Taste buds are funny, aren't they? When I grew up, I wasn't the pickiest of eaters but I did have a few things I wouldn't touch; mushrooms, broccoli, onions, olives, and tomatoes being a few things I wouldn't go near. I can't put my finger on what happened for certain – maybe my mom just made those things regardless of my fickle palate or maybe my taste buds just matured – but over time I started to develop a liking for these foods. Well, besides olives…but that's an entirely different story!
Beets were another food I could just not get behind. Granted, to this day, beets are a rather polarizing food. And if you would've asked 10-year old Ali her opinion on beets she would've been on the opposing side fo sho. Magenta, gelatin-like root vegetables that resemble dirt? No thanks!
But just as my palate has grown to like the simplest of foods that I can't imagine living without, it has also grown an intense affinity for beets. Beets no longer taste dirty, but uniquely earthy. The texture is no longer off putting but rather a perfect vehicle for more acidic and creamy flavors. Thanks to my maturing taste buds, beets have become one of my favorite foodie staples.
Though I've been loving beets in my adult life, I hadn't actually cooked with them. Like ever. So folks, this post is not only an ode to beets but a Hungry Ali first!
The inspiration for this dish came from a few things that are worth nothing. The first being my new obsession for this little known seasoning called za'atar, pronounced zah-tar. A classic Middle Eastern flavor, za'atar is a blend of sumac (a tangy, lemony Middle Eastern spice), sesame seeds, thyme, cumin and marjoram, is the ultimate savory spice blend that's good on practically everything, including my favorite bagel topping in this world. It's also worth noting that the Seattle restaurant scene struck again by introducing me to the most scrumptious beet dip with tahini and yogurt. It was a dish that made me fall in love with beets all over again. and it certainly got me thinking of how to make a creamy beet dip of my own, cause you know me!
It was serendipitous, to say the least, that I stumbled upon the perfect recipe to capture my love for beets and za'atar. Za'atar, roasted beets, tangy Greek yogurt, a hint of chili and touch of sweetness mingle together in the creamiest of beet dips. Topped with crunchy hazelnuts and goat cheese for extra decadence and a sprinkling of more savory za'atar, it's a dip that will awaken your taste buds and make you feel instantly fancy.
And like most anything that comes from my kitchen, it's as easy as pie to make using my most favorite kitchen appliance, the handy dandy food processor where the only requirement is to push a button. It's a true testament that you don't need time, money or even the finest of cooking skills to create something that could've been made by a top chef.
Even if you don't consider yourself a beet person or even an adventurous eater, I dare you to give it a try. Whether you make it the star of your next snack meal or use it to kick-off a dinner party in style, I'm willing to bet that they'll become new best buds with your taste buds.
Creamy Za'atar Beet Dip
- 8 medium beets, trimmed
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon za'atar – can be found in most spice aisles
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons (ish) goat cheese, crumbled
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place beets in a shallow dish and add 1/4 cup of water. Cover with foil and bake for one hour. Let cool for 10-15 minutes until they're easy to handle.
Peel the beets, cut into wedges and transfer to a food processor. Add the garlic, chili flakes and yogurt and pulse until blended. Add the olive oil, honey and 1 tablespoon of za’atar and puree until smooth. Season with salt. Scrape into a large Tupperware container or bowl with a lid and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, "swoosh" (yes, that's a technical term) onto a large plate for a super hip presentation, or pour into a large shallow bowl. Scatter with hazelnuts, crumbled goat cheese, scallions and remaining za'atar. Serve with pita chips and fresh veggies.