Recipe: Beets with Garlic Sauce

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Cooked giant white lima beans are another classic accompaniment to beets with garlic sauce.

Garlic Sauce (Skordalia)

Makes about 3 cups

    • 1 1/2 pounds red or yellow waxy potatoes, pared and sliced into 2-inch chunks
    • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise, green sprout (if any) removed
    • About 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
    • 1/2 to 3/4 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil, to taste
    • 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (optional)
    • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the potatoes, 3 garlic cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover by 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 25 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Replenish the water as necessary to keep the potatoes covered.

When the potatoes are cooked, place the remaining 5 cloves of garlic in a mortar or directly on the counter. Using a pestle, a flat stone, a meat pounder, or other pounding implement, smash the garlic roughly. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and continue mashing the garlic until it is reduced to a paste; you should have about 2 tablespoons. (Do not use a garlic press or allow the puree to sit more than 15 minutes or the flavor will be bitter.)

With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked potatoes to the mortar or a mixer bowl and break them apart. Reserve the cooking liquid. Using a pestle, or an electric mixer on low speed, beat the potatoes until they are reduced to a coarse meal. (Do not attempt to do this in a food processor or the potatoes will become gummy). Dribble in cooking water (up to 3/4 cup) a little at time while beating the potatoes until they are reduced to a loose puree.

Blend the garlic puree, if pounded separately, into the potatoes. Beat in about 1/2 cup of the olive oil, lemon juice if desired, salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste. (The intensity of the garlic and the balance of salt will change as the skordalia sits. Adjust the seasoning before serving and add additional olive oil if desired.) Serve the garlic sauce warm or at room temperature. Just before serving, drizzle olive oil over the sauce.

Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Beets with Garlic Sauce

4 to 6 servings

    • 2 pounds beets, cooked (see basic cooked beets recipe) and peeled
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • Salt
    • Greek Garlic Sauce (Skordalia)

Cut the beets into 1/4-inch thick disks or wedges. Place in a bowl and toss to coat with the balsamic vinegar and salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, set bowls of the beets and garlic sauce out for guests to serve themselves onto little plates. Or arrange on a platter, with the garlic sauce in the middle.

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Sally Schneider writes The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog about improvising as a daily practice. Her cookbook The Improvisational Cook is now out in paperback. More

Sally Schneider is the founder of The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog that inspires you to devise, invent, create, make it up as you go along, from design and cooking to cultivating the creative spirit. It's been called a "zeitgeist-perfect website." She is a regular contributor to public radio's The Splendid Table and the author of the best-selling cookbooks The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook, which was recently named one of the best books of the decade by The Guardian. She has won numerous awards, including four James Beard awards, for her books and magazine writing.

Sally has worked as a journalist, editor, stylist, lecturer, restaurant chef, teacher, and small-space consultant, and once wrangled 600 live snails for the photographer Irving Penn. Her varied work has been the laboratory for the themes she writes and lectures about: improvising as an essential operating principle; cultivating resourcefulness and your inner artist; design, style, and food; and anything that is cost-effective, resourceful, and outside the box.
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