This garlic-scented combination of beets and greens, or green beans is served on many islands during the spring Lent, before Easter and all-through the summer. On other occasions, you will find it accompanying fried salt cod, fried anchovies or other humble fish. The skordalia (garlic sauce) in this particular version can be quite mild and creamy, like garlicky mashed potatoes, or more pungent, to your taste.
See also the unusual Pelion skordalia with unripe grapes or verjuice.
Serve the salad as a first course or as a side dish with grilled or fried fish.
Adapted from The Foods of the Greek Islands (Houghton Mifflin)
Makes 4-6 servings
THE GARLIC SAUCE (Skordalia)
2-3 medium potatoes, halved –depending on how mild you want the skordalia
Two 1/2-inch-thick slices sturdy white bread, crusts removed, soaked in water until softened, and squeezed dry
1/2 cup blanched whole almonds, soaked in water for at least 2–3 hours, or preferably overnight, and drained
3–5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice –or more, to taste
3-6 garlic cloves (to taste)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2-1 cup thick, Greek yogurt, preferably full fat (optional)
6 beets of any color, cooked in boiling salted water until tender, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 pound beet greens, chard, amaranth shoots, or tender green beans, cooked in boiling salted water until just tender, and drained
2–3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 scallions (green parts only), thinly sliced
For the garlic sauce: In a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the potatoes until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and mash the potatoes. Set aside. (you can cook the potatoes up to 1-2 days before making skordalia. Mash and refrigerate, covered until needed.
Place the bread, almonds, 1 to 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, the garlic (use 3 or more cloves according to how strong you like the sauce) and salt to taste in a food processor and process into a smooth paste. In a medium bowl, combine the almond mixture, potatoes, oil, the remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and a few pepper grindings. Taste and adjust the seasonings. If the sauce is too thick, stir in a few tablespoons of water and if you like, just before serving, fold in some thick yogurt.
To assemble, serve the chopped beets and greens on a platter, passing the garlic sauce around in a bowl.
Alternatively, mound the garlic sauce in the middle of a serving platter and arrange the beet slices around one side of it and the greens or beans on the other. Sprinkle the vegetables with the vinegar and drizzle oil over the garlic sauce. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve.
VARIATION: Instead of greens or beans, you can use steamed cauliflower or broccoli.