a vegetable peeler? Sometimes I really just can’t be bothered. I found two recipes in the same week that solved the problem. It’s not like peeling is really that hard, but when you don’t want to face it, you don’t want to face it.
The first was for roasted beets that are then pickled with tarragon — a recipe by Alton Brown. The second was for a roasted tomato sauce from the Martha Stewart universe. At the right moment, each came to my rescue.
The problem with peeling beets is that they stain your hands and everything else in the vicinity. To be honest, I didn’t really have this excuse because the beets I had were yellow beets. Although the skins are a bit dark, the lovely golden flesh is not a threat to anybody. Still, we had quite a few of them (I had raided the discard box at that week’s veggie pick up) and I wanted to get to the business of making pickles (quick for the fridge, not canned). I was intrigued by this particular recipe because it wasn’t the usual clove-heavy version — which I love! — but rather a herby version with tarragon, one of my favorite herbs. Given the unexpected color, I thought it would be better if they also had an unexpected flavor from regular pickled beets.
One challenge: I did not have tarragon vinegar as called for in the recipe. My thought since it was a quick pickle that would get eaten relatively quickly was to use fresh tarragon leaves and a white wine vinegar instead of straight white vinegar. I had lots of both so that seemed a workable plan.
Roasting makes quick work. I scrubbed the beets a bit, threw them into my dutch oven, put them in a hot oven and let time do all the work. I didn’t add olive oil or rosemary as the original recipe said. I just had beets and heat. I put them into a 400-degree oven for about an hour.
Once slightly cooled, the skins of the beets slip off with hardly any effort. You could remove them with just the abrasiveness of your hands or a spoon. I did get some extra roasty spots where the beets touched the pan but I just cut off anything that looked too dark. It was then a super quick process to cut the beets into slices. The original recipe called for “french-ing” onions. I have no idea what that means. I just sliced some sweet onion thin and put it into the quart-sized jar in alternate layers with my beet slices and leaves of tarragon. On the stove I quickly heated the brine ingredients:
- 1 c. white wine vinegar
- 1 c. water
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1 t. kosher salt (I always worry about being too salty so I err on the side of caution)
As soon as it had boiled, I poured it over everything until the large jar was full. The recipe said to let it sit in the fridge for a week for the flavors to develop. I kind of forgot about it for a bit longer than that, but the results are both beautiful (lovely circles of yellow!) and delicious.
The second recipe saved me from something I have never done and try really hard to never do: peel tomatoes. I get that it’s not really that hard to do. Most recipes say to make a small X cut in the non-stem end of the tomato, immerse the tomato for a few seconds in boiling water, immerse it in cold water, and then the peel of the tomato should just slip right off. I’m sure it works well, but I can’t be bothered. If you’re processing tomatoes of any quantity, this could take you ages. Instead, I invested in a quality stick immersion blender and it usually makes quick work of any tomato skins in my sauce and the seeds just don’t bother me.
I was intrigued by the Martha recipe because you only cut the tomatoes in half or quarters, depending on the size, and you let the roasting in the oven do the work. Along with the tomatoes, you roast onion, garlic, and carrot with a little dried thyme, salt and pepper. Once soft and roasted, the tomato skins pretty much separate on their own from the flesh of the cooked tomato. For me, it worked pretty well. I had a few tomatoes where I might have had to work a bit to separate skin from flesh, but the majority came right off.
One thing I did right, I think was spreading my tomatoes and onions into two large dutch ovens. I think I get better results in my dutch ovens than I do on my cookie sheets, but if I had put all of the ingredients in one, I think there would’ve been more steaming than roasting. I had a good level of char on everything since I had some dry, open areas between the vegetables.
Once roasted and after removing all of the skins, I did consolidate the contents into one pan, smoothed it out a bit with my immersion blender, and then jarred it. Most of it went into the freezer for yummy winter meals but I had a lovely dinner of it that night — a heaping bowl of simple pasta with the freshest of tomato sauce. YUM!!