Close to six months of eating beets on a nigh-weekly basis will have you praising the heavens when the harvest season is over and you can finally go back to your supermarket ways, trolling the aisles for slim little green beans and heavy-stemmed broccoli, slinky sacks of frozen baby peas and the occasional lacy frond of kale. I love my CSA, I do, but its limitations are often evident; hard medicine to swallow for this seasonal evangelist. Still, relief from the never-ending supply of beets was much needed around here.
So it felt supremely odd, I tell you, to be in the grocery store the other day, picking out a nice little bundle of nothing other than beets. In fact, I'd say it felt much like a cosmic joke. Oh, bloggy blog, the things I do for you...
Truth is, I quite like beets, and miraculously, I've convinced Ben that they're pretty good things to eat, too. He used to think they tasted like sweat (his words, not mine), but not anymore. I take full credit for that, of course. Small victories must be celebrated, wouldn't you agree? But I've grown tired of my usual treatment (lots and lots of vinegar, a drizzle of olive oil, Maldon salt and perhaps some dried savory). And I've never really fallen in love with the whole toasted-walnut, slivered-blue-cheese-or-perhaps-feta thing that seems to be a staple now on so many restaurant menus. (I sort of wonder if beets get such a bad rap because of the things they're often combined with...but that's a discussion for another time.)
This recipe, which I plucked out of the pile back in 2004, offers a slightly different twist. You roast your beets, of course, and cut them into wedges, but then you dress them with a creamy dressing made of mustard, white-wine vinegar, horseradish, olive oil, and a little spoonful of sour cream. The dressing is, without the sour cream, quite something - an aggressive sauce that threatens to overpower the sweet little beet. But the sour cream rounds it out; gives the dressing some finesse - a calming hand, if you will. The beets, tossed in the stuff, turn an absolutely lurid shade of pink - no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get the real color to come through in the pictures. Trust me, it was downright silly.
But the flavor? Far from it. A Franco-Russian collaboration, if you will, by way of the Mediterranean: this dish simply sings. It's got spunk and elegance and textural depth. Those fried capers are fussy, yes, but they provide a welcome saline crunch against the silky, creamy beets. Between Ben and I, this dish that supposedly serves four was gone in an instant - nothing left but a hot pink smear.
I was stuck home yesterday, sick with a cold and a pernicious sore throat and a teeny case of self-pity, when I got word that I'd been nominated for a Food Blog Award for Best Writing. Readers, seriously? I'm just speechless. And thrilled. Red-faced with bliss, if you're wondering. If you'd like to vote for me, click on this link - you've got until the end of this Friday for your vote to be counted. Thank you!
Beet Salad with Horseradish and Fried Capers
1 1/2 pounds small beets, trimmed and scrubbed
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for beets and frying capers
2 tablespoons salt-packed or brined capers
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons horseradish, more to taste
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sour cream
Sea salt to taste
1 clove garlic, crushed (I'd do without this next time)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place beets on half of a large piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Fold the foil and seal the edges. Lay package on a baking sheet and place it in the oven. Roast until beets are tender, 45 to 60 minutes. (Test by poking a fork through the foil into a beet.) Remove from the oven. Be careful when opening the foil; steam will race out. While still warm, peel beets, then slice into wedges and place in a bowl.
2. Soak salt-packed capers for 10 minutes, drain, rinse, then pat dry. (If using brined capers, drain and pat dry.) Pour 1/2 inch olive oil into a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot enough to toast a bread crumb in 30 seconds, add capers. Be careful; oil may sputter. Fry until capers fluff and begin to brown on edges, 30 to 60 seconds. Drain on paper towels.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, horseradish and vinegar. Whisk in 1/4 cup oil, followed by sour cream. Pour half the dressing over beets; mix. Taste, adding more dressing or salt, if needed. Rub a platter with crushed garlic, then spoon on beets and sprinkle with fried capers.