I was purging recipes out of my recipe binder when I came across a slip of yellowed newspaper- it was Mark Bittman’s recipe for beets with garlic walnut sauce. (Mark Bittman is the brilliance behind How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, as well as a New York Times Columnist.) Two days later a gorgeous bunch of dark red beets showed up in my farm box, so clearly making Bittman’s recipe was meant to be. However, the recipe needed to be “paleofied” so that it would work with our dietary framework.
The most significant issue, which comes up consistently when working with non-Paleo recipes, is that olive oil is not recommended for cooking (for eating, yes- liberally- but heating, no- see this helpful chart of Paleo cooking oils). My work-around for this recipe was to use roasted garlic instead of garlic sautéed in olive oil, and I dry-toasted the walnuts instead of toasting them in oil. I keep roasted garlic cloves in the freezer for just this kind of situation- if you don’t have roasted garlic on hand (and you don’t have an extra hour to roast garlic in the oven), try this technique for roasting garlic in the microwave in about 5-8 minutes (you can omit the oil).
Another change I made was one of convenience: rather than use fresh orange juice, which meant driving to the grocery store, I used a small amount of frozen orange juice concentrate (additive-free, of course). I think this actually works better for the recipe, because it adds less liquid, which helps the sauce cling to the beets.
Finally, I couldn’t help but double the proportion of sauce to beets, because I’m a saucy kind of person.
The result was an unqualified success, and received an especially enthusiastic thumbs-up from my 7-year-old. Beets can often have an aftertaste of… dirt, but in this recipe the richness of the garlic and walnut mellows out the beets’ earthy flavor and highlights its natural sweetness. This recipe will definitely be a part of our regular rotation from now on.
Bittman’s Beets with Garlic Walnut Sauce, Paleofied
What You Need:
- 1 lb red beets, stem and rootling removed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, roasted and peeled
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/4 tsp frozen orange juice concentrate
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
What to Do:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Wash beets and place them, still wet, in a single layer in a baking dish. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour. Use a fork to check if beets are cooked through (they should be firm when the fork is inserted, but not so hard that you have to use force). If they need more time, continue baking in 15 minute increments. When cooked, remove from oven and let cool.
- Toast walnuts in a dry skillet over low heat (5-7 minutes, with occasional stirring). When the walnuts are golden-brown, remove them from the pan.
- Add olive oil, roasted garlic, walnuts, orange juice concentrate and salt to a food processor. Blend until they form a grainy paste the consistency of whole grain mustard.
- Peel the beets by slipping the skins off with your hands. Dice them, and toss gently with the sauce until coated.
- Top with the fresh parsley and serve.