I find the mild flavor, mild texture, and outrageous color of roasted beets so enjoyable that I’ll pop them into my mouth whole like popcorn. Only, it’s not all the time that I get to roasting a few beets, especially when it’s been as warm as the last few weeks in New York. However, I did roast a lot of very good beets the other day — good, because they were just in season at the farmers’ market (rather than having been in cold storage for several months, from last summer’s harvest) — and I had some stragglers after the popping-whole session.
So when I was in the mood to put together a sandwich, with I didn’t know what, the precious ruby baubles glared at me from the fridge.
a bunch of new beets (greens stolen for an earlier sautee)
Beets are terrific sponges for sauces and marinades, especially once roasted and softer. I liked the idea of making them the centerpiece of a salad rather than the sidekick, for color, and of giving them a heavier sauce that would satisfy my craving for something less healthy. (I guess I was in the mood for a mayonnaised tuna or chicken salad sandwich, as often happens in summer.) So I gave the beets a small cube-shaped chop and tossed them in homemade mayonnaise and my friend’s hot sauce. It definitely satisfied, as beets usually do, plus, it didn’t stain other stuff bright, punk-rock pink because it was in the starring salad role.
Well, except for one thing. Some chopped smoked almonds, which I found in my cupboard, and thought would add a great crunch. Coupled with a slice of toasted, whole grain bread with lots of seeds and nuts studded throughout the crumb, they would also provide a heartier bite and little boost of protein. Almonds are one of the less-fatty nuts as far as nuts go — small hooray.
Nutty, smoky, spicy and bursting with chilled, juicy beets was this sandwich in the end (was going to say, “in a nutshell” but we’ve heard enough puns with that). The little cubes of beets coated in a luscious, tangy mayonnaise gave me a whole new appreciation for the root vegetable, and I’d been eating beets for days. I may have to get another bunch of beets while they’re fresh, to satisfy a craving for this soon.
Spicy Beet Salad With Smoked Almonds on Toast
(makes 2 servings)
2-3 large or 3-4 small beets, roasted (see instructions here)
about 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
about 1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 cup smoked (or roasted and salted) almonds, coarsely chopped
small pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
2 slices whole-grain toast
fresh lettuce or mixed baby greens for serving (optional)
Chop beets into cubes about 1/4 inch. Toss with the mayonnaise and hot sauce and add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Pile on top of each slice of toast, and garnish with optional lettuce to serve.
(for 2 servings)
1 bunch beets (without greens): $3.00
2 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise: $0.25
1 teaspoon hot sauce (made by a friend): $0.25
2 slices whole-grain toast (at $5/loaf): $0.30
fresh baby greens (from CSA): $0.40
salt, pepper, squeeze of lemon: $0.10
Four brownie points: Think a tuna salad sandwich is just about the healthiest you can eat when picking out lunch at a restaurant? Well, you can always do better at home. This sandwich goes to show that, and it’s also something you’d never see on a restaurant menu. Why? Because they (or they think we) have certain expectations when it comes to food, especially sandwiches, and there has to be meat, or protein, or a dizzying assortment of vegetables if not. But actually, this simple sandwich has a lot of good stuff, starting with the beets, which are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients to detoxify and protect. And they have a lot of folate, too. (Talking about just the roots.) The creamy, caloric mayonnaise sauce won’t give you the best points for health, but as mentioned, the almonds add protein along with their saturated fats, too.
Eight brownie points: Summer is officially here so local produce is at its most varied and accessible — these beets were grown in NJ and came direct from the farm, and I’ve got a few getting plump inside the soil on my roof, too. The bread was a local bakery’s work, and the smoked almonds housemade by Fairway, although it’s unclear where the almonds were grown.