Syrian Beet Salad (I Heart Beets)

Beets were not a household staple when I was growing up. In fact, I don't think I ever had beets until a few years ago, when I discovered that they were delicious with goat cheese, nuts and green apples in a salad. I'm now somewhat obsessed. I love them because they are sweet and slightly earthy, and kick ass in the color department. They make me feel insanely healthy, even when I'm eating golden beets, boiled, sliced and tossed with butter and salt.

I tried growing beets in my garden last year, but the plants only yielded greens. This year is different. I've already pulled 14 beets from my garden beds, and I've got another 24 or so in the dirt right now. In addition, the CSA has added beets to the veggie-menu, so I've been combing my recipe books for interesting beet ideas. Keep an eye out for more beet recipes in the near future, as I'm sure I'll be trying out quite a few this season!

The following recipe is adapted from one of my most favorite cookbooks, Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special. Here's a link to the Moosewood Restaurant.

I would have never, ever, ever thought to combine the following ingredients with beets, but I trust my Moosewoods more than any other cookbook I own. The result is tart, sweet, spice-y (not the hot kind, the flavorful kind) and completely different from the normal beet fare.

Recipe: Syrian Beet Salad
(adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special)
Serves 4

You'll need:

  • a medium sized saucepan, filled with 2 quarts of water
  • 3 large beets, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 tbsp chopped scallions (or chives)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed or minced
  • ~1 tbsp seeded and chopped fresh chile (I used about half of a medium-sized poblano)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
  • salt, to taste

Bring water to boil, then gently add the peeled and chopped beets. Lower the heat, cover pot, and let simmer, approx 10 minutes (or until beets can be easily pierced with a knife). While beets are cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients, and combine in a bowl.

When beets are ready, drain thoroughly* and add to bowl, tossing well.

Cover and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour prior to serving, so that all the flavors have time to mingle.

Since this dish has some pretty strong flavors, I paired it with some grilled chicken marinaded in soy sauce and warm Couscous with Spinach Pignoli and Mint (I added some crumbled light feta to this salad).

*If you want, save the cooking liquid and find yourself a soup/borscht recipe. Or, I bet you could tie-dye a white t-shirt a lovely hue of magenta...

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