I own more cookbooks than any normal person should. This addiction started early. I used to browse through the bargain section of my local bookstore when I was a kid and beg my parents to let me buy just one more bread book or cookie book or soup book or … the list went on and on. I didn’t necessarily cook from all of them, I just loved to drool over the beautiful pictures and try to convince my parents to make the recipes. My cookbook addiction became much worse when I graduated from college. By then, the cooking bug had fully hit and I used every single bookstore gift card I received for graduation to buy cookbook after cookbook. Fast forward many years later, and at last count, I own more than 70! I’m proud to say, though, that I’ve cooked from almost every single one. Since I own so many, I’ve developed an odd strategy to try recipes from my many cookbooks. I tend to read my cookbooks cover to cover, like novels. I flag the recipes that seem the strangest to me–recipes that incorporate flavors and techniques that I would never think to create on my own–and those are the ones I make. When I was a kid, I used to chastise my parents for never precisely following a recipe as written. They always argued that cooking knowledge and instinct was a strong guide to make food as delicious as it could be. I’m now guilty of this same habit. I rarely follow recipes precisely as written and tend to let instinct take over when it seems right. This recipe is one of those times.
I absolutely love beets. I’ve expressed this adoration before and it remains as strong as ever. Just look at how beautiful they are! They really can’t be beat (pun intended). When I’m not making spicy Indian beets I’ve tended to veer towards more traditional pairings with beets: goat cheese, nuts, greens, etc. but then came across this recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s amazing book Plenty. If you haven’t checked this book out, please do, it’s incredible. This recipe pairs beets with a vibrant tomato-preserved lemon-roasted bell pepper relish and then tops it with yogurt flavored with dill and onion. The yogurt and dill made perfect sense to me, but the other flavors were ones that I would never have thought to pair with beets, so naturally I had to make it!
A brief segue to preserved lemons: In a word: incredible. Preserved lemons add something indescribable to every dish you make with them. I make a batch with Meyer lemons when they hit the market and use them in everything I can. I especially love them in salad dressings (recipe to come!). So, naturally, when I saw a recipe that combined my love of beets that also had preserved lemons, I was sold.
In the recipe, he calls for the beets to be boiled, but since I had beautiful fresh beets with the greens attached, I thought roasting might be a better option. So, roast the beets until tender. While the beets are roasting, the yellow peppers are also roasted over an open flame. This technique looks a bit forbidding but is actually quite simple and the end result is unbelievable delicious. It’s important to put them into a bowl and cover tightly with foil so that the residual heat from the fully blackened and blistered peppers gets to soften and cook whatever bits of the pepper’s flesh that remains raw. Once that’s done, bloom coriander in olive oil and add canned tomatoes. Rick Bayless in his cookbook Mexican Everyday recommends using fire roasted diced tomatoes. I’ve followed his advice and do find them to be a bit more delicious than your standard diced tomatoes. This combination is simmered for what seems like a really long time, but this helps to get rid of the “tinny” canned flavor from the tomatoes. Everything else gets added in sequentially. I did this to partially preserve some of the fresh flavor from the preserved lemons, roasted peppers, and herbs. The yogurt is simple, almost raita, like affair. Cool yogurt, thin slices of onion, dill, and just enough salt. One of my favorite things in food is textural and temperature contrast. The original recipe calls for swirling everything together, but I thought it might be more fun to do warm beets, warm relish, and cool yogurt to melt on top. It worked beautifully! I hope you try this and enjoy. It’s a lot of steps but absolutely worth the effort!
Roasted Beets with Tomato-Preserved Lemon Relish and Dill Yogurt
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Sweet roasted beets with a super savory tomato relish topped with cool dill yogurt. Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's amazing book, Plenty
- For the beets:
- 3 medium beets, preferably with greens attached
- For the Tomato-Preserved Lemon Relish:
- 2 medium yellow bell peppers
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds
- 1 14-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp minced garlic (about 1-2 cloves finely minced)
- 1-2 tsp sugar
- 3 Tbsp preserved lemon (without the liquid), finely chopped
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
- Few grinds pepper
- Salt to taste
- For the Dill Yogurt:
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 2 Tbsp dill fronds, chopped
- 2 Tbsp thinly sliced red onion
- Salt to taste
- To roast the beets:
- Heat the oven to 375F. Scrub the beets and trim the greens off of the beets and reserve for another use. Wrap the beets in foil and place on a baking tray. Set in the oven to roast for about 45 minutes or until tender. The beets are easily pierced by a pairing knife when tender. Carefully unwrap and peel the skin off of the beets and slice into 8 wedges. Set aside.
- While the beats are roasting, make the relish.
- To make the relish:
- Thoroughly wash the yellow bell peppers. Set over a gas flame set to medium-high, rotating frequently until the peppers are thoroughly charred and soft.
- Place into a large, heatproof bowl, and cover with foil so that the peppers steam in their own warmth. While the peppers are steaming, start on the other elements of the relish.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. When warm, add the coriander seeds and toast until lightly brown. Carefully add in the canned tomatoes, with all of their juices, and stir well. Add the garlic, 1 tsp of sugar, 1 pinch of salt, and a grind of black pepper and stir to combine. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the oil separates from the tomatoes (~8-10 mins). While this is simmering, make the yogurt (see below).
- Once the oil has separated, add in the preserved lemon and stir to combine. Allow to simmer for an additional few minutes.
- By this point, the peppers should be well steamed. Uncover, and peel off the charred skin. Slice the peppers in half, remove the stem, seeds, and ribs from the peppers and chop into 1/4 inch pieces. Add the peppers into the tomato mixture and stir well. Taste, and adjust for seasoning, either adding more sugar, salt, or pepper as desired. It is unlikely you will need to add additional salt as preserved lemons are quite salty.
- Turn off the heat, and stir in the parsley and cilantro and allow the herbs to wilt.
- To make the yogurt:
- Combine the yogurt, onion, and dill together in a medium bowl. Add a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper and stir well. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- To plate:
- Arrange the sliced beet wedges onto a plate. Spoon half of the tomato relish on top of the beets. Spoon the yogurt on top of the relish. Garnish with some additional dill and serve.
The tomato relish makes about two times what you need for this recipe. Don't worry, though! It's delicious as a dip for bread or a sauce on top of chicken.
If you don't have a gas stove, you can roast the peppers under the broiler. Just make sure to do this before you put the beets in the oven. Turn regularly and check on them frequently to make sure they don't burn.
If you only have greek yogurt at home, use about 1/3 of a cup of yogurt and add water until it is a thick, but pourable consistency.
Feel free to mix the ingredients all together instead of layering them on top of each other. Mixing everything is actually what the original recipe calls for. I personally am a huge fan of textural and temperature variance in a dish, so I like to keep the layers separate and get a bit of this and a bit of that as I choose!