Za’atar Spiced Beet Dip with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

Recipe adjusted from: Food & Wine Magazine (Contributed by: Yotam Ottolenghi)

za'atar spiced beet dipI *adore* beets. It is my typical weekend routine to buy and roast a bunch so that I can enjoy them throughout the coming week. Whether with a quick lemon-balsamic vinaigrette and toasted nuts on the bed of greens or in creamy yogurt sauce with fresh herbs and spices, their intense sweetness always comes through even in simplest preparations and never ceases to amaze me. As if that is not enough, I also tend to order a beet appetizer when I eat out if the restaurant has one on the menu. I feel by now I have tried every possible combination of ingredients when it comes to eating beets.

So when I say this may be my favorite way of eating beets – You should know it’s not just good, it’s CRAZY good. Do consider yourself warned; Ever since I discovered this recipe, I have been making and eating it non-stop. I may have possibly exceeded my lifetime quota of beet consumption at this point.

Actually, I wasn’t even looking for another beets dish. I was browsing online to find something to cook with za’atar that I finally bought at a local Middle Eastern market after hearing and reading so much about it recently. And although I had been perfectly happy with my beets repertoire, when I came across this Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, I knew I had to try it.

Za’atar definitely lives up to the hype. Its deeply savory flavor elevates otherwise more familiar combination of ingredients in this gorgeous dip. Oh, and there are hazelnuts, of course. My choice of nuts with beets has always been walnuts but this is totally converting me to the team hazelnuts. They just exude elegance and sophistication, but when combined with rustic and earthy, candy-sweet beets – It is absolutely positively pupil-dilatingly divine.

And yes, your cutting board, kitchen towel and hands will be all dyed in bright pink no matter what. But there is no other way as far as I know. That’s what beets do and it is so worth it.

RECIPE (Probably about 4-6 servings for any sensible people. I would eat this all by myself. By that I mean I DID eat this all by myself):

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 medium beets (1 pounds), trimmed
  • A dash of cayenne pepper (original recipe calls for seeded and minced small red chile)
  • 1 small garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup (original recipe calls for pure maple syrup)
  • 2 teaspoons za’atar
  • Salt
  • ¼ cup roasted skinned hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons goat cheese (I use feta cheese), crumbled
  • 1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Warm bread, for serving

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Wrap the beets in foil and bake for about 45 minutes until tender. To check, unwrap one of the bigger ones and poke it with a toothpick. If it is soft enough so it goes through smoothly, take them out and unwrap the top to let cool slightly.
  2. Peel the beets, cut into wedges and transfer to a food processor. Add the garlic, cayenne and yogurt and pulse until blended. Add the olive oil, agave syrup and za’atar and puree. Season with salt. Scrape into a bowl and scatter the hazelnuts, cheese and scallions on top. Serve with bread.
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