Necessity may be the mother of invention but, in our world, leftover ingredients are the mother of creativity.
Case in point: achiote paste. You can indeed make achiote paste (aka recado rojo) from scratch but we keep the store bought paste on hand when we’re wanting a shortcut.
What Is Achiote Paste?
We made ¡Hola! Jalapeño’s Cochinita Pibil recipe and ended up with some achiote paste leftover. Achiote paste (aka recado rojo) is a spiced paste that has a base of annatto seed giving it a brick red color and it’s seen a lot in the Yucatan and Oaxaca.
You find it used for sauces, marinades, and rubs for classic recipes like cochinita pibil, red chorizo, and even in variations on al pastor. When we find ourselves with leftover achiote paste we often combine it with pibil-esque flavors — say orange juice, olive oil, bay leaves — for a quick marinade.
But we recently started making a dressing and adding it to this salad. The earthiness of the beets, the sweetness of the oranges, and toastiness of the walnuts and sesame seeds all work super well with the dressing but you can add or takeaway — say with some crumbly cheese, avocados, or roasted squash — to make it your own.
Why Salt Roast The Beets?
Whenever you salt roast (aka pack something in a salt crust and cook it) the result is that the end product is well seasoned, moist, and tender. You often see the technique used for fish but it’s equally great with root vegetables like carrots, turnips, and beets.
If you don’t have time or desire, you can certainly skip the salt roasting step and just use store bought (or homemade) roasted beets instead. Just make sure to season them well!
Orange, Arugula, and Beet Salad with Achiote Dressing Recipe
- 8 egg whites
- 5 cups kosher salt
- 4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves divided
- 2 pounds beets washed and dried
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 2 tablespoons achiote paste
- 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Kosher salt and Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 medium mandarin oranges or cara cara oranges
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped toasted walnuts for garnish
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds for garnish
- Crumbled feta or Cotija cheese for garnish
- Roast The Beets: Heat oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Combine egg whites, salt, and 1 tablespoon of thyme leaves in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly, using your hands, to create a texture resembling wet sand.
- Cut beets as needed so that all are around the same size. Pack salt mix onto each beet, making sure no skin is exposed. Arrange salt-packed beets on a foil-lined rimmed baking tray so that none are touching. Bake until crust is deep golden brown, and vegetables are tender when pierced with a pairing knife, about 45 to 50 minutes.Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet 5 to 10 minutes. Peel the salt crust away from the vegetables, then peel the skins while still warm. Cut vegetables into 1/2-inch slices.
- Make The Achiote Dressing: Combine oil, achiote, honey, remaining thyme, vinegar, and cinnamon in a blender and begin to blend. Pour water in through the hole at the top of the blender top and blend until smooth. Remove carafe from blender, add salt and pepper, and taste on a leaf of arugula. Add more salt and pepper as needed.
- Supreme The Oranges: To prepare the oranges, start with a sharp knife. Trim the fruit’s ends; set a flat side on a cutting board. Slice off the peel and pith, following the sphere shape of the fruit. Slice into 1/4 –inch rounds.
- To serve, arrange the arugula, oranges, and beets in a serving bowl. Garnish with the sesame seeds, walnuts, and cheese and serve with dressing passed on the side.