Kale, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, parsnips, beets:
After years of being forgotten, feared, distained, dismissed, each of these veggies is having its moment of redemption. They all have found their way back onto the restaurant menu and everyday dinner table, in creative delectable ways.
We’re no longer surprised by roasted Brussels sprouts, pan-seared cauliflower steaks, or parsnip puree.
I had to laugh, when I went to a modern diner that offered “The Obligatory Kale Salad.”
We’re in the midst of a vegetable renaissance.
So, here’s my latest discovery I’d like to share: beet hummus.
(Upon viewing my gleaming magenta bowl, friend Steve jokingly declared, “There’s no such thing as beet hummus.”)
Well, yes. In part, it’s all in a name—although I have seen some recipes that puree the root vegetable with hummus essentials chick peas and tahini.
But I decided those might overshadow the earthy-sweet complexity of the beets.
Plus, by themselves, beets possess enough body to make a thick, hummus-like dip. So, I made mine in simpler fashion, relying on another middle Eastern staple, Sumac, to give it tangy depth.
(You can find sumac at most global markets and some grocery stores such as Whole Foods.)
After you’ve cooked (you may either boil or roast ’em–whichever works for you at the moment!) and chilled your beets, you’ll pulse them in a food processor with garlic, lemon juice and zest, sumac, ginger, salt, red pepper flakes and olive oil.
Healthful and delicious and, in its way, beautiful.
If you want add a little more pizzazz to the batch, top the ruby churn with crumbled goat cheese and chopped scallions. Or toasted walnuts. Sesame seeds. Cilantro.
Serve with crackers or pitas.
But wait, one more thing!
Don’t pitch your beets’ leafy green tops into the compost bin. Not only delicious, beet greens are rich in vitamins and minerals. More iron than spinach. More nutritional value than the root!
You can saute them in a bit of olive oil and garlic, as you would with Swiss chard, or finely cut and marinate them for a salad, as you would kale.
The leaves make a mighty fine pesto, too. I’ve included that recipe below. Use it in any applications that call for traditional pesto. The simpler, the better: Spread over flatbread and topped with roasted vegetables or tossed over penne, coating the warm pasta with garlicky-green piquancy.
Following the way of The Third Plate, use the whole beet.
2-3 garlic cloves
1 lemon for zest and juice
1 tablespoon sumac
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
1-2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1 green onion, finely chopped
Place cooked and chilled beets into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.
Add garlic cloves, lemon zest and juice, fresh ginger pieces, sumac, salt, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until the ingredients are chopped up together. Continue to pulse while pouring in the olive oil.
Taste and adjust for seasonings–for salt, citrus, and peppery heat.
Spoon into a serving bowl. Topped with crumbled goat cheese, chopped green onion, and any remaining lemon zest.
Drizzle the top with olive oil and serve with crackers, toasted flatbread, or pita chips.
BEET GREEN PESTO
1 bundle fresh beet greens, saved from 1 bunch fresh beets–washed and dried
2 cloves garlic
1 green onion–green and white parts
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup olive oil
Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.
Pulse, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl. Taste for salt and pepper.
Place into a clean jar. Cover and refrigerate. Makes 1 1/2 cups.