This beet salad was inspired by a very enjoyable dish we had at Mitbahon, a cute little restaurant behind the Carmel Market. I do believe our friends call it “the best-tasting beets ever.” Needless to say, I liked it enough to try to make something similar at home. The Mitbahon version was seasoned with bay leaves and allspice, but for some reason, allspice is one of the few spices I don’t actually have, so I went with cloves and peppercorns instead.
The result was mild, lightly seasoned, and quite good. As a bonus, I used the seasoned water from cooking the beets to make rice.
For about 4 tapas-sized servings, or 2 full-sized servings:
2 beets (about 400 grams)
4-6 bay leaves
2-3 whole cloves
12 peppercorns (more or less)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine or sherry vinegar
Wash the beets to remove any dirt or loose roots, and trim off the stems, leaving about a centimeter. Put the beets into a pot, and cover with water. Add the salt, the bay leaves, the cloves and the pepper, and boil until the beets are soft (test with a fork).
Let the beets cool for a bit, and then dunk them into cold water. With a bit of coaxing, the peel should slide off easily into your hands. Meanwhile, you’ll look like you murdered someone.
Remove and discard the remaining stems and the tip of the root, and dice the beets into long strips or cubes. Toss with vinegar, and add some of the cooked bay leaves for decoration. Add more salt to taste, and let sit for a few minutes so that the flavors blend.
As a bonus, you can use the water from boiling and dunking the beets as a soup broth or to cook rice; just strain out the stray roots and bits of debris.
I had just enough water left over (3 1/2 cups) to cook two cups of long-grained rice. It came out a pleasant shade of yellow.
To prepare rice: Put 3 1/2 cups of liquid and 2 cups of long-grained rice into a pot, along with a few extra bay leaves and a bit of salt, boil on a low flame until all the water is absorbed (no peeking), then turn off the flame, wrap the lid of the pot in a towel, and let sit for another 10 minutes or so.
Serving suggestion: Top the rice with leftover beet marinade (the vinegar solution, which will be bright pink) or with the beets themselves.