Curd is the most basic fresh cheese that you can make yourself without the use of rennet or other additives. It’s not widely available in stores, but making it is so uncomplicated that you should definitely try to do so yourself. Just remember to begin a day in advance! The yogurt needs to drain overnight. Briefly smoke the curd, and you won’t believe just how wonderful it will taste.
Place a clean dish towel in a strainer. Place the strainer over a large bowl. Pour in the yogurt and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in the basement, the fridge, or in another cool spot in the house. The next day, stir the zest and juice into the strained yogurt and season with salt and pepper. Save some of the whey that drained into the bowl for your dressing!
Put the beets in an olive oil–greased baking dish, sprinkle with another splash of oil, and cover with aluminum foil.
Make the whey dressing: Put the whey in a bowl. Add salt and pepper and stir with a small whisk until the salt has dissolved. Continue whisking while adding the oil. Cover and refrigerate.
Put the curd in a small bowl. Fill one side of the smoker box with the wood chips and put the bowl on the rack on the other side of the box. Cover and smoke for 2 minutes over low heat.
Remove from the heat and leave the curd inside the smoker for another 5 minutes. Spoon into a pastry bag or cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Toast the buckwheat in a dry skillet until the grains pop. Set aside.
Slice the cooked beets as thinly as possible. The easiest way to do this is on a Japanese mandoline or a vegetable slicer. Divide the beet slices among six to eight plates. Drizzle with three-quarters of the dressing and allow it to absorb—it should steep for at least 30 minutes.
Spoon or pipe fat dollops of the smoked curd onto the beets. Sprinkle with black pepper and the roasted buckwheat. Grate some lemon zest on top and serve straightaway.
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