Necessity may be the mother of invention but, in our world, leftover ingredients are the mother of creativity. We love cooking all sorts of recipes from our favorite spots -- California, Italy, and Mexico -- but the result is we sometimes end up with A LOT of one particular ingredient.
Case in point: achiote paste. You can indeed make achiote pasta (aka recado rojo) from scratch but we keep the storebought paste on hand when we're wanting a shortcut.
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 annato 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, 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.
washed and dried
or maple syrup
or white wine vinegar
or cara cara oranges
For the salt-roasted beets: Heat oven to 400°F and arrange rack in the middle of 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 vegetables 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. (Beets can be roasted up to 4 days in advance – store refrigerated in an airtight container.)
For the salad dressing: Combine oil 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. (Dressing can be made up to 4 days in advance – store refrigerated in an airtight container.)
For serving: 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. (Citrus can be prepped up to 1 day in advance – store refrigerated in an airtight container.)
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.
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