Apicius 3.2 An Easily Digested Relish

A salad, or perhaps a chutney, of boiled beets and leeks, dressed with passum and liquamen, cumin and pepper.


cubed beets, diced leeks, and a grape sauce in a yellow bowl
it's festive, and gently sweet and sour

The joy that is farm market season is upon me! Overwhelming and worrisome at times, I wind up with a plethora of stuff I have no particular interest in.

This time, it was a magnificence of beets. Oy.


I know beets are red. I know they are unexpectedly sweet, but people pickle them. That’s about all I know.


Leeks, beets, a bottle of grape juice, and a bottle of fish sauce
beets and leeks are both very sandy, be aware of cleaning them cautiously

Apicius calls for beets and stored leeks to be boiled, plated, and dressed with a boiled sauce.


The sauce calls for Passum, which according to my books is a reduced grape juice used as a sauce, flavoring, sweetener, and so-on.

I had to source non-concord (a new-world grape) juice to boil down for the passum, grape must syrup, which was rather more of a challenge than expected. I got a de-alcolised wine and a grape juice, but went with the grape juice for this run. I did try to get wine grape juice, but it will be a bit more effort.


a saucepan containing boiling reduced grape juice, with the fish sauce being added.
dishwashing is serious business

After boiling down the syrup, cubing and boiling the beets to tenderness, and blanching the leeks, I chilled all of the components separately overnight, then prepared them for service.

First I tried slicing the leeks a few ways, but found that a simple large dice was most conducive to eating. Being that they can get slimy when boiled, the cut allows them to separate and maintain a pleasant texture.

The beets were cut to a similar size, and plated with the leeks.


beets and leeks in the bowl, before being sauced
Keep utensil size in mind when chopping the veggies

The sauce was simply the “passum” with cumin, black pepper, and a little liquamen to balance the sweetness, and allowed to boil hard for a minute to set the flavors.


A surprisingly light and refreshing salad, which could easily be served cool on a summers’ evening.

As an alternative, you can chop the leeks and veggies even smaller, simmer them in the sauce, and serve as a condiment rather than a salad.  It tastes quite nice, which is a relief. I have a lot of beets!

Recipe: Apicius 3.2 An Easily Digested Relish


  • 1 beet, cooked til tender in salted water
  • 1 leek, cooked til tender in salted water. Shock in cold water.
  • 1 cup grape juice (not concord) or similar fruit juice, reduced by half
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, ground


  1. Dice the leeks
  2. dice the beets
  3. plate them. Think “easy to eat with a salad fork”
  4. Boil the reduced grape juice, fish sauce, cumin, and pepper together.
  5. Pour over the salad as a hot dressing.

Quick notes

-Beets stain

-Leeks need to be treated cautiously, they can get slimy when cooked

-easy to overdo the pepper, make the sauce in advance and be sure of your balance

-easy to oversalt, the boiling water and the liquamen are both salty

+Easy to prepare in advance

+Reasonable, seasonable, and less-common ingredients, unlikely to have “beet fatigue”

+Beet water can easily be made into soup.

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