Crispy beet & caper wontons with port wine sage sauce

Beet & caper won tons

I’ve always loved stories (usually children’s stories, but you sometimes find it in Dickens as well) in which a character is subjected to terrible cold and hunger and discomfort, but somehow finds themself, in the next scene, basking in humble fireside warmth and nice things to eat. On our spring break, we went into the mountains. We went for a hike, despite the chilliness, and the predictions of rain or even snow. We were in a place we’d been before, and the paths always wound back to the beginning. They were all only a mile long. We could do that! Isaac got tired and wanted to turn around. The weather worsened. We thought – we’re in a loop, if we turn now, we would have been minutes from the beginning. So we trudged on. Finally we came to a map. The woods chilled and quieted, and a cold pelting hail rained down with purpose. The map said, “Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of this trail. Now turn around and trudge back the miserable 1 and half miles, with a tired 6-year-old and a 9 year-old who has twisted his ankle.” It was an oddly panicky moment! One of those, “who said I could be a mom, because moms are supposed to know exactly where you’re going and how to get there” moments. But we walked back, and for five minutes the sun came out, and it was nice talking to the boys while we walked. We got to one spot where somebody had obviously made a campfire. The dirt was wet and sweet, and the charred wood was equally fragrant. Don’t think I’m crazy, but it really made me want to eat beets!! Then the hail came back, and we were so grateful to see the end of the trail, and go back to David’s mom’s lovely cabin and sit in dry warm pjs by the fireside!

Beets are sweet! And beautiful! And so tasty! I can’t believe I ever thought I didn’t like them. They’re combined here with capers (or flavor dynamites, as they’re known in my family). The tart savory brininess of the capers is a nice relief from the earthy sweetness of the beets. The beets are grated and toasted, and they have a lovely, charred-sugar flavor, and an almost juicy texture. All of this is tucked inside a wonton wrapper (they’re so much fun!) and then quickly fried in olive oil. Making for a perfect little crispy pouch of juicy deliciousness. We had these as a meal with a big salad, but I think they’d be a fun appetizer or snack for a party with a bowl of delicious dipping sauce alongside.

What is that delicious dipping sauce, you ask? Well, it is rich and savory, made with port wine, balsamic, fresh sage, and shallots. It’s a bit like a beurre rouge, but it has a lot less butter in it.

Here’s Down the Dirt Road Blues by Charley Patton. Wonder if he was craving beets as well?


2 medium sized beets, grated (2 packed cups) I used different-sized graters, just for kicks
2 T olive oil
2 t balsamic vinegar
1 t rosemary
1 t thyme
1 clove garlic
1 cup mozzarella, grated
3 T capers
salt and plenty of pepper
Half a pack of wonton wrappers (in the produce section of your grocery store)

Olive oil for frying

Combine the beets with the olive oil, balsamic, thyme and rosemary. Spread on a toaster-oven tray and toast till starting to turn very dark and crispy on the edges. (20 mins? 30 mins?) If you don’t have a baking tray, roast in a regular oven at 425. I toasted my clove of garlic at the same time, so it would be soft and roasty (be sure to cut a slice in the skin so it doesn’t explode!) Combine the toasted beets the capers, cheese and salt and pepper.

Take out a wonton wrapper. Set it on the counter. Dip your finger in water and drag it around the edges of the wonton. Put a teaspoon of filling in the midddle. Fold the wrapper in half diagonally to make a triangle. Press the edges down, and fold the corners down to help seal the deal

Warm some olive oil in a wok or frying pan. When it can sizzle a crumb, drop in as many wontons as will comfortably fit. Fry on each side till golden brown. Drain on paper towels, then put in the toaster oven or a warm oven to keep warm till you’re ready for them.

THE SAUCE

2 T olive oil
1 shallot, very finely minced
7 or 8 fresh sage leaves
1/4 t marmite
1/4 t tamari
1 t tomato paste
1/3 cup balsamic
1/2 cup port
1/3 cup dry red wine
2 T butter
salt and lots and lots of black pepper

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sage leaves. When the shallot starts to brown, add the marmite, tamari, and tomato paste. Stir to mix well, and cook for a few minutes. Add the balsamic, port and red wine. Cook till it’s reduced and quite syrupy. About 15 or 20 minutes. Whisk or stir in the butter, salt and pepper. If it’s too thick for your liking, add some water and cook till it’s all warmed through.

Eat!

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