In spring, when the last beets are ready for harvest and the first cucumbers are coming into season, we like to serve them together with this delicious toasted almond salsa verde with a great bite. At the Rome Sustainable Food Project we prefer to “broast” (rather than boil or roast) our beets in a particular way I learned at Chez Panisse, and then marinate them in vinegar, which highlights their sweet and earthy taste and their firm yet yielding texture. This dish can be prepared largely in advance and quickly assembled if you have roasted beets and salted toasted almonds on hand. —Elena Goldblatt
4 to 6
For the Broasted Beets
medium beets (about 6 golf ball-sized beets)
extra-virgin olive oil
For the Salsa verde
large shallots or 1 small red onion, peeled and minced (about 1/2 cup)
red wine vinegar
flat-leaf Italian parsley, picked and chopped (about 1 cup)
thyme, picked and chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
mint, picked and chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
salt-packed capers, rinsed, soaked, and chopped
extra-virgin olive oil
toasted salted almonds, roughly chopped
English or Japanese cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into a 1/4-inch dice
Cut the beet tops off leaving 1/4 inch of stem attached to the beet.
Wash the beets and place them in a deep ovenproof casserole or gratin dish. Toss them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel 5 or 6 long strips of orange rind.
Add the thyme, bay leaves and orange peel to the beets and toss well. Add enough water to come 1/4 inch up the sides of the casserole dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil so no heat or steam escape, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, checking every 20 minutes. The beets are done when they are tender when poked with a knife, it should go in smoothly and meet no resistance. They should be neither mushy nor crunchy.
When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them using your hands, a wet tea towel or with a pairing knife. Discard the skins and stems. Carefully cut the beets into into 1/8-inch thick slices and marinate them with the red wine vinegar and sprinkle with salt.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the macerated onions with a spoon (adding only some of the vinegar) and stir well to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and more vinegar from the macerated onions if necessary. The salsa should be balanced with little bites of onion that add brightness and open up the other flavors present.
Add the chopped almonds to the salsa verde. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Toss the cucumbers with the juice of half a lemon and season with salt. Let marinate for 10 minutes, and add more lemon juice if necessary.
Scatter the drained marinated beets onto a serving dish. Add the diced cucumber, and spoon the almond salsa verde over the vegetables. Top with pepper and serve immediately.