Friday, February 19, 2010

Beetroot pick-me-up

I don't know which part of the world you're living in, dear reader, what your images are when you look outside your window, what are the aromas you breathe or the sounds you hear when you open your front door in the morning on your way to work. My images, for the last couple of days, are of gloomy dark skies, my aromas are those of damp wet grass, my sounds are those of rain trickling down my windows. I'm in need of some serious lifting up.

I tried battling my blues by playing my favorite music as loud as possible (that has always been my go-to trick) thus ignoring my neighbors, but that only works temporarily. I tried watching some early episodes of Seinfeld to have a good laugh, but as soon as I turned the TV off, my blues came back to creep up on me. I tried talking on the phone with my favorite people (on the phone and not in person because all but one of my favorite people are in Greece and not in Holland), but that had no effect either.

Now, if you expect me to tell you that I miraculously cheered up by cooking something that blew me away and took my sense of taste to another level, then you're mistaken. You're mistaken in that I miraculously cheered up, though not about the "blew me away" part. Because yes my friends, I might love and appreciate food, but unfortunately it's not enough to change my mood (S. knows this well). And, ok, I might exaggerate a bit about my sense of taste taken to another higher level after savoring this but... truth be told, I got a little excited. Correction, I got really excited. That's why I want to share this recipe. A recipe good enough to excite me when I'm in this state is definitely good enough to excite anyone!

Looking through my magazine clippings for recipes, needing something different to cook, it was color that jumped out at me not a recipe. The color was so bright I was immediately tempted to read on, and it wasn't all looks, this baby had substance. It was a purée but not a common, boring milk-and-potato purée that you serve to those you loathe rather than lust, it was a beetroot purée. Beetroot, yes! I was smiling, because now the beetroot is in season. Lucky me! So, I got on with it. Bought the beets from my greengrocer (organic of course), stopped by the super market to buy the rest of the ingredients, which were less than four and then straight home to try it.

A couple of hours later, dinner was served. Beetroot purée with potatoes, walnuts, garlic and olive oil, and a nice pan-seared fillet of tilapia. Drooling yet? If this vibrant color, reminiscent of mediterranean summer sunsets, doesn't stir you up then I don't know what will.

Well, if you think you're getting a mushy bowl of beetroots and potatoes then look again. Go ahead, look at the photographs. Does that look mushy to you? No. Some may say "but that's what I want from a purée" and I could have agreed if I hadn't known the existence of this purée. It is light and mousse-like in texture and at the same time it has this crunch from the walnuts that pleasantly surprises you. There's a little kick from the garlic and sweetness from the beetroot that marry so well with the starchiness of the potato and the richness of the olive oil, making this, one incredible side dish.

You can pair it with any white meat but I prefer fish, which I actually think is the perfect pairing. You can use tuna, or monkfish, or sea bass, or the humble tilapia like I did, or whatever fish you fancy, though I wouldn't recommend the salmon. It's too oily for this purée. Whichever fish you eventually use, make sure to top it with lemon or even lime juice. Believe me, the combination will be heavenly.
If you want a salad to accompany your dish, then a green leafy salad with a splash of white wine vinegar and olive oil would be the best.
And if you want some wine to go with that, then why don't you pick a nice fruity Chardonnay with high acidity, served chilled. That would be my choice. Although we didn't have any, because my boyfriend is on medication for this terrible flu he's been fighting for the last ten days and I hate to drink alone. But you go ahead! Enjoy!

By the way, one thing that always cheers me up is seeing your comments. It encourages me to go on rambling about my life and writing about my food.
So thank you!

Poures Pantzariou me Patates kai Karydia (Greek Beetroot Purée with Potatoes and Walnuts)
Adapted from the Greek magazine "K"

This recipe is so easy and delicious and most of the ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen cabinets.
You just need a little time for the vegetables to roast and the help of a food processor or a good old-fashioned vegetable mill.

Yield: 4-6 side-dish servings

6 medium-sized beetroots
6 medium-sized floury potatoes
1 medium-sized garlic clove
100 g walnuts, ground
1/2 cup olive oil plus extra for pouring over vegetables before roasting
Freshly ground white pepper
3 Tbsp chives, finely chopped (optional)

Special equipment: food processor or vegetable mill

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
Wash beetroots and potatoes well under cold water. Place them in a large baking pan, spaced apart, sprinkle them with salt and pour a little olive oil on top. Roast them on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
The beetroots are ready when you can insert a toothpick in the middle.

In the meantime, place walnuts in the food processor and grind them. Not too finely, you don't want them to become pasty or too oily.

When beetroots and potatoes are cooked, leave them to cool slightly and then peel them. It's better to use a pair of gloves to do this.

Cut beetroots in medium-sized pieces and place them in the food processor (or vegetable mill) along with the garlic clove, and chop them finely. Pour 1/4 cup of the olive oil in the processor and blend well until the mixture is smooth. Put ground walnuts in the processor and blend well with the beetroot.

It is best to use a vegetable mill or potato masher or even a plain old fork for mashing the potatoes. If you put potatoes in a food processor they tend to "release" their starch and become gluey. We don't want that consistency in this purée.

In a large bowl combine the processed beetroot, walnuts and garlic with the mashed potatoes, the rest 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix very well with a spoon until all ingredients are well blended and you have a smooth purée (the texture of course will be slightly grainy from the walnuts).

Garnish your purée with the chopped chives (optional) and serve immediately.

