Tuesday, February 05, 2013
Righteous Roots: Beet Salad Can't Be Beat
What's your favorite meal to take camping or cook for friends when you're away from home? For contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food, it includes a hearty spread of roasted beets and garlic with a Middle-Eastern twist.
For the last 10 years a bunch of us have spent the big game weekend skiing (could be longer, but none of us can remember for sure). I don’t really follow football, and I’d much rather take advantage of the uncrowded slopes than watch television all day. But since we’re a bunch of old guys we get tired and are usually worn out by 3 o’clock. So even after a drink in the bar and driving from Bachelor down to the house we rent in Sunriver, there’s still lots of football to see.
Après-ski plate o' goodness!
Most of us like to cook, and we eat well while we’re there. My night for dinner was Thursday, and I made pimento cheese, spicy chicken wings, porky red beans, smothered cabbage, winter squash gratin, Cajun-style eggplant rice dressing and these amazing puréed beets.
Jerusalem Puréed Beets
Adapted from the Ottolenghi-Tamimi cookbook Jerusalem, this dish has become one of my favorite things to eat. It works as either a salad or dip for pita crusty bread, or even tortilla chips, although it’s thick enough you’ll need to provide some kind of spreading utensil.
Start by roasting 4-5 red beets by removing the long root and greens and placing them in a small roasting pan or Pyrex dish. Leave them unpeeled and cook at 400° for about an hour or until a knife goes in easily. Let cool enough to handle, then peel (really roasting like this, as opposed to the wrap-in-foil method, leaves the beets dry so the skins don’t just slide off; I use a sharp knife to cut off the outer layer of the beet).
Cut the beets into quarters, then combine in the food processor with about a cup of yogurt (the book calls for Greek style, but I’ve used regular plain yogurt), 3-4 cloves of roughly chopped garlic, 3-4 chopped dates, a jalapeno with seeds and membrane, about a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil, at least a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of the Middle Eastern spice blend called za’atar (roughly equal parts ground sumac, sesame seeds, thyme and oregano). Process until completely pureed.
You can eat it like this and it’s good, but even better is the garnish of about a half cup of lightly toasted and chopped filberts (hazelnuts to non-Oregonians), some soft goat cheese torn into small bits and scatttered on top and a couple of thinly sliced green onions. Add another good shake of za’atar and a healthy drizzle of extra virgin, too.