Beets have something of a reputation. Like broccoli, they are one of the vegetables that people either love or hate. And, more often than not, I find people that dislike them quite severely. Even the current President of the US is known for avoiding beets. But why? Cooked properly, beets have a lovely sweet, earthy flavor and a gorgeous color.
Perhaps it is the cooking method that is part of the problem. Most of the time, beets are either pickled (and thus can be too vinegary to enjoy their true taste) or are boiled. Boiling can very easily yield mushy beets with muted flavors. An easier way to prepare beets is roasting. Cut them into wedges, place them on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast at 400°F until a fork can be easily inserted. Easy, pretty quick, and delicious. I have also read about slicing them and pan frying in a little olive oil, and serving them over tender wilted greens with crumbled feta. That, to me, sounds absolutely heavenly.
For this recipe, I decided to roast the beets. I had three medium sized beets on hand, and needed a way to use them up. So I looked through the various cookbooks I had on hand, and found one that promised to be easy and tasty. This recipe is from Ana Sortun's Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, which is a wonderful book (that I picked up at the library) that explains much about the spices and herbs used in the Middle East. I have tried a few other recipes from her book and will post about them in the near future. It combines beets, yogurt, olive oil, dill, lemon juice and garlic to make a meze dish that will excite your taste buds, provide bright and wonderful color to your table, and bring you and your guests a host of health benefits.
For the Beet Tzatziki, you will need:
- 3 medium beets
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
for the tzatziki
- 1-2 cloves minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/4 lemon)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups Greek-style yogurt
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- freshly crushed black pepper, to taste
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill, plus a sprig or two to garnish
To roast the beets, first wash them and trim the root ends off so that the beets will stand without rolling around as much in the pan.
Then rub them with a little olive oil and position them in a small, heavy roasting pan or skillet. My small cast-iron skillet worked beautifully for this.
Sprinkle them with salt and pepper, pour in a half cup of water and cover with a double layer of foil. Roast at 400°F for 45 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork.
Allow the beets to cool, and then using a paper towel, rub the skins off. Grate the beets directly into a medium-sized bowl using the large holes of a box grater. My personal suggestion is to use disposable gloves while doing this. Otherwise, my friends and I have found from personal experience, you will end up with purple hands. Unless that's the look you're going for, I strongly recommend using gloves.
In the same bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and dill. Fold the ingredients together and reseason with salt and pepper if necessary.
Ana Sortun includes a tip that I have not used, but you might find useful. She combines the lemon juice, garlic, and salt in a bowl and lets them stand for about 10 minutes. According to Sortun, this process "takes some of the heat out of raw garlic". Given that my husband and I like the heat of raw garlic, I skipped that step. If you aren't a fan of garlic, you might try this step and see how it works for you.
Serve the beet tzatziki cold or at room temperature and garnish it with fresh dill, if you like. Seriously, give beets a try! Can anything possibly be prettier?