Beets are grown year-round in California but this is the time of year when I think they taste best. The root vegetables are sweet, taste pleasantly of the earth in which they’ve grown and have flavors that pack a punch when smoked, grilled, steamed or even when eaten raw. Plus, they’re incredibly good for you and interesting to cook with as they soak up flavors of the other ingredients you’re using just like a sponge. I’ve heard sipping the pot liquor, that vitamin-packed liquid leftover from boiling beet greens, is a tried-and-true remedy for the cold.
Just in time for Memorial Day, Chef Travis Strickland has shared his “set it and forget it” smoked beets recipe with me. He’s throwing beets of all different varieties on the grill at Baltaire — golden beets, Detroit reds and pink-and-white striped Chioggias — before serving them with a tangy sauce of yogurt, sumac, pistachios and sorrel. What could go wrong?
Smoked Beets with Lime Yogurt Sauce
Yield: Makes 2 to 3 servings
Smoked Beets (see recipe below)
Lime Yogurt Sauce (see recipe below)
2 tbsps pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 tbsp ground sumac
A few leaves of red-veined sorrel
Salt, to taste
1 bunch medium-sized red beets, tops removed
1 bunch medium-sized golden beets, tops removed
1 bunch medium-sized candy-striped beets, tops removed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Prepare your smoker or hardwood grill, preferably using pecan wood. The temperature should reach no higher than 225ºF.
Season the beets: Meanwhile wash the beets very well and cut into halves. Place them in a large bowl and toss to coat evenly with olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper, to taste.
Cook the beets: Next transfer the beets to your smoker or hardwood grill. Grill or smoke your beets over indirect heat for about 30 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a small paring knife in the center of the beets. (There should be no resistance once fully cooked).
Note: If your beets require additional time, transfer them to a pan covered in foil and finish roasting them in a 300ºF preheated oven until tender. Then remove the beets from the oven without removing the foil cover allowing them to steam inside the pan for 10 minutes.
Peel the skins off using a paring knife and cut the beets into ¾-inch pieces. Allow to cool at room temperature and reserve.
Lime Yogurt Sauce
Yield: Makes about 3 cups
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 tbsps amber honey
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
2 limes, zested and juiced
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ cup of crème fraîche
1 Persian or Japanese cucumber, peeled and cut to ⅛-inch dice
3 tbsps fresh chives, minced
3 tbsps fresh dill, finely chopped
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the ingredients and fold gently together until evenly distributed. Reserve in the refrigerator until ready to use.
When you are ready to serve: Lightly dress the Smoked Beets with olive oil and sea salt in a large bowl.
Then use half the Lime Yogurt Sauce to dress the bottom of each plate with a round of the sauce. Arrange the Smoked Beets in a pile on top and drizzle the remaining half portion of the sauce on top of the beets. Garnish with the red-veined sorrel, chopped pistachios and a sprinkling of the sumac.