Roasted Baby Beets with Watercress Yogurt Sauce


By Priscilla Martel

First, we eat with our eyes, one reason to try this recipe for Roasted Baby Beets with Watercress Yogurt Sauce. It makes a lunch or first course when the weather cools. A light and fresh starter, the dish features an unexpected combination of sweet, tart and peppery flavors.

The cover of Alana Chernila’s excellent new book Eating from the Ground Up inspired this recipe. It pictures a plate of roasted radishes on a creamy pale green sauce. Its simplicity appeals to me because one rarely sees cooked radishes anymore. It inspired me to pair roasted beets and watercress, a peppery green that compliments the sweetness of the beets. Thick yogurt provides a tart creamy base for the sauce.

Scandinavians use white pepper to add a piney flavor to cured salmon gravlax. (Charlie likes white pepper on his eggs.) Finishing the dish with white pepper reminds me that this salad would be an excellent accompaniment to smoked salmon or trout.

Kitchen Notebook:

Have you noticed that arugula has replaced watercress at most markets?   The produce manager at Stop + Shop in Old Saybrook, Connecticut told me I could find it only bagged as a baby green. B+W Bagged Watercress is widely available. One advantage to buying the baby leaves are their tiny, tender stems.


Yield: 6 – 7 servings


2 bunches small fresh beets, about 2 pounds with the greens

1 cup rich plain yogurt such as Siggis 4%

One 4-ounce bag fresh baby watercress or 2 bunches fresh watercress, stems removed

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cumin

2 Tablespoons light olive or avocado oil

Watercress sprigs for garnish

Nasturtium blossoms and leaves for garnish

Olive oil for garnish

White pepper for garnish

Rye bread or whole grain crackers for garnish


  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Cut the beet greens from the beets leaving two inches of stem. Save the greens for another use.
  • Wash the beets and wrap them while still wet in aluminum foil. Roast the beets for 30 minutes then test them for doneness. Each beet should be easy to pierce with a paring knife. If they are too firm, return the beets to the oven to bake 5 or 10 minutes longer.
  • Let the beets cool at room temperature the refrigerate up to 2 days before using.
  • To make the watercress sauce, measure the yogurt into a deep beaker, blender or food processor. Add 2 tightly packed cups of the watercress. Insert an immersion blender into the beaker and blend on high until the watercress breaks down and blends into the yogurt. (Or blend or process on high for about 1 minute.)
  • Add another tightly packed cup watercress the salt and cumin. Blend raising and lowering the immersion blender wand in the mixture until it is uniformly bright green. (Or blend or process on high until the watercress is pulverized and the yogurt is smooth and bright green.)
  • Add the oil and season with more salt if needed. Store the sauce tightly covered in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to 3 days.
  • To serve the salad, peel the beets by squeezing them gently between your fingers. For appearance, try to keep the stem end intact. Unless they are tiny, cut each beet in half.
  • For each serving spread about 1/4 cup of the watercress sauce in the center of the plate. Place three or four beet halves cut side down in the sauce. Garnish with several more watercress stems, nasturtium blossoms and leaves. Drizzle lightly with oil then season with white pepper.
  • Serve with buttered rye crackers or bread.


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