The Beet Goes On . . .

. . . and on . . . and on.

It’s a perfect storm: another Nor’easter, the Sochi games, and a crisper full of CSA beets.

Beetroots
Last week’s sharebox had this lovely bunch of smallish beets.

While I was home at Christmastime, I saw a piece in the Trib whose lede spoke the truth. When you’re busting your way from the Loop to the Art Institute, and your top and bottom eyelashes freeze together, you tuck into Russian Tea Time. You barbell the cold with both hot tea and icy vodka (go ahead, spring for a flight; you’re walking), and you order the “beet caviar” as an appetizer (usually as an antecedent for the stroganoff).

Ever since, I’ve been looking for an excuse to reverse-engineer that creamy, earthy, sweet, savory spread. Today’s the day. Like I said, it’s a perfect storm.

Roasted beet caviar

Treat this like hummus—or pesto—and make it your own. Just keep tasting along the way, and add what you like. I made it three ways this afternoon, dressing up the base with (1) goat cheese, (2) Greek yogurt and dill, and (3) prepared horseradish and parsley. All were good, but the yogurt and dill was my favorite. Today, anyway.

Ingredients
Beets, walnuts, lemon, and garlic form the base. Tinker away at the edges.

For the base
  • 1 small bunch of beets, washed and trimmed
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • splash of apple cider vinegar

Preheat your oven to 400º.

Drizzle the beets with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and wrap them up tightly in a foil pouch. Put the pouch on a sheet pan (just in case there are any drips), and roast for 40-50 minutes, until the beets are good and soft. Let cool, then rub the skins off with a paper towel (take care of any stubborn scraps with a paring knife).

Roughly chop the beets. Add them, the walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, and cider vinegar to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 8 or 10 times. Slowly stream in a tablespoon (or more) of olive oil until you get a consistency you like.

Naked
Here’s the base, before I added anything else.

For the add-ins

Stir in whatever extras you like. Think fresh herbs (dill, parsley, thyme), dairy (goat or cream cheese, Feta, yogurt, sour cream), and/or zing (horseradish, cayenne, cumin).

Mix-ins
Here’s the hot version, with cream horseradish sauce and parsley.

Spread on thinly sliced rye or black bread.

Slice and shot
I used Black Russian bread from Whole Foods. Pumpernickel or Limpa would also be great.
What to drink?

Put a couple shot glasses in the freezer and pick your poison. Get carried away by caraway, tusen takk, with the Norwegian water of life. And if vodka’s more your speed, I find I find Russian Standard’s particularly nice for sipping straight. Na zdrowie. Or, as we used to say, “nice driveway.” Bottoms up, as long as you’re not driving.

Hooch
Skål. Na zdorovie. Stay safe and warm.

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