Growing up, beetroot appeared at the kitchen table during summers. It was a staple. My mother would fork slices of pickled cooked beetroot from the jar and watch the bright pink beads of pickling liquid land on the table as the fork made its way from the jar to the plate.
It was a condiment to salads. Salads made up of round head lettuce, slices of boiled egg, ham and juicy red tomatoes. Called in from the back garden, or out playing hide and seek in the street, I would come to the plate and begin the ritual.
The salad on the plate would be methodically layered onto a piece of buttered bread. First the ham, then lettuce, followed by tomatoes and finally the egg would be covered in another slice of bread slathered in salad cream. There really was no room for pickled beetroot. The beautiful yellow egg yolk absorbed the colour too easily and I was a purist with my salad sandwich ingredients.
It was a long time before I made friends with beetroot again. I had to take it one step at a time. For a long time it was finely grated, bathed in olive oil and dotted with capers and walnuts - still staying true to the salad roots. This recipe, then, doesn’t stray too far from that territory.
It is salad to mourn the end of summer. I made it a couple of weeks ago, when summer was still in full bloom and before the prospect of an autumn and winter with seemingly endless Covid-19 restrictions.
This was an experiment in balancing flavours and ingredients I was craving – zingy citrus grapefruit with earthy sweet beetroot. Salty feta with creamy cannellini beans. It hit the spot for me and it might for you too. I suggest playing with ratios to hit the right note for your palate, but here are some guidelines.
3 medium beetroot, cooked and sliced into wedges
¼ block of feta, roughly crumbled
1 small grapefruit, roughly chopped
A handful of basil leaves
For the cannellini bean puree
½ jar of cooked cannellini beans
1 small clove garlic, minced
A squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
For the puree, just whiz the ingredients in a food processor until you have a thick, creamy consistency. Add olive oil and lemon juice to suit your palate. I like a lot of olive oil. Season with salt.
Spoon a layer of puree on a plate and add the beetroot, feta, grapefruit and basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil.