Moroccan Beetroot Salad

Most people don’t know beets (called beetroot in many English-speaking countries) mostly originated in North Africa. It’s not what I would consider a standard ingredient in Moroccan cooking, but many private households still use beets extensively as part of a salad.

The warm spices of Morocco and their penchant for sweet-sour-spicy flavors pairs beautifully with the natural earthiness and sweetness of beets. This salad represents one of my favorite ways to enjoy beets – especially the early season ones with their beautiful (and healthy) greens still attached.

I like to roast the beets for this salad, then peel them while they are warm, slice and marinate for at least one hour before serving at room temperature or even chilled.

Yield: makes about 4-6 servings

  • 1 kg (2 pounds) fresh beets/beetroot (see tips)
  • 60 ml. (1/4-cup) extra virgin olive oil (see tips to make oil-free)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate syrup (see tips)
  • 2 teaspoons orange flower water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4-5 tablespoons chopped coriander (see tips for alternatives)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  •  
  • Get started by cooking the beets. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Wash the beets very well, but leave them whole and with some stem still attached. Rub them with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Wrap the beets loosely in aluminum foil and roasted until a knife inserted in the middle glides in with little resistance. This will take anywhere from 60-120 minutes depending on the size and age of your beets.
  • Make your marinade while the beets are roasting in the oven. Add the sliced onions, pomegranate syrup, orange flower water, ground spices and lemon juice. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper – start off with a teaspoon of salt…you can always adjust later on. Work the olive oil into the marinade and allow this to sit at room temperature until your beets are done.
  • Remove the beets from the oven when they are cooked. Cool for 15 minutes or so, then peel them while they are hot – just use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to lift the skins right off the beetroot…and do consider wearing some gloves for this process. Portion into bite-sized wedges and mix into the marinade.
  • After an hour or so, go ahead and mix in the herbs and serve as a separate salad. Keep refrigerated for 3-5 days.

Jack’s Fresh Tip

I like to use a mixture of young colorful beets – always left whole with the skin on and about 2-cm (1-inch) of the stem. Find out more about beet cooking options in the ingredients section for beets/beetroot.

You can make this salad oil free. Consider steaming or boiling the beets instead of roasting. The oil helps to build a slight skin on the beets when roasting and this promotes even cooking. You can also roast them without oil, but just be sure to wrap each beet in aluminum foil before placing them in the oven – this will in essence steam the beets instead of roasting them. To compensate and balance the acidity, try adding a bit of agave syrup or maple syrup to bring some sweetness into the marinade – just go light on it!

Pomegranate syrup and orange flower water are common ingredients throughout the middle east and Turkey. Look in stores specializing in these types of foods to find your source. Use the pomegranate syrup in many recipes to replace lemon juice.

If you don’t like the taste of coriander – perhaps it tastes a bit soapy to you – then just substitute and equal amount of chopped parsley and dill.

Make sure to wash everything right after peeling the beets to minimize stains. Use some lemon juice or white wine vinegar to help neutralize any stubborn areas.

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