Horseradish and Beet Sauce
Jews serve horseradish, sliced as a root or ground into a sauce, at Passover to symbolize the bitterness of slavery. It was in Ashkenaz, what is now Alsace-Lorraine and southern Germany, that the horseradish root replaced the romaine and arugula of more southerly climates as the bitter herbs at the Passover dinner. Today, farmers in France dig up horseradish roots and peel and grate them outdoors, making sure to protect their eyes from the sting. Then they mix the root with a little sugar and vinegar and sometimes grated beets, keeping it for their own personal use or selling it at local farmers’ markets.
Horseradish with beets originally came from farther east in Poland, to which Jews immigrated from the west in the fourteenth century, and from the east probably earlier. It was a condiment served at Easter and represented the blood of Jesus Christ, something that I will bet most Jews did not know when they bought it from farmers at outside markets in Poland.
A few years ago, I ate an adaptation of this tasty sauce at the short-lived Kutsher’s Restaurant in New York. I have played with it and now it is a keeper at our Passover seder.
- 3 large beets (about 2 pounds/907 grams), trimmed but not peeled
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces/113 grams (about 1 cup) peeled and roughly chopped fresh horseradish root
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1–2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rub the whole beets with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and wrap in foil. Bake the beets for about an hour or until tender in the center when pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then peel and cut into large chunks.
- In the bowl of a food processor, mix the horseradish and the vinegar. Process with the steel blade until finely chopped; do not purée. Add the beets and remaining olive oil. Pulse until the beets are coarsely chopped, but not puréed. Transfer to a bowl and add the salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Cover and refrigerate for at least a day. Serve as an accompaniment to the gefilte fish mold.
- Excerpted from KING SOLOMON’S TABLE by Joan Nathan. Copyright © 2017 by Random House. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.