24 May 2013

Beet Caviar

Caviar is something that sounds extravagant, luxurious and for many, delicious.  Unfortunately, for most of us, it's a luxury that we can't afford.  But there is another kind of caviar that is affordable, healthy and arguably even more delicious (at least for me!).

Across the former Soviet Union you can find various recipes for vegetable 'caviars', such as eggplant caviar (баклажанная икра), squash caviar (кабачковая икра) or this one from beets (икра из свеклы), which I find particularly appealing because of the balance of sweet earthiness from the beets and spiciness from the garlic.  In addition, beet caviar has a beautifully vibrant color to it, which will bring richness and a hint of the exotic to any mezze table it graces.


Ingredients:
  • 3 large beets
  • 6-8 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 C walnuts
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • cilantro leaves, to garnish
  • walnut halves, to garnish











The first step is to remove the leaves from the beets, if they are still attached.  I usually buy them with the leaves on purpose, because then I can make shakharadjin.  In fact, sometimes the actual beets are an afterthought, as all I am really after are the beet leaves!











Wash the beets and wrap them individually in aluminum foil.  Bake them in a 400 degree F oven for about an hour and a half.

Allow them to cool completely and then remove the skins.  (I highly recommend using disposable gloves for this, unless you like having purple skin and nails...)







In a food processor, combine the garlic, salt and walnuts.  Process until the nuts are about the size of peas.








Now it's time to add the beets.  I just put the whole beets in the food processor and then quartered them right in the bowl.














Pour in the oil and vinegar.  Process until almost smooth, occasionally stirring up the walnuts and garlic if they are stuck at the bottom.








Spoon into a pretty serving bowl and garnish with cilantro leaves and walnut halves, if desired.  You can eat it with crunchy vegetables, pita bread wedges, or chips to dip, spread it on a piece of bread, or even just eat it as a colorful side dish!  

(Note: this is very simple to make.  Aside from the baking part, I made this caviar with a 5-year-old dancing around the kitchen and a 3-month-old strapped to me in a front carrier.  It has to be easy to work in those conditions...).