Beet Tartine with Marinated Caper Berries

People often ask me where I get my inspiration to constantly come up with new recipes. Obviously a trip to the market really gets the creative juices flowing, but it may surprise you to learn about the one place I go when I really need my fire lit. 

Online restaurant menus. 

I first discovered this inspirational gold mine many a few years ago when I was planning our honeymoon to California. As the exceptionally enthusiastic eater that I am, I pretty much decided where we were going based on our restaurant reservations. It was while perusing some café’s daily specials online that it hit me: even if I wasn’t planning on eating at that particular place, the list of ingredients of each and every luscious dish was right there in front of me! Like, for free. It’s true I had no idea how they made the vegan crème anglaise, or how they dressed the salad just so, but the basic elements were all present and I could almost taste the exciting flavour combinations just by reading the descriptions. When you gain a little more confidence in the kitchen, all you need is a list of ingredients and then you’re off to the races. Ka-bam!

This recipe actually came to me the other day upon randomly reading a menu from a restaurant called Tria, in Philadelphia. One of their appetizers was a simple dish of rosemary and fennel marinated green olives. Yum, I thought. What an interesting combination of flavours! And that was all I needed to get my brain tumbling into somersaults to land upon open-faced rye sandwiches with sweet roasted beets, salty goat cheese and briny caper berries. I decided that I would marinate caper berries in the rosemary and fennel seeds, simply because I had those on hand, and I wanted lunch, pronto. So tasty, so simple, and it all came from that one little menu item that got me to thinkin’.

Feeling The Detox Beet
If you are in detox mode after the holidays, beets are your buddy! Here’s why: the special pigments in beets, called betalins, have repeatedly been shown to support activity in the body’s Phase 2 detoxification process. Phase 2 is the process in which our cells hook up unwanted toxic substances with small nutrient groups. This “hook up” process neutralizes the toxins and makes them water-soluble so that we can just pee them out. So cool!

Another reason beets are so wonderful when you are trying to cleanse your body, is because of the fiber they contain. Beets are loaded with fiber, the insoluble kind, which passes through the digestive tract virtually intact. On its journey through the intestines insoluble fiber acts like a broom, sweeping the colon free of debris and toxins that are often deposited along the intestinal walls. Insoluble fiber also provides resistance for the bowels, giving something for the muscles to push against. This wave-like motion is called peristalsis, and this is what effectively pushes food waste and toxins through the intestines. A healthy, toned colon is able to carry out these muscle contractions in the most effective manner, which is essential for ridding the body of unwanted toxins.

If you are in search of some inspiration, let this simple yet elegant lunch be your guide. Served alongside some gorgeous greens, it’s a complete meal to share with someone special. Although the ingredient list calls for only 2 beets, I’ll tell you that if I am going to the trouble of roasting beets, I usually prepare a kilo at a time. That way I save energy, and I have cooked beets for the week to add to all manner of meals – this makes life much easier! Just peel all of the beets after roasting and keep them in a sealed container in the fridge for five or six days.
The marinated capers will last long after the sandwiches are done too, and even make a nice gift. They are delicious in whole grain and vegetable dishes, on pasta, in salads, and with eggs. They are briny and bursting with flavour.

If you are not into the idea of sandwiches, leave the bread out of the equation and make this into a salad. Sprinkle the goat cheese on top and use the marinating oil from the capers, and a squeeze of lemon juice as the dressing.

Beet Tartine with Marinated Caper Berries
Serves 2
Ingredients:
2 medium-sized beets
4 slices whole-grain rye bread (check the ingredient list for suspicious ingredients)
soft goat cheese / chèvre (optional)
handful marinated caper berries
fresh rosemary
sea salt + cracked black pepper

Directions:
1. With the skin still on, wrap beets individually in foil and roast in a 400°F / 200°C oven for at least one hour, until you can easily pierce the beet with a sharp knife. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Unwrap and slide skins off. Slice into desired shapes.
2. While the oven is hot, spread goats cheese on the slices of rye bread and place under the broiler until golden, about 5 minutes.
3. On each piece of toast place the sliced beets, caper berries, a few rosemary leaves, lots of pepper and a pinch of salt. Finish the dish with a drizzle of the marinating oil from the capers. Eat and enjoy.

Rosemary-Fennel Marinated Caper Berries
Ingredients:
1 jar capers or caper berries, drained (I used the latter)
3 springs fresh rosemary, or 1 Tbsp. dried
1 Tbsp. fennel seeds
a few glugs cold-pressed olive oil

Directions:
1. Drain capers and place in a jar or small bowl. Toss with all other ingredients and let sit at room temperature for a few hours, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Although it may seem a little intimidating at first, next time you’re at a restaurant, or just trawling the web for menus like me, find that little spark that speaks to your belly. Look for interesting combinations of foods, flavours and textures. Take notes, take a picture. Even if you don’t know how the dish looks or what it tastes like, you can fill in the blanks with your creative culinary mind. This is what makes cooking a real adventure, and a tasty one at that.

