Pumpkin spice season is officially here, but to me, few ingredients taste as much like autumn as roasted beets. It could be the deep red color or the earthy sweetness, or maybe knowing that it’s a root vegetable, and fall is a time when we deepen our own roots. (That’s how I like to think about the cold weather months when I’d rather be hibernating like a bear.)
But it’s not officially fall yet, and there are plenty of warm days ahead of us, which is why this paneer and beet salad from “Indian Family Kitchen: Classic Dishes for a New Generation” by Anjali Pathak (Octopus Publishing, $27.50) feels like such a good fit.
Paneer is that fresh pressed cheese that doesn’t melt easily and is common in Indian restaurants and markets. For this dish, you can roast the beets and sear the paneer ahead of time to serve the salad at room temperature, if you prefer. The horseradish dill dressing would be excellent to serve by itself with a tray of raw vegetables, and feel free to use regular salad greens instead of watercress.
Paneer and Roasted Beet Salad
1 1/4 lb. mixed-colored raw beets, peeled and cut into wedges
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. black mustard seeds
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 3/4 oz. (about 1/2 cup) whole blanched hazelnuts
5 1/2 oz. paneer, cut into large, bite-size pieces
2 Tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. horseradish sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. roughly chopped dill
Good pinch of sea salt
Drizzle of honey, to taste
2 cups watercress
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the beets in a roasting tray and drizzle over half the oil. Rub them with the mustard seeds and ginger and roast for 25 minutes. Add the hazelnuts and allow them to toast with the beets for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, gently heat up the remaining oil in a skillet, add the pieces of paneer and fry, moving them around often, until they are golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels while you make the dressing.
Whisk together the yogurt, horseradish, lemon juice, dill, salt and honey in a small bowl. Remove the roasted beets and toasted hazelnuts from the oven, then toss with the paneer, watercress and dressing. Serves 4.
— From “Indian Family Kitchen: Classic Dishes for a New Generation” by Anjali Pathak (Octopus Publishing, $27.50)