Sunday, August 31, 2008

Beet "Caviar"

Words cover slightly different concepts in different languages. For example, not every language refers to a "book" of matches using the same word that describes a book that you read. In Russian, "caviar" refers not only to fish roe, but also to cold spreads that can be eaten on black bread much like regular caviar. Vegetable caviars are popular, and they can be made with all sorts of different vegetables (but especially eggplant!). Happily, they are a lot cheaper than fish roe.

For a few years now I have occasionally made beet caviar from a recipe in Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook, but I have never thought it was quite right. However, I decided to give it another try this year because I came home from the farmers' market with a small bunch of beets, and I had already made pickled cooked beet salad three times this summer and I needed to make something else.

The beet caviar recipe calls for prunes, which I'm afraid I simply don't like, so I never put in very much of them, and I still feel like my food tastes like prunes. This time I didn't have any prunes and decided to use dried cherries instead. I was also out of brandy and used diluted sherry instead. The result was scrumptious; I have finally found a beet caviar that pleases me.

Beet Caviar with Walnuts and Cherries

3 large beets, cooked, peeled, and cut into quarters
3 Tbsp. cooking sherry + 1 Tbsp. water + 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup dried cherries
3 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 additional Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2-3/4 c. walnut pieces, chopped
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise (I like Spectrum canola mayo or Nayonnaise)
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the sherry to a boil, then drop the cherries in, remove the pan from the heat, and let the cherries soak for 30 minutes.

Process the beets and garlic in a food processor until finely minced but not pureed. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, the cherries, 2 tablespoons of the liquid used to cook the cherries, and the walnuts. Stir in the mayonnaise and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or longer before eating.

Not everyone would like this, but I melted a little bleu cheese with some beet caviar and spread it on toast, and I thought it was quite good, though not as good as the straight caviar.



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