38 comments

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  4. Jess

    Hi Sarah,

    Thank you so much for your blog. I have just discovered it & I love it so much. Your goal of sharing your knowledge is not only generous but inspiring.

    I have only just read this post and I HAVE to tell you about the restaurant Prinz Myshkin in Munich. Oh my God I still dream about the Tofu Stroganoff that I had twice in 4 days (slight embarressment) I think it had juniper berries in it or something SO special.

    Anyway, before I left for home I begged the waiter to tell the chef that they must release a cookbook. “Pleeeeease” but I haven’t seen it yet. Anyway, if you get your inspiration from menus then I recommended this. In fact if I were in Denmark (I’m in Australia – about as far away as you can get), I’d even plan a trip there!!! It really is that good.

    http://www.prinzmyshkin.com/en

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge & enthusiasm.

    Jess

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  6. Denise

    What a stunning recipe – I love caper berries and beets. I am so happy I found your site thru OhMy Dalia, as I will be spending a lot more time in your kitchen. Look forward to trying some of your recipes as well!

  7. Dani

    Haha, too funny to hear about the restaurant menu, I´ve been doing the exact same thing for a few years now! ;) I always have a small note book in my pocket when on holiday and eating out and when we return home it is filled with ideas and notes from all the menus. Last time when we were in New York I even got inspired by the salad bar at Whole Foods and noted a few things :)

  8. Pingback: healthy recipe: beet tartine and goat cheese | www.rawsilkandsaffron.wordpress.com
  9. Axe

    Looks like I am not the only one taking inspiration form online restaurant menus.
    I started doing it when I run out of ideas for salads and my dearest partner came back from US, where he had this amazing salad, but being a typical guy couldn’t name the ingredients in it :) It is a “gold mine~”, as you called it most importantly entirely free, plus allows you to increase or descrease amount of certain ingerients according to your taste.

  10. Darcey

    eaten already !! – though I’m vegan so I replaced the bread and cheese with a bed of watercress – it was truly delicious !!

  11. Anna

    Thank you for a wonderfully inspiring blog!! I’m going to LA and SF in march, Would love to find some really nice restaurants/cafes with a menu in tour style:) Lunch/cafes Rather than exklusive cuisin since I’m travelling with kids:) any of you foodies know?!!

  12. Ketmala Phoumalavong

    Thank you Sarah for your beautiful version of the simple tasty appetizer from Tria Café, which a favorite place of mine here in Philadelphia. Your beet version & superb photo make me want to reach through my screen to take a bite!!! I’ll just have to try it now for our dinner since I have a multigrain artisan loaf handy from yesterday bread class.

    By the way, I just saw your last workshop videos, please let me know if you ever come around Philadelphia or New York City this year, I would love very much to attend any of your events and have the privilege to meet with you in person! :-)

    To Sasha: I just got my January Whole Living issue in the mail yesterday!

  13. Sherilyn @ Wholepromise

    I agree – menus are a great source of inspiration. I have been known to whip the iphone out at many a restaurant and snap a shot of the menu – is that naughty of me? Love the flavour combinations here – a very yummy way to detox for sure.

  14. la domestique

    Looking at restaurant menus for inspiration is just so darn clever! Beets and marinated capers look delicious and I would even enjoy those ingredients tossed with cooked wheat berries.

  15. Hannah Cordes

    Hi, just popped over from Emma’s blog and I’m happy to discover yours! I look forward to checking out your healthy, delicious recipes. Your photos are beautiful, too! I adore beets, and these marinated caper berries sounds amazing. Thank you for sharing!

  16. Sasha

    P.S. Did the January issue of Whole Living come out? I’ve been looking for it here in the States, but I have not seen it. I remember you mentioning that you did the menu for the first week of the detox and that this would be the last issue.

  17. Sasha

    So, confession time: I totally do the same thing.

    I have a Word Document on my computer with a list of restaurant inspiration where I simply copy and paste items from menus that I just know that I have to reinvent.

    Inspiration is certainly an intriguing thing.

  18. Desi McKinnon

    I do this all the time. It works almost every time. Especially places I don’t live super close to, but I would love to eat at more often. Glad to read that I’m not the only one.

  19. Kasey

    I do the same thing (browse online restaurant menus!) Not only does it help get the creative juices flowing, but often allows me to daydream about traveling to places I’d never been to before, or would like to return to. Happy New Year!

  20. Rachael

    yay, a shout-out for my hometown! Tria is a great place to enjoy creative snacks and a glass (or two, or three…) of wine. glad it inspired you! p.s. love the blog, looking forward to the delights that you have in store for us in this new year :)

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