Beets and Greens with Skordalia (garlic sauce)

Adapted from The Foods of the Greek Islands (Houghton Mifflin)

This garlic-scented combination of beets and greens, or green beans is served on many islands during the spring Lent, before Easter. 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.

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Serve the salad as a first course or as a side dish with grilled or fried fish.

Makes 4-6 servings

Garlic Sauce
3 large potatoes, halved
2 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
3-6 garlic cloves (to taste)
Salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

* *

6 beets, cooked in boiling salted water until tender, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 pound beet greens, chard, or tender green beans, cooked in boiling salted water until just tender, and drained
2–3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or Greek balsamic vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 scallions (green parts only), thinly sliced

In a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the potatoes until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and mash the potatoes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, start the garlic sauce: 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.

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 broccoli.

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