5 Ingredients or Fewer

Beets With Smoked Fish Mayo

October  4, 2022
0 Ratings
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

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

What You'll Need
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Beets With Smoked Fish Mayo
  • 1 bunch beets, red or yellow
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 ounces smoked whitefish or trout
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed, and wedges for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 400°F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
  • PNW Brian
    PNW Brian
  • Hope Carr
    Hope Carr
  • gandalf
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

4 Reviews

PNW B. September 26, 2020
The recipe instruction to chop the beet greens, and •then• wash them, strikes me as — I’m trying to be diplomatic here — highly irregular. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before in a recipe. There are a number of reasons a cook washes •before• cutting. Generally, it’s easier and quicker to do it that way — to wash a single large item, instead of a bunch of small pieces.

And especially if you’re washing by immersing the item in a basin of water — as shown here — cutting •after• washing reduces the surface area exposed to dirty water. If you cut before washing in a basin, then the cut surfaces are bathed in dirty water. Even if you change the water several times, this increases the chance that the cut surfaces will absorb contamination, or at least gritty texture.

Even with ingredients like leeks, where it’s not sufficient to wash the exterior, because they usually grow and come to market with dirt on the inner surfaces, it’s not standard practice to chop them up, and then wash them. Instead, you take them apart just enough to expose the surfaces that have dirt and sand on them (perhaps slicing the leek in half lengthwise to get a better view of where the dirt is), wash that off, and then chop.

In the case of beet greens, I can see separating the stems from the leaves, and washing each of those parts separately — because stems and leaves “handle” differently. But I would definitely wash first — and drain and dry — before chopping any further. I think you’ll get cleaner greens that way.
Hope C. September 22, 2020
I made tomato tonnato a few times every summer. I think it was Melissa Clark who got me started on that. I know my sister will be happy with this beet version.
gandalf September 22, 2020
Was that Duke's Mayonnaise that I saw you using? (Add points if your answer is "Yes".)

Emma L. September 22, 2020
Sure was!!