Saturday, 20 October 2012

Weekend Refresher with Za'atar-Spiced Beet Dip with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

October 2012

SmartCooks here.  It was a whirlwind week of cross-country flying on oversold/late planes (!) and meetings with close to 600 people -- in person and by teleconference and videoconference -- plus a rapid tour of the services for veterans at a military base.  

This weekend ... back on ground zero ... offers a breather to chill with Za'atar-Spiced Beet Dip with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts.  

It's the second time I've made this dip, and results from both trials are the same -- refreshing, unique, pleasing taste and low-fat dish if you use the hazelnuts and goat cheese in moderation.  

The first time I made it with red beets and it turned out very close to the colour in pix at right (from Food and Wine).  

The second time I made it with golden and Chioggia (or candycane, pix left) heirloom beets, resulting in a lighter coloured dish.

Za'atar-spiced