Candy Cane Beets with Yogurt and Pistachio-Mint Pesto

Early on in my relationship

with Evan, our friend Ellie commented that Evan and I were perfect for each other because I cook and he is invariably the loudest, most enthusiastic eater at the table. She was right-his moans and groans and fluttery eyelids last throughout most meals, no matter how seemingly simple the food. The guy simply loves to eat.


The first time I saw him eat sushi, I was slightly embarrassed (every piece of every maki roll got plenty of verbal and nonverbal attention), but mostly I was enamored-and felt damn lucky: Somehow I had managed to find the greatest guy in the world, and he REALLY loves food. Obviously, this was meant to be.

Of course, not every dish warrants a standing ovation. He's honest about when something needs a little salt (or has too much of it-sometimes I have a heavy hand in that department). And by the same token, some dishes go above and beyond his regular (very optimistic) expectations. This dish, I'm happy to tell you is one of them.

I first made this a few weeks ago after a long Sunday of socializing and catching up with work. Our brains and nerves were fried, so we decided that a relaxing evening of dinner was in order. I wanted our meal to be easy to make and fun to eat. I also didn't want to go to the grocery store, so, I worked with what we had: beets, yogurt, pistachios, and mint.

The result was Middle Eastern-meets-Sonoma wine picnic, and it was just what we needed: tender-crisp, sweet beets, with dollops of creamy Greek yogurt and a pistachio-mint pesto that tasted like much more than the sum of its parts. This would soon become a regular addition to our meal rotation. I was proud to have created something that elicited so much praise from Evan, but the truth is that the beets were just so sweet, the yogurt so creamy, and the mint-pistachio combination so perfect that the only thing I really deserved credit for was bringing them all together.

As usual, we had a ball of pizza dough in the fridge, which I rolled and cooked into naan-like flatbreads and used to scoop up this platter of goodness. Quinoa, tabbouleh, or brown rice would also be a good addition.

I like to serve this as the center of a meal, but it also makes a lovely appetizer, especially with chilled white wine or Prosecco.


3 large or 4 medium candy cane beets (red or golden beets will also work), tops removed and saved for another use


1 cup fresh mint leaves (about 1 small bunch)


1/3 cup toasted, shelled pistachios (buy in the bulk section), plus a few for garnish


1 clove garlic, peeled



1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


1 tablespoon lemon juice (from about 1/4 lemon)

50 cents for a whole lemon

2/3 cup Greek yogurt (preferably full fat)

$2 for 8 ounces

freshly ground black pepper


Total cost of ingredients:



Cook the beets in boiling water for 20-25 minutes, until tender.

Under cold running water, slip the skins off the beets and discard. Slice the beets into 1/4-inch rounds. Set aside.

In a blender or food processor, combine the mint, pistachios, garlic, salt, olive oil, and lemon juice. Pulse until a thick paste forms and stir in the salt.

Spoon the yogurt into the center of a large dinner plate. Arrange the beets around the yogurt mound. Drizzle the pesto around the outside of the beets.

Garnish with pepper and a scattering of pistachios. Serve immediately.

Serves 2-3.