Beet cashew balsamic spread (& avo toast)

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I grew up cooking, poring over my mom’s cookbook collection and pulling the step stool over to chop and mix at the counter that was too tall for me to reach.

I could usually find what I needed, but it wasn’t until college that I really let loose - for the first time, I was master of my own grocery list and began experimenting with new flavors and produce.

When my brother got me a Nutribullet for Christmas, I went through the same smoothie frenzy that every 20something experiences with their first mini countertop blender. I also experimented with spreads: hummus, pesto, salad dressing, and beet spread.

This beet spread was one of the first I felt that I could call my own, born from good old fashioned trial and error -- I must have gone through at least three dozen batches by now. I tried different kinds of cheese, A/B tested batches by omitting certain ingredients, and experimented with canned beets and boiled beets before landing on the caramelized, crispy roasted version I use now.

 
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Even when I had nothing else to eat, I always had a tupperware of this spread along with some sourdough and avocado to make a quick meal. It’s been a staple at picnics and porch brunches for years since.

While interviewing for my first job out of college, I was asked to describe something I knew really well. Making this spread was the first thing that came to mind - so I talked about the importance of roasting beets for the right color, blending ingredients in stages to avoid sticking, and tasting along the way.

I can’t guarantee this spread will help get you hired into your dream company, but it’ll definitely change your avocado toast game and look good on the ‘gram.

 
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ingredients

3-4 beets (3 if about fist sized, 4 if smaller)

1 ¼ cup raw, unsalted cashews

½ cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese

3-4 cloves garlic

juice from 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp)

1 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp and ¼ cup olive oil, divided

⅓ cup balsamic vinegar

hot water

salt and pepper

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Scrub beets under running water to remove all dirt and impurities. Trim leafy greens if attached, leave skin on and cut in half lengthwise (from root to tip). Toss with 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste on the cut side, and place cut side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork with some crispy edges (that’s where the flavor is!).

Meanwhile, blitz cashews in a food processor or Nutribullet until you reach a fine consistency like almond meal (my Nutribullet is small and sticks so I have to pulse in stages, starting with dry ingredients - ignore instructions and throw everything into a food processor at once if working with a more powerful appliance). Add cheese and garlic, then pulse again until incorporated. Add lemon juice, brown sugar, ¼ cup olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Blend until incorporated.

When beets are done and slightly cooled, peel the skin off using a paper towel or the back of the spoon to keep hands clean. It’s ok if there is some skin left, but try to get most of the thicker pieces off.

Add the roasted beet halves to the blender and blend everything together, adding hot water in 1 tbsp increments if needed to thin - consistency should be like hummus. Taste and add salt, balsamic, or brown sugar as needed.

To serve

This spread is great on toast, as a cracker dip, or thinned with olive oil and tossed with pasta, extra cheese, and salt.

My personal favorite:

Toast a thick slice of sourdough by drizzling both sides with olive oil, then cook in a pan on med-high until golden brown (about 3-4 mins each side).

Spread with a layer of beet dip, then add thin slices of radish and a sprinkling of salt (this helps to complement the bitterness and keep the radish slices crunchy).

Top with avocado slices and aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes.



 
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all photos taken by the lovely Ophelia Ding