Cinnamon, cumin, & orange blossom water perfume this starter
Beets are autumn on a plate. And in this dish, Moroccan spices heighten their already-enticing flavor (not to mention their aroma). Best of all, the recipe is easy to make.
So you get sensory overload on a slacker schedule. Our kind of dish!
Recipe: Moroccan-Spiced Beet Salad
We use traditional red beets in this dish, but golden beets would work just as well.
You can roast or boil the beets for this recipe – we give instructions for both. Roasting yields slightly better flavor, but boiling is easier.
This recipe was adapted from Paula Wolfert’s Couscous and Other Good Foods from Morocco. The original book has been out of print for a while, but a revised edition is available.
Prep time for this dish is about 40 minutes, much of it unattended (30 minutes or so for cooking the beets, plus another 10 minutes for putting the salad together). Then you should let the salad sit for at least an hour (2 or 3 hours is better) so the flavors blend together.
This recipe yields 4 starter-size servings. Leftovers keep for a day or two if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- ~1 pound beets
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (pimentón)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar (optional; to taste)
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water (aka orange flower water)
- a pinch or two of salt (to taste)
- 2 tablespoons parsley or cilantro, chopped
- Cut the leaves off the beets, leaving an inch or so of stalk attached. Do not cut the root ends. Scrub the beets. If roasting: Wrap each beet in aluminum foil. Turn the oven to 400 degrees F, and place the beets in it to roast. Cook until they’re just tender (30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the beets). When done, unwrap the beets and allow them to cool. If cooking on the stovetop: Add the beets to a cooking pot filled with cold water. Place on stovetop heat and bring to a simmer. Cook until the beets become tender (20 to 35 minutes, depending on size). When done, drain the beets and allow them to cool (we usually rinse the beets under cold water to speed the cooling process).
- While the beets are cooling, mix the vinaigrette: Add all remaining ingredients (except parsley/cilantro) to a medium-sized bowl, then whisk them together. Taste, and adjust salt and sugar if necessary.
- When the beets are cool, cut off their stalks and root ends, then peel them. Cut the beets into dice of about ½ inch or slice them thinly. Add them to the mixing bowl, and toss them thoroughly with the vinaigrette. Then let the beets steep in the vinaigrette for at least an hour (or longer; cover with shrink wrap and refrigerate if you marinate them for more than an hour).
- Right before serving, mince the parsley or cilantro, and toss it with the beets.
- Dish up and enjoy.
- A little minced garlic would be a welcome addition to this dish. So would chopped scallion and/or freshly ground black pepper.
- You could also substitute fresh mint for the parsley or cilantro.
- Don’t have orange blossom water on hand? You could try substituting rose water. We haven’t used it, but suspect it would work well.
- You could even skip the orange blossom water altogether, but it does add delightful fragrance and flavor. The dish won’t be as good without it. Orange blossom water can be hard to find, but it’s available online (Amazon carries it).
- Beets can stain your hands. So wear disposable gloves when preparing them. (A little household bleach will remove the stain easily.)
- BTW, the color of beets doesn’t break down in your digestive system. Expect them to tinge your urine and stool. Just FYI.
- Beets are usually sold with their greens. When the beets are young, we like to use the greens raw in salads. With the beets are more mature, you can cook the greens as you would spinach.
- Outside of North America, beets generally are called “beetroot.”
If You Can’t Beet ‘Em . . . .
“Mmm, love beets,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And orange blossom water makes them sing.”
“Orange you glad I thought of it?” I said.
“Careful with those puns,” said Mrs K R. “I’m cumin to get you.”
“Just spicing up the conversation,” I said.
“Guess it’s parsley my fault,” said Mrs K R. “I seem to encourage you.”
“Yes, you’re my pun-abler,” I said.
“Watch it paprika boy, you could get smoked,” said Mrs K R.
OK. Olive that alone.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Moroccan-Spiced Sweet Potato and Chickpea Soup
Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)
Moroccan Carrot Salad
Moroccan Orange and Radish Salad
Curried Cauliflower Soup
Indian Carrot Salad with Mustard Seeds
Or check out the index for more