Beets and Pickled Hyacinth Bulbs with Garlic Sauce

Volvi, Kokinogoulia ke Skordalia

Beets have been a favorite winter vegetable in Greece since antiquity, and we find them mentioned several times in Athenaeus. Ancient Greeks considered them a delicacy, and ate them with salted fish and other greens to accompany the wine before the meal during important symposia. Nowadays, beets served with garlic sauce is a very common Lenten dish. Since in Greece we buy the beets raw together with their leaves, this dish is a combination of sweet roots and greens, magnificently complemented with a piquant garlic sauce.

If we add slightly bitter hyacinth bulbs and augment the beet greens with some different greens, the dish becomes even more interesting. This salad is an ideal accompaniment to Fried Salt Cod, but can be served with any kind of fried or salted fish.

The garlic sauce with almonds and potato, which is called aliada, was given to me by Vali Manouilides, an excellent cook whose family comes from Istanbul.

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds mixed greens (amaranth, beet greens, dandelions, spinach, sorrel)
  • 1 pound cooked beets, sliced
  • 1 cup Pickled Wild Hyacinth Bulbs

Garlic Sauce

  • 2 thick slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup shelled almonds, blanched
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5-8 cloves garlic
  • ⅓-½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Method

Wash and trim the greens. Discard all leaves that are not fresh. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the greens, and after the water comes to a boil again, cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Drain greens and arrange on a plate. Top with sliced beets and pickled hyacinth bulbs or pearl onions.

Soak the bread slices in water to cover. When soft, squeeze dry between your hands; you should have 1 cup of bread pulp. Put the bread, potatoes, almonds, salt, and garlic in a blender and process until the mixture is a paste. Add the vinegar and oil, and blend again for 2 seconds, until well mixed.

Spoon the sauce over the vegetables and serve.

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