This humble sauce-meets-spread was inspired by both tonnato (Italian tuna sauce) and whitefish salad (the offering by which I judge all bagel shops). All you need are three ingredients: smoked whitefish or trout (the former is butterier, the latter leaner), mayonnaise (store-bought works great), and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Adjust the last two ingredients to taste: For a creamier, smoother, milder spread, increase the mayonnaise. For something looser and zingier, add more lemon. I doubt you’ll need salt, since the smoked fish is so salty, but you tell me.
Likewise, don’t stop at beets. They’re one of my favorites, since you get the beets themselves and their hardy greens. But roasted radishes, carrots, parsnips, and bell peppers would all get along great with the smoked fish mayo. It would make a mean crudités dip, too.
This is one of our Big Little Recipes, our weekly column all about dishes with big flavor and little ingredient lists. Do you know (and love) a recipe that’s low in ask, high in reward? Let us know in the comments. —Emma Laperruque
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Beets With Smoked Fish Mayo
beets, red or yellow
smoked whitefish or trout
mayonnaise, plus more as needed
freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed, and wedges for serving
While that heats up, separate the beets from their tops. Wash and scrub the beets well (I don’t mind the skin but if you do, you can peel at this point). Cut into even, almost–bite size chunks (for smaller beets, I usually quarter them). Roughly chop the greens, then wash and dry.
Add the beets—but not the greens—to a baking dish with a splash (figure 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup) of water. Sprinkle with salt. Cover the dish with foil and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the beets are knife-tender.
While those are cooking, add the smoked fish and mayonnaise to a food processor. Blend until smooth as possible. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, blend just to incorporate, then taste. Adjust the consistency and seasoning to taste with more lemon juice, if you want.
When the beets are knife-tender, add the greens to the baking dish, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the beet greens and stems are just tender.
Serve the beets and their greens with the smoked fish mayo swooshed alongside, plus a lemon cheek to squeeze over everything. Toast is really nice with this.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.