Friday, January 10, 2014

Puréed Roasted Beets with Toasted Hazelnuts and Blue Cheese

I adapted this delicious vegetarian roasted beet recipe from my favorite new cookbook Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, and I promise you the luxurious texture and amazing flavor of this appetizer will woo even the most ardent beet-hater.  

I start by washing and trimming 3 medium sized beets, reserving the tender leaves for salad.  Next I roast the beets, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for about an hour.  The beets are ready when you can easily insert a knife or fork into the center.  Roasting the beets, as opposed to boiling them, is essential for this recipe because the beets need that rich and gooey texture that roasting imparts. During the last 15 minutes of cooking I put about 10 hazelnuts into the hot oven and toast them off as well.  They will be used later in the garnish.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, I remove the outer skin and cut each into 6 or 8 smaller pieces.  In addition, I peel and crush 2 cloves of garlic and measure out 1/2 cup of really good plain Greek yogurt.

I put the roasted beets, crushed garlic, and just a pinch of Kosher salt into a blender or food processor and blend to break up the beets.  Then I add in the yogurt and continue blending until the consistency is smooth and velvety.

Then I transfer the beet purée to a bowl and drizzle in 1 tablespoon of good olive oil, some fresh ground black pepper, and a bit more salt if needed.

Just before serving I prepare the garnish of toasted hazelnuts coarsely crushed, 1 scallion sliced very, very thin at an angle, and a rounded tablespoon of crumbled blue cheese (you can substitute feta cheese if you like).

I carefully transfer the beet purée to a flat serving dish, and with a small spoon or the tip of a knife I weave in just a tiny bit of plain yogurt, which adds a nice color contrast.  I drizzle the top with another tablespoon of olive oil and a bit more fresh ground black pepper, and I scatter the garnish across the top.

It's delicious served on top of warm thin sourdough bread slices.  Even the kids loved it!

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