We take our sweet, tender Mediterranean beets for granted. We boil them in water, and they are perfectly succulent with any dressing, even eaten plain, skin removed. When I first tasted roast beets in the United States, I realized that the strain of sweet beets that thrive in our garden is very different from the one cultivated here, which lacks the fruitlike flavor of Mediterranean beets. But I was determined to get my kind of tender sweetness out of common American beets, and here is my recipe.
Wash the beets and trim their tops. Place the beets in a saucepan, add water to cover, the lemon juice, and the cinnamon stick (if using). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the beets are fork-tender. You may have to remove the smaller beets and cook the larger ones a bit longer. Drain and let cool, then peel them easily by rubbing off the skin. Halve or quarter the larger beets and transfer to a bowl.
Halve the kumquats and use a spoon to remove the bitter flesh—discard or reserve to use in the orange cake syrup—and cut the skin into slivers.
Make the dressing: In a small saucepan, simmer the orange juice with the honey for 2 to 3 minutes, until reduced to about ¼ cup (
Pour half of the dressing over the beets and toss. Transfer the beets to a shallow bowl or a platter and add the arugula leaves. Sprinkle with crumbled shanklish and pour the rest of the dressing on top, sprinkling with the slivered kumquat. Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding salt, pepper, or more lemon juice, to taste.
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