Beats, Rhymes and Life, the 1996 album by A Tribe Called Quest, was the inspiration for this dish. The pun “beets, limes and life” popped into my head a few weeks ago and I’ve been obsessed with the idea of creating a dish with that name since. The sprouts are the “life” in the dish. If you’re not a Tribe fan or just want to get to the recipe, that’s fine, you can skip down to “Tools Needed.” (I promise you won’t hurt my feelings; just try not to get thrown off by the lyrical references.)
For those of you still with me: I love a lot of different kinds of music including hip hop. I have a lot of “favorite” artists and bands, and the only music I never ever get sick of (under any circumstances) are Tribe’s records. They’ve lifted me up out of the gutter too many times to count. I don’t care how bad a mood I’m in, if I listen to Electric Relaxation (the greatest song ever recorded), I always feel a little better. And I can pretty much say the same about Tribe’s entire catalogue.
Last year Tribe released their first record in 18 years – We Got It From Here, Thank You For Your Service. It’s one of the best hip hop records of the last decade and, thankfully, welcomes back Jarobi White, who left Tribe to pursue a career as a chef. Coincidentally, he has a company called Eats, Rhymes and Life.
Now, let’s see how well you know your Tribe trivia. 1 is for the beet, 2 is for the lime, 3 is for the life, now we on this incline. Never catch us stickin’ forks in swine (Misti and I don’t eat no ham and eggs, because, in addition to the fact that they’re not vegan, they’re very high in cholesterol). But we do eat a lot of beets, which eat more like meat than any vegetable in my opinion. That’s what makes them great for a sandwich. (If any beet haters get up in your grill, just Push It Along.)
The prep for this sandwich is more than you’d typically have for a sandwich you make at home. Sometimes, though, it’s fun to stretch yourself and try something that requires a little more time and effort (the joy of cooking something truly good). That’s why, at least on occasion, we don’t really mind if it’s over your head, ‘cause the job of resurrectors is to wake up the dead.
1 Small bowl
Zester/fine grater for zesting lime
Lime and Cilantro Aioli Sandwich Dressing:
Fresh Garlic – 2 cloves (smashed into a paste with a pinch of salt)
Vegan mayo – ¼ cup
Cilantro – small handful (chopped finely)
Pinch of salt
Pepper to taste
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Directions: Chop cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt and smooth with side of knife to make a paste. Add garlic paste, chopped cilantro, mayo, lime zest and juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir and set aside.
Fresh Red Beets – 3 (1 is enough for a couple sandwiches but it’s good to have leftover beets for more sandwiches or for salad). You can use golden if you prefer; they’re a little less earthy.*
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C). Cut tops off whole cleaned beets (leave rest of skin on). Leave beets whole and place cut side down on baking sheet. Leave a few inches between the beets. Roast beets for an hour or until a sharp knife can be easily inserted into your beets. (Large beets may require more cooking time; if they’re on the small side, you may want to check them after 45 minutes.) You do not need to move the beets during cooking. Just leave them cut side down on the baking sheet. After cooking, let beets sit out at room temperature until cooled. Once beets are cooled, peel skin off and slice into ¼ inch slices.
In cast iron skillet over medium high heat add enough olive oil to coat bottom and salted beet slices and cook for 3-5 minutes per side, until lightly seared.
*For that matter, brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian would be wonderful as well.
Sprouts (we used sunflower sprouts, but pea sprouts would have been amazing too)
Salt & Pepper
Sriracha (if desired)
Add a very light coating of plain mayo to one side of each slice of bread and place both slices of bread (mayo side down) on hot skillet and toast over medium heat until golden brown. Remove bread (don’t toast other side), add sandwich dressing to both sides of bread (don’t skimp on the dressing; we want our beets to really know how it feels to be dressed out, dressed out). Add lettuce to bottom. On the lettuce, place hot cooked beets, tomato slices, sliced avocado, sunflower sprouts and some Sriracha (if
desired) for an extra kick.* Season sandwich with salt and pepper, add top piece of bread, cut and enjoy!
*Trust us, the most important part of a sandwich is the order in which you add your ingredients.
Rest in peace, Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor (the Phifer, the Funky Diabetic, the 5 Foot Assassin, the 5 Foot Freak, the Trini Gladiator).
As always, thanks to my Ride or Die (Misti) for your creative collaboration.