You can also serve this purée when it has completely cooled. It is equally delicious.


  1. I would eat this. I love beats! That's a beautiful purée.

  2. All components work brilliantly together. Love it.

  3. Looks and sounds delicious! I may try it if I manage to get my hands on some good beetroot.

  4. I love how incredibly healthy this is so yet to easy to make. Would be a great dip at parties.

  5. Amuse-Bouche, History of Greek Food, thank you!

    Σοφία, thank you. It's definitely worth trying!

    Kajal, I never would have thought to use this purée as a dip, but yes, it's a great idea!

  6. Love beets and love the color of this puree! Beets is supposed to have a substance in it that lifts the mood.

  7. Your beetroot photographs are so pretty and your puree looks great!

  8. νομιχω πως το παντζαρι παει σούπερ με τους ξηρούς καρπούς και το σκόρδο(βαλε και γιοαυρτι κι εγινε η σαλατα...)με πατατες μαζι δεν το εχω δοκιμασει...τέλεια συνταγή...
    καλώς σε βρήκα :)

  9. this is a nice one! I love using beet root lately. it is so versitile once one gets over serving it like most tavernas.

  10. beetroot puree? this is quite creative, Magda. I love the color.


  11. Oh my gosh, this sounds delicious! And it's gorgeous too.

  12. Taste of beirut, really? I didn't know that. Good thing I chose to cook them :)

    Denise, welcome and thank you!

    Cook, τέλεια η ιδέα σου για σαλάτα!

    Tobias, welcome! You're so right. I'm sick of seeing the same salad. Boiled beetroot with vinegar and oil. Time to mix it up!

    Nisrine, Just a plane ride away, thank you!

  13. I love that you made such a healthy, almost virtuous dish when the weather blues set in :) I tend to go for things like brownies....

    But I LOVE beets and only recently started making them at home. Stupid seeing how painfully easy it is. So this looks really lovely and I'm excited to try it. Chin up--spring's coming!!

  14. This looks delightful, and I feel tempted to add a dollop of goat cheese to all of this, because beets+goat cheese=delicious.

    I want to eat more beets--I just need to figure out how I'll like it the most.

  15. I love beetroots with fish. Great recipe and very appetizing. It's a lovely twist on skordalia. I love walnuts in skordalia.

  16. from one expat to another, i hear you [and your music and your seinfeld]
    as amazing as new life adventures can be [and they are - oh they are] it is still so so hard being away from the people closest to you
    and so if simple pleasures help bring back some, uh, simplicity then that is great
    these colours are amazing by the way

  17. Megan, I also usually go for things like brownies but this time, I don't know, something drew me to these colorful vegetables. They were really rewarding.

    Elizabeth, goat's cheese would be perfect with this.

    Ivy, beetroots and fish, one amazing combination!

    Circus Charlie, fellow expat, you are so right. Thank you :)

  18. yum, i think even J would enjoy this (he always complains about me eating mountains of 'disgusting' beetroot).

    how do you serve this? is it a starter that you serve with bread/toast?

  19. A., this is mainly a side dish. I serve it usually hot alongside fish but this purée is so versatile that you can serve it also cool as a starter, spread over crostini. Either way it's delicious. J. just has to give it a try!

  20. Looks and sounds delicious, I am an English lady living in Greece now, so glad I found your blog, I will be trying your recipes.

  21. Colorful, colorful and lovely... must taste sooo good. And , I love the taste of roasted vegetables...

  22. Pauline, thank you and welcome! If you try a recipe let me know how it went.

    Ελένη, roasted vegetables are great. Even with only a splash of olive oil.

  23. oh no, i just found your blog today, and just gave away 2 kilos of walnuts from our trees, because i was finally tired of eating them. now i've got my seed packet of beet seeds in front of me, and i plan great things for this year's beets.

    this looks like an awesome recipe. people who don't like beets should try a home grown one.

    i look forward to making this with this year's crop.

    ~lytha in germany

  24. lytha, you're gonna love it, especially if you use your own beets! How wonderful! And those walnut trees, it must be so nice to have your own walnuts to munch on!! :)

  25. Magda, your puree and your photos looks amazing. I'll give it a try very soon. Cheers,m.

  26. Here's one of my fave ways of eating beetroot.
    Its of my own making and I made this beetroot salad out of the ingredients I could access one day while coming back from the Greek street market (laiki), when I used to live downtown Athens and sourced some wonderfuly vibrant beetroots.
    Makes a nice and nutritious salad for 4-5 people.
    Boil a kilo of beetroots untill soft and keep the upper part too.
    On a frying pan, slowly roast monkey peanuts ( I usually like to pretty much feel the whole pan ).
    Slice 3-4 cloves of garlic, in very small and thin pieces.
    When the beetroots boil slice them in pretty chunky pieces ( around 6-8 slices per beetroot and then cut the slices half in length ), place the beets in the salad bowl you will serve them and poor some olive oil on them.
    Add the garlic and very lightly sprinkle some sea salt flakes.
    Cut and add the beetroot stems ( you may want to add a touch of freshly crushed black pepper ).
    Add the monkey peanuts and stir gently, toping up a drizle of olive oil if needed.
    Add 300-500 grams of Greek thick strained yogurt and either chive rings or sliced parsley.
    Its an easy and nutricious fortified salad dish that can also stay in the fridge for a few days ( provided you won't keep on finding excuses of snacking the beets !! ) .