Note: On Wednesdays, Andrea Lynn, senior editor of Chile Pepper magazine, drops by with Serious Heat.
Spice doesn't just come in the form of capsaicin-based wonders. There's that fabulous nasal-cleansing heat of roots like horseradish and Japanese horseradish, commonly known as wasabi. With a light touch of heat in the beginning that explodes through the sinuses at the end, horseradish keeps you coming back for more. Whether stirred into sour cream, topped onto soups, mixed in a Bloody Mary, or slathered over roast beef, it gives a tingling, delayed heat that is positively addicting.
Only experimenting with the actual root for the first time this week (they are quite ugly things, aren't they?), I found freshly grated horseradish more flavorful and not quite as pungent as the canned variety. I grated it using a Microplane to get its full power for the finer the root is chopped or grated, the stronger the flavor.
If you want to preserve horseradish, mix the grated root with vinegar to preserve its pungency. If not mixed with vinegar, the crushed root can lose its flavor and turn a dark color. Cream, mustard or mayo, along with a bounty of spices, can be added to create various horseradish sauces.
A good match for the piquancy of horseradish is the sweet, velvetiness of beets, like roasted beats sandwiched with horseradish cream. But who wants to heat the house with the oven right now? (Not me.) I found a much quicker, delightful summer way to use beets: Grate the beets and toss in a horseradish vinaigrette to give those crunchy beets a punch. And smooth avocado pairs nicely with the salad. Oh, you beet-haters out there--just give it a try, I implore. These aren't your cafeteria canned beets. Just don't say I didn't warn you about potential red stains in your kitchen.
Raw Beet Salad with Horseradish Dressing and Avocado
Zest Factor: Mild to Medium
- 1 bunch of beets (about 3 to 4 medium beets), peeled
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated horseradish, or 1/2 teaspoon bottled horseradish
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 avocado, sliced
- Sea salt
Grate beets using a box grater placed in a bowl for minimal red-stained mess. In a small bowl, add horseradish, rice vinegar, and whisk in olive oil to emulsify. Taste, and add more horseradish until desired flavor is achieved. Dress over the grated beets. Serve with sliced avocado and sprinkle both with sea salt.