Roasted Beets and Za’atar… maybe not what you thought you wanted to start your Monday with, but I assure you these are two incredible tastes that do marvelous things together. Ready to dive into some hot pink good stuff?
Yum and YUM! That’s what I think when I look at these pictures, but I have the advantage of having eaten both of these things in vast quantities. I know the dip is a rather shocking shade of pink. Some of you may already find that appealing. On the other hand, there may be some who aren’t accustomed to having their food brighter than a flashing neon sign. As a person who doesn’t use many food dyes outside of Easter egg season, I admit I find foods that are day-glo to be automatically suspect. You won’t find red velvet cakes here on Foodie with Family unless they’re made with (HERE COMES THE TIE-IN) beet powder.
You’ve seen me use beet powder before, both here and here, for its ability to turn things pink or red, but the only full-on beet recipe I can remember publishing here is this ancient one (in internet terms) from 2008. Oh the formatting and photography… Let’s chalk those up to inexperience, shall we? I still stand by that recipe, though! I’ll confess, too, that the reason I don’t have tons of beet recipes here is that until a couple of years ago, I thought I didn’t like them. It turns out that what I didn’t like was canned beets which was -until that point- all I’d ever eaten of the beet world. I ate a roasted beet on a salad at a friend’s house (because I will NOT say no to food put in front of me at a friend’s house!) and was shocked to find I loved it. She filled me in on how she roasted them and it’s been a beet love affair ever since. Nowadays, I can’t get enough of sweet, earthy, tender, roasted beets.
So that vibrant magenta colour you see in the dip? It’s all beet, baby! There isn’t a drop of food colouring anywhere near it. The beets are slow-roasted in a moderate oven (350°F), then peeled. Why peel after they’re roasted? We wait to peel them until after cooking because the skins slip right off of the tender beets. If we peel them before cooking, it means a paring knife, stained hands, and -in all likelihood- a stained countertop and floor. Trust me. There’s another reason, though, that many people don’t mention. It’s because leaving the skins on the beets while they’re roasting adds a small layer of insurance that they won’t dry out. Oh sure, you do many other things to help that along (drizzling with olive oil, wrapping in foil, etc…) but every little bit helps.
The peeled, roasted beets get cut into wedges and dropped into a food processor along with two to four garlic cloves (I’m on the repelling Dracula end of the garlic spectrum, so I go higher), a little cayenne pepper, and a cup of plain Greek yogurt. Those are whirred together until smooth, then olive oil, salt, and za’atar are added and blended in until you have a velvety, savoury and sweet, earthy, ever-so-slightly spicy, flavourful dip that is perfect for crusty bread, pita chips, sourdough pretzels, vegetable sticks, and more. My husband, The Evil Genius, likes to put a thick dollop of the dip in a bowl of cottage cheese.
You may be stuck asking, “Za’what?” To which I say, ” Za’atar!” It’s a super exotic sounding herb blend that is used widely in Middle Eastern food. And it’s also the reason today’s post counts as a Make Ahead Monday contribution. While it sounds super exotic, the taste is one that is homey and familiar with its blend of thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, salt, and (the only possibly unfamiliar ingredient) dried sumac*. Sumac has a citrusy flavour that brightens up the other herbs in the blend. Za’atar is one of my go-to flavours for fish (broiled OR grilled), popcorn, salad dressing, soups, and dips. Shoot. Sometimes, I even sprinkle a little over my pizza before eating it. Please give it a try. If you’re not already a Za’atar lover, I think you will be soon! Because it doesn’t take much time to whip up, but makes everything it touches so special, I highly recommend you keep a jar of this in a cool, dark pantry at all times. Like most herb blends, it has a tendency to give up some of its punch as it ages, so start with a batch the size of the recipe I’m sharing today. If you find yourself -like me- sprinkling it on and in everything, double the batch next time!
*I gave a pretty solid explanation of what sumac is and why it’s tasty on this post, so if you haven’t read it, please do. As for this moment, you can certainly wait to gather your own staghorn sumac when it’s in season, or you can buy a bag of sumac from Amazon.com. (affiliate link) like I did a while back so I could make Fattoush. I’d say buy the sumac.
Do you like beets? Did you grow up thinking you didn’t like them (like me)? How about Za’atar? Have you had it or do you already love it? Talk to me!
P.S. This dip is healthy! Bonus!!
P.P.S. I got my kids to eat it by telling them it would turn their pee pink. They ate it. I win.
Disclosure:There is an Amazon.com affiliate link for dried sumac in the post. If you choose to purchase that or another item after clicking through that link, I receive a small commission from Amazon.com which in no way effects the price of the item. Thank you!