This recipe is from one of my absolute favorite cookbooks, Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin. She organizes it by season and has a full menu for each entry. This book is one that has improved and inspired my cooking more than almost any other book. Her food is complex and layered, which means you do need some time to prepare it, but I’ve found every dish to be worth the effort.
About 2 hours, 30 minutes of that is active time
3 bunches of beets, mixed colors if possible
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup cooked chickpeas (see recipe below)
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup Nyons olives or other oil-cured olives
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 chevre or ricotta salata
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the greens off the beets, leaving about 1/2 inch of the stem still attached. Wash the beets and toss them with 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tsp salt. Put the beets in an oven safe dish with a splash of water on the bottom. Cover dish tightly with foil and roast the beets about 40 minutes or until tender when pierced. The exact time varies greatly depending on the size of your beets, so start checking a little earlier and be prepared to roast for an hour or more if your beets are large. When they’re done, remove the foil and let cool. Then peel the beets and slice into wedges, then place in a large bowl. If you have mixed colors, put the red ones in the bowl and keep back the other colors.
While beets are cooking, toast the cumin seeds in a medium pan over medium heat 2-3 minutes, until the seeds release their aroma and darken slightly. Pound half the seeds to a fine powder.
Transfer the cumin powder to a bowl with the remaining cumin seeds, 1/4 tsp salt, red wine vinegar and 1 tbsp lemon juice. Whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil. Taste for balance and seasoning.
Add the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil to the cumin pan and heat 2 minutes until the oil is very hot. Add the cooked chickpeas and fry them 4-5 minutes, shaking the pan often, until they are crispy and browned. Drain on paper towels.
If you have mixed colors of beets, you want to mix them in batches to keep the red ones from taking over and making them all look red. I put the red beets in the bowl, add a proportional amount of the shallots, then season with 1/4 tsp salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper, gently toss with a proportional amount of the vinaigrette. Season to taste, then spread on a platter and repeat with remaining beets-you can mix the golden and the Chiogga if you have them-but keep back about 1/4 of the vinaigrette. Keep this in the bowl and gently toss in the olives and parsley leaves.
Put pieces of chevre or ricotta salata on and around the beets on the serving platter, then scatter about half of the chickpeas over the top. Place the rest of the beets on top and nestle the remaining cheese and chickpeas into the salad.
This makes more than you need for the above recipe, so keep the leftovers on hand for your next salad or just for munching.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 chile de arbol, crumbled
1 tsp thyme (dried is ok here)
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas
a healthy pinch cayenne pepper (my chile de arbols are super spicy, so I skipped this)
1 tsp paprika
1 cinnamon stick
Heat a medium pot over high heat for 2 minutes. Pour in the olive oil, wait a minute, and then add the onion, garlic, chile, thyme and bay leaf. Cook for a minute or two until the onion is wilted and then add the chickpeas, paprika, cayenne (if you’re using) and the cinnamon stick. Stir for a few minutes to coat the chickpeas with the oil and spices.
Cover with water by 3 inches and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to low and place a paper towel on top of the chickpeas to keep them under the surface (I didn’t need to do this).
Simmer for 30 minutes, then add 2 1/2 tsp salt. Continue cooking on a low simmer about 1 hour until the chickpeas are tender-mine took about 2 hours to get tender. Add water as necessary. When they are done, cool the chickpeas in their juices.