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Roasted Beet Dip and Homemade Za’atar | Make Ahead Mondays

Make your own Homemade Za'atar blend for a fraction of the cost of store-bought (if you can even FIND it in your local stores.) This flavourful herb and salt blend adds brightness to everything it touches from dips to soups to grilled or broiled chicken or fish. Speaking of dip, add Za'atar, garlic, olive oil, and plain Greek yogurt to roasted beets and whir them in the food processor for a velvety smooth, savoury and sweet, earthy, vibrant magenta dip that is equally at home dipped with crusty bread, pita chips, sourdough pretzels, vegetable sticks, or served with grilled meats. Roasted Beet Dip recipe adapted from and with thanks to Food and Wine.
Author Rebecca Lindamood

Ingredients

For the Homemade Za'atar:

  • 4 tablespoons dried ground sumac
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves not ground thyme
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano leaves not ground oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried marjoram leaves not ground marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds *See Notes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt or other coarse salt

For the Roasted Beet Dip:

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh beets scrubbed clean
  • 2 tablespoons plus 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for the dip, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt can substitute regular plain yogurt, if desired
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper **See Notes
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Za'atar to taste
  • 1 tablespoon honey ***See Notes, optional
  • 4 tablespoons feta cheese crumbled
  • 3 green onions green part only, thinly sliced

Instructions

To Make the Za'atar:

  • Add all of the ingredients to a blender, food processor fitted with a blade, or mortar and pestle. Pulse several times to blend and slightly break up -but not obliterate- the herbs and salt. You want to be able to recognize the sesame seeds in the blend. Transfer to a jar with an airtight lid and store up to three months in a cool, dark place.

To Make the Roasted Beet Dip:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. If the beets still have greens attached, cut them off, leaving 1-inch of stems attached to the beets to make them easier to handle after roasting. Trim off any little 'tails' coming from the beets. If your beets are mid-sized to large (peach sized and up) you may want to cut them in half lengthwise to help them roast more quickly. Place any halved beets cut side down on the foil and drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the beets. Sprinkle with the teaspoon of kosher salt and the black pepper and use your hands to move the beets around in the oil and salt. Place another sheet of foil over the beets, bring up the bottom piece of foil and crimp it with the top piece all the way around, making a packet to keep moisture in with the beets as they roast. Roast in the oven, checking for doneness every 20 minutes or so. They are done when you can easily insert a fork or butterknife in the thickest part of the beet without much resistance. If the beets seem to be drying out before they're tender, drizzle a tablespoon of water on each beet that is drying out before re-sealing the foil and roasting for more time. You can also remove beets that are done and cook ones that need more roasting for as long as it takes.
  • When the beets are done, let them rest in a covered bowl until they're cool enough to handle easily. When they've cooled, use a paper towel to wipe off the beet skins. Trim the tops of the beets, cut them into wedges and put them into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade along with the garlic, yogurt ,and cayenne pepper. Process until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the food processor, add the remaining 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the za'atar. Blend the dip, scrape down the sides of the food processor, and taste the dip. Add salt and additional za'atar, to taste. If the beets aren't especially sweet, you can add the optional tablespoon of honey. Blend one more time just to combine. Scrape the dip into a serving dish, shallow dishes are the prettiest, sprinkle with the crumbled feta and garnish with the sliced green onions. If you wish, you can scatter a little additional za'atar over the dip before serving.
  • Can be served slightly warm, room temperature, or chilled. Leftovers keep well, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Notes

*If you do not have or cannot find toasted sesame seeds, add raw sesame seeds to a dry, clean pan over medium heat. Shake the pan back and forth until the sesame seeds are fragrant, but not necessarily taking on colour. Immediately pour the toasted sesame seeds from the pan to prevent them from scorching.
**If you are sensitive to spicy foods, you may wish to omit this. If you are like us and like things fiery, you may wish to increase this. I have put as much as 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper in my dip and been happy. I think 1/2 teaspoon is a happy medium. Start with the 1/2 teaspoon (if you're not sensitive to spice) and increase to taste.
***Most younger, smaller beets are sweet enough without any added sweetener. If you get more mature or huge beets, the natural sweetness tends to drop off and sometimes needs a little augmentation. I prefer to use honey both because it's easy to find in stores and because I think it plays nicely with beets. Do me a favour, though, and don't add anything until the dip is otherwise finished and you've tasted it. I am pretty confident that at this time of year, there won't be any beets that need extra sweetening!