Smoky beet salad – this spectacular salad of roasted beets, chipotle pistachio butter, grapefruit, and black garlic, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, smoked olive oil, and garnished with roasted pistachios has a complex depth of flavors, ranging from sweet and smoky, earthy and spicy, tangy and citrussy, that will tickle all of your taste buds.
I don’t know why, but I find beets to be one of the most inspirational food ingredients ever! I absolutely love beets but I wouldn’t say they are my favorite veggie of all (I have to think hard for that one). And yet, something about their sweet earthiness goes well with a myriad of spices and flavors, and I catch myself inventing a beet salad recipe every now and then. This particular salad is one of my top faves (I’ve probably said that already about this beet and charred onion salad, but I think I might have topped it now :)).
What we have here is this smoky beet salad with chipotle pistachio butter dressing, grapefruit and black garlic which is simply one of the most unusual and delicious beet salads I’ve had. It was inspired by two seasonal items I bought at my local Trader Joe’s store around the holidays – a bottle of smoked olive oil, and a bag of precious black garlic.
I am well aware that this recipe involves mostly specialty ingredients, that may be hard to find. However, bare with me, and don’t get discouraged, as you can recreate a similar flavor profile with the substitutions I will provide, and links to buy these ingredients.
The moment I bought the smoked oil, I immediately thought ‘beets’! In fact, I haven’t found a better application yet, although I’ve been thinking of making a smoked hummus with it.
The other exotic ingredient, black garlic, has piqued my curiosity for some time now. This miracle food, first invented in Korea as a health food, is nothing more than regular garlic, heated at low temperature for about a month in controlled humidity, then dried for another 40 days or so. During this lengthy process the garlic undergoes a total transformation, as it turns into a charcoal black, soft and sticky substance, with a complex sweet, umami-meets-dried fruit taste, without a hint of its garlicky aroma. What’s even more surprising is that it gets healthier in the process!
I first read about it in Tal Ronnen’s cookbook Crossroads, and I always assumed it would be outrageously expensive, and it’s the privilege of high-end restaurant chefs only. So when I saw a small bag of black garlic for something like $3 at TJ’s, my eyebrows shot up, and I quickly grabbed a few bags, without a single idea of what to do with it, just the thrilling thought that I got my hands on a rare, precious, culinary item! By the way, this post is in no way sponsored by Trader Joe’s. I just love their boutique style inventory and shop there all the time. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s around, there’s always Amazon to the rescue. And if that’s not an option, substitute with whole unpeeled garlic cloves, which you roast with olive oil, until they caramelize and develop a sweet taste.
As for the chipotle pistachio butter, which is key in this salad, it’s something that I first thought of, back when I made this pistachio honey rose butter. No need to go look for yet another crazy ingredient in your local store (I don’t even know if they sell something like this). Instead, grab some roasted pistachios, chipotle peppers, and your trusted food processor, and in a few minutes you will have a jar of fancy nut butter that will keep in your fridge forever. You can spread it on crackers as a snack, or add to dips like hummus or bean dips, in place of tahini, to give them more depth and smokiness. It can also be diluted with more oil and used as a salad dressing, as I’m doing here.
I like to use canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to flavor this butter. You can find these in the Latin section of any big grocery store, or you can use regular dry chipotle chili pepper powder, or a combination of smoked paprika and cayenne pepper in place. A little of this stuff goes a long way, as they add not only smokiness but a nice spicy kick as well.
The addition of fresh, slightly bitter grapefruit lightens up the salad, without adding more sweetness. I also added a pinch of cinnamon at the end – just a tiny bit, so it’s barely noticeable.
So, if I haven’t lost you already with my talk about exotic ingredients, please give this salad a try. Its unique, complex flavors of sweet, smoky, tangy, spicy, nutty and citrussy, will fire up all of your taste buds, guaranteed!
- For the salad:
- 5-6 medium beets (I used golden beets)
- 1 grapefruit, peeled, and segmented into bite-size pieces.
- 2-3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
- 2-3 Tbs of pistachio butter dressing (recipe follows)
- a drizzle of smoked oil*
- 4-5 black garlic cloves**, peeled, and cut into small pieces
- a handful of whole roasted, salted pistachios
- 1-2 cups of greens, like arugula, or spring mix (optional)
- pinch of cinnamon (optional)
- For the chipotle pistachio butter:
- 2 cups roasted, salted pistachios, shelled.
- 1 tsp chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (substitue with dry chipotle chili powder)
- a pinch of extra salt
- 2-3 Tbs of olive oil.
- To make the chipotle pistachio butter (can be made in advance):
- Reserve about 2-3 Tbs of whole roasted pistachios, and add the rest to a food processor. Run it for about 2-3 minutes, until the nuts begin to turn from finely ground flour into a sticky butter.
- Add the chipotle pepper sauce, or dry chipotle chili pepper, and salt, and process again.
- Slowly drizzle a bit of olive oil through the feed chute of your processor, while it's still running, until the butter is thinned out a bit.
- Taste and adjust the heat/smokiness to your liking. Store in a jar in your fridge for months. Add it to dips, or salads, or spread on crackers as a snack.
- Make the salad:
- Preheat oven to 400 °F.
- Clean the beets (peeling is optional), and cut into ¼-inch thick coins (if beets are big, cut in half first).
- Arrange beets in a single layer on a baking sheet, without overlapping, and brush both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until the beets are nicely roasted and soft. Take out and let cool a bit.
- Peel the grapefruit, remove all membranes, and segment into bite-size pieces.
- Peel the black garlic, and cut into small pieces*
- Assemble the salad:
- Place a handful or two of the greens at the bottom of a serving plate.
- Arrange the roasted beets on top. Add the grapefruit pieces ( I use maybe half of the grapefruit).
- Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, smoked oil (a little bit goes a long way), and the pistachio butter (if too thick, thin out by adding olive oil to it first)
- Sprinkle the whole roasted pistachios on top.
- Add some salt, and a pinch of cinnamon (optional).
** You can buy black garlic online, or, alternatively, roast a whole head of garlic with olive oil, wrapped in foil, at the same time you are roasting the beets. Check on the garlic around 30 minutes into baking so it doesn't burn. Peel and add to the salad.