For a long time, eating beets was on my never-have-I-ever list. As I mentioned a couple of years ago, I avoided the root vegetable for the majority of my years, thinking that they tasted like dirt, and not in a good, earthy, back-to-the-land way. In my late 20s, when I was more open-minded, more cultured and less weirded-out about eating things that are the color of blood and grow in the ground, I finally came around. The funny thing is, potatoes, carrots, yams, turnips, rutabagas, onions and garlic never bothered me, but they grow in the ground, too – along with all the worms and bugs and dirt and dead people. Guh.
…Was that tacky? Ignore me, I’m medicated.
Truth be told, I now find beets rather delicious. I have embraced their earthy flavor, and I just know that something so vibrantly colored has got to be doing amazing things to my insides, besides making them look like I’m dyeing Easter eggs in my mouth. I haven’t quite graduated to the eating-them-raw category, but I’m working on it. OK, so I’m really not working on it, but the idea is nice.
This recipe came to me when a fellow yoga buddy, upon hearing that I had finally come around and seen the proverbial beet-colored light, recommended several recipes to me. Of those was a tantalizing recipe from allrecipes.com for “Beets ‘n’ Sweets“, a warming, hearty combination of beets, sweet potatoes and onions, all roasted together with a smidge of sugar to sweeten things up. The original recipe sounded delicious, but I was searching for a way to turn this side dish into a main dish.
I consulted my old standby, the torn and tattered recipe folder that barely made the move to Colorado intact. I pulled out a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe I had used for Valentine’s Day 2002: butternut squash tortellini in a brown butter sage sauce. Now, as most of us know, anything Giada touches turns to Californian gold, complete with an impossibly large smile and an ample, um… Yeah, so I knew I could use her recipe as the inspiration for my own dish without so much as a boob – er, bit – of hesitation.
Instead of the butternut squash puree Giada instructed, I riffed on her idea, using beets, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic instead. I kept the sugar from the original Beets & Sweets recipe, knowing that it would add a touch of sweetness to complement – and counteract – the salty nuttiness of the sauce.
Now, once you get the beets and sweets roasted, your journey has only just begun. The next hour or so will be spent tediously folding the filling into complex, ego-boosting little packages, one by one, while your significant other looks on in exhausted impatience. To avoid this, open a bottle of pinot, give your lover a quick tutorial, and off you go together, folding tortellini into the sunset. Believe me: it’s fun, vaguely romantic, and a hell of a lot faster.
While the tortellini are boiling, you can easily get to work on the no-brainer sauce. One stick of butter? Check. Four Sprigs of thyme? Check. Walnuts? Check. One eye on the pan and the other on the TV? Negative. Browning butter walks a fine line between creating an alluring, nutty brown hue and burning the bejeezus of your sauce. Watch the pan with care. Use your DVR.
Once the tortellini are happily floating at the top of the boiling water, fish them out, shake off the excess water and toss them in a serving bowl. Pour the brown butter sauce over top, thyme and all, and watch your significant other bow down to you like the immortal you are. If there’s any pinot left, pour yourself a glass and toast to an amazing meal ahead, and a job well done. Enjoy!
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Beets & Sweets Tortellini with Thyme Brown Butter
6 medium beets, peeled and chopped to 1″ chunks
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped to 1″ chunks
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 Tbs. sugar
6 cloves garlic, peel on
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 pkg. wonton wrappers
1 stick butter
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 c. walnuts
Olive oil, salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°. On a large baking sheet, spread the chopped beets out in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes.
While the beets are roasting, toss together the chopped sweet potato, onion, and sugar with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. After the beets have roasted for 20 minutes, add the sweet potato and onion mix to the pan, toss to combine, and roast for 20 minutes more. After those 20 minutes, toss the garlic cloves into the pan and roast for the final 20 minutes, for a total of 1 hour roasting time from beginning to end.
Remove the roasted veggies from the oven and set aside. Pick out the garlic cloves and carefully skin them, discarding the skins. Combine the roasted veggies, garlic and softened cream cheese in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until relatively smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Begin an assembly line with the roasted veggie filling, wonton wrappers, small bowl of water and wet paper towel. To make the tortellini, take one wonton wrapper and place about 1 teaspoon of veggie filling in the center. Wet the edges of the wonton wrapper on all sides, and fold in half, pinching the edges together and getting any air bubbles out. Take the two long edges of the wrapper and fold together, sealing securely with your thumb and forefinger. Place the finished tortellini under the wet paper towel, and repeat. Any unused tortellini can be frozen and saved for a later use.
In a large sauté pan, combine the butter, thyme and walnuts over medium-low heat, until the butter melts, foams, and begins to brown. Meanwhile, cook the tortellini in a large pot of salted boiling water for about 5 minutes, until they float to the top. Remove the tortellini, place in a serving dish, and top with the brown butter sauce. Grate your favorite cheese over top, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
* If the above slideshow doesn’t load, you can view all the photos from this recipe on Flickr.
Laura is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville, but has recently moved to Boulder, Colorado. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, see her Flyer Foodie author page. For more cooking, recipes, and other food-related inspiration, visit Flyer Foodie on Facebook.