Bagna Cauda Beet Salad
Bagna cauda is one of my favorite Northern Italian dishes, and not just because its name, which translates to hot bath, is so charming. It's a delicious dipping sauce of sorts, made by gently simmering olive oil, garlic, and anchovies together until the pungent flavors mellow and unite. In Piemonte, bagna cauda is served in the center of the table and surrounded by raw vegetables, typically cardoons, fennel, peppers, and carrots. Sometimes a candle is placed under the sauce to keep it warm while dinner guests dip and eat.
In this recipe, a bagna cauda-like dressing gets tossed with roasted beets. It may not be traditional to serve beets with bagna cauda, but I think the flavors partner marvelously.
Serves 4 - 6 as a side dish
2 pounds small beets
2 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 anchovy fillets, or more to taste
½ lemon, for squeezing
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Rinse the beets well and trim their leafy tops, leaving 1 inch of stem attached. Place the beets in a single layer in a small roasting dish. Pour in enough water to almost cover the beets. Wrap the dish tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until the beets are tender when poked with a fork, about 1 hour.
Let the roasted beets cool slightly. While they are still warm, slip off their skins using your fingers or a small knife. Cut the beets into bite-sized halves or wedges, depending on their size. (Beets can be roasted a few days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator).
Using a mortar and pestle or the back of a knife, pound the garlic and ½ teaspoon salt to a smooth paste. Transfer it to a small pan and add the olive oil and anchovy. Cook the mixture over low heat until the anchovies break apart and the garlic softens, about 5 minutes.
To serve, toss the beets with the bagna cauda dressing. Squeeze in some lemon juice, mix well, and taste. Add a bit more lemon juice or salt, if needed. Sprinkle some pepper and the parsley on top of the beets. Serve warm or chilled.
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