My Heart Beets
This Valentine’s Day, this dish will make your heart beat.
As in turn you into a true beet lover if you aren’t already one.
“Georgian Beet and Walnut Spread” will do that to you. It’s from the “Budmo!” (Rizzoli, 2022), of which I received a review copy.
Food photographer and stylist Anna Voloshyna of San Francisco wrote the cookbook as a love letter to her native Ukraine, where she lived for two decades before immigrating to the United States.
Lord knows that Eastern European country has been on everyone’s collected mind for more than a year, as we’ve watched in horror and sorrow the war that Russia has waged against it.
“Budmo!” provides a salve — if for a moment — from that nightmare. It is full of pride and passion for the culture, people, and food traditions that we all hope will endure no matter what.
Voloshyna brings to the table not only classic recipes but ones that she’s imbued with more modern touches. Learn to make everything from “Adjarian Khachapuri,” the irresistible canoe-shaped cheesy bread; “Soup with Buckwheat Dumplings,” and “Pork Shank Braised with Sauerkraut and Beer,” to “Yeasted Barley Blini,” “Cranberry Walnut Strudel,” and “Horseradish-Infused Vodka.”
I first fell for the chilled beet and walnut spread when I had it a few years ago at Bevri (locations in Palo Alto and Los Altos), one of the first Georgian restaurants to open in the Bay Area.
The vivid color draws you to it immediately, and the creamy yet slightly chunky texture from the profusion of walnuts makes it the perfect spread for most any flatbread.
I was even more thrilled to discover how easy it is to make at home. The recipe calls for a touch of ground fenugreek. Although I’ve had fenugreek regularly in various Indian dishes at restaurants, I’d never bought any to use at home. It’s such an interesting herb, with the surprising fragrance and taste of maple syrup, only with the slightest bitter finish.
To make the spread, just boil red beets until tender. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel them, then grate them.
Pulse walnuts, cilantro, parsley, garlic, vinegar, coriander, and the fenugreek in a food processor. Then, add in the beets and a splash of pomegrante molasses, and pulse until a thick paste forms.
Refrigerate the mixture to firm up a tad. Shape into small patties, and garnish with pomegranate arils, cilantro, and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses. Serve with flatbread, pita, crackers or even crudites such as carrot sticks, celery sticks or jicama sticks.
The spread is earthy-sweet from the beets, quite nutty from the walnuts, and wonderfully tangy-fruity and almost wine-y from the pomegranate molasses.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I decided to add a dose of fun by shaping the spread into heart shapes with the use of cookie cutters. They came out pretty marvelous, don’t you think?
After all, the spread’s brilliantly bold fuchsia color makes it a natural choice for celebrating a holiday designed to quicken the beat of the heart.
Georgian Beet and Walnut Spread
2 medium red beets, about 1 pound total weight
1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves
1/3 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for serving
1/3 cup tightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, plus more for serving
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, for garnish
In a medium saucepan, combine the beets with water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the beets are easily pierced with a knife, 30 to 40 minutes. Drain the beets and let them sit for about 10 minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, peel them and then finely grate them. Transfer them to a medium bowl and set aside.
In a food processor, combine the walnuts, cilantro, parsley, garlic, vinegar, coriander, and fenugreek and pulse until the walnuts and herbs are finely chopped. Add the beets and pomegranate molasses and pulse a few more times to combine. You should have a thick paste that can hold its shape.
Transfer the walnut-beet mixture to a medium bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
When ready to serve, shape the mixture into thick patties about 2 inches in diameter and arrange them on a serving plate. Top each patty with a few pomegranate seeds and cilantro leaves and drizzle them with pomegranate molasses.
From “Budmo!” by Anna Voloshyna