I’m constantly inspired by the Please to the Table cookbook. It has amazing sounding recipes that feature many of the ingredients I fell in love with as a child. Like beets. I know that so many Americans hate beets with a passion but we had them quite often served in many different ways when I was a child so now they’re comfort food. The other day when I professed my love for beets and credited my childhood for it, my dad seemed surprised. “We didn’t have that many beets.” Maybe it wasn’t in everything that was served (like pickles… mmm, pickles) – maybe it was just enough that left me wanting more. Truly, though, I think this ingredients snuck into more dishes than my dad remembers… I can think of 4 off hand (and we had a pretty steady rotation of recipes so this is not 4 among hundreds) like borcht, okroshka, red cabbage and this beet salad with walnuts and prunes. This recipe is from the Please to the Table cookbook – I didn’t even recognize it from my childhood (it was called “beet caviar”) until I had my first bite. I’ll note the variation we had on this recipe below.
- 4 medium beets
- 1/3 brandy (I think water could be subbed just fine)
- 7 pitted prunes
- 1-2 large garlic cloves, to taste
- 2T lemon juice
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- 3T mayonnaise or sour cream (or some combination of the 2)
- 1-2 pickles, finely chopped (optional – this is my family variation which I did not try here)
1. Wrap beets in foil and bake at 425* for about 50 minutes. They should be fork tender when fully cooked through.
2. In the meantime, bring the brandy to a boil in a small pot…
… and pour over the prunes in small bowl. Soak for 30 minutes.
Note: My mom’s recipe does not use brandy. I think you could just soak the prunes in water.
3. Finely chop the prunes (reserve the liquid), the walnuts, squeeze lemon juice out of your lemon, cut garlic cloves in half.
4. Are your beets ready?
These guys are bright red/pink so be careful handling them unless you want it all over you, your clothes and your counter. I was cooking this at my sister’s house so I didn’t have my regular “equipment” but usually when I make anything with beets, I use one time use plastic gloves, wear my black ugly apron and use a cheap cutting board (notice this is when the cheapo plastic one came out).
Once the beets cooled slightly (just a few minutes), I rubbed the skin off with a paper towel (because I didn’t have the gloves). It comes off really easily!
5. Chop skinless beets.
Now you’re ready to assemble!
6. In the food processor, chop beets and garlic until finely chopped, NOT purred to a paste (add some prune liquid if needed to loosen, my batch was fine).
7. In a medium bowl, combine chopped prunes, walnuts and the beet mixture.
Add mayo (or sour cream, if that’s what you’re using… my mom hates mayo so that’s what we always replaced it with) and salt and pepper to taste.
Voila, you’re done! Cover and refrigerate – the flavors will marry especially well if refrigerated overnight.
Note: my mom used to just grate the beets (this is a good modification if you don’t have a food processor!), she didn’t use any brandy and added finely chopped pickles to the mix.
This is a garlicky beet heaven with the added crunch of walnuts balanced by a touch of sweetness from the prunes (you don’t really taste prunes, they just balance the rest out). My husband doesn’t love beets like I do and still really enjoyed the dish. I think it’s because all these flavors play nicely together. How gorgeous is this color??!
Best served over a nice piece of bread. Enjoy!