Years ago, after the birth of my middle son, one of my dearest friends stopped by to deliver a meal. She was rushed, and just coming from work, it was freezing out and as she hurried into the house she was already apologizing for the food; "I can't believe I burned the broccoli! I left it in too long and this beet thing is so basic I don't even know why I brought it. Sorry guys, I'm so lame today!" Of course, years later we recreate these two things regularly; a pan of roasted broccoli that's just a bit too dark in some spots and this easy beet spread that is made even easier these days with the ease of picking up pre-cooked beets. I like to think of this spread as a nice gateway dish to getting kids hooked on beets, or at least being open to the possibility of them without recoiling.
Once I've made a batch I find that it makes its way onto nearly all of my plates until it's gone - a quick afternoon snack with a handful of crackers or plantain chips, smoothed over a bagel with cream cheese for a morning bite or spooned liberally onto any kind of salad, it just seems to work.
I'm a taste as I go kind of cook so make sure you have some vegetables or crackers near by when you're adjusting your seasoning for frequent taste testing!
- 4-5 large beets, cut from the greens and washed well
- 1 cup large walnuts
- 4 tbsp avocado or good quality olive oil, plus more for roasting
- 4 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
- white pepper and salt to taste
- 2 large sheets of foil
Preheat oven to 375°. Lay out 1 sheet of foil and place all the beets in the center, snuggled in tightly together. Drizzle beets with a small amount of oil then using both hands, bunch beets together and wrap foil around to cover. Use the second sheet of foil to go over the top - you want a TIGHT seal here to really steam the beets. Place the parcel on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for 40 minutes.
Remove the beets, check for doneness by poking with a fork - they shouldn't be mush, just give a bit and the skin should be very soft and a little wrinkly. Allow the beets to cool while you gather the remaining ingredients. Cut the ends off the beets and peel with a paring knife or potato peeler then cut into large dice.
Add the walnuts a food processor fitted with the "S" blade and pulse just a few times to break them apart. Add the beets to the food processor and pulse 7-8 times, enough to break them down. The key here is to scrape the mixture from the sides often so you'll have a consistent texture rather than large chunks. Pulse a couple more times, scrape then repeat. Add in the oil and balsamic vinegar, a few pinches of salt and some pepper and pulse again. Check for seasoning. I like my spread a bit more acidic so I often throw in a splash more vinegar at the end. Once the taste and texture are good, store in a container in the fridge for up to one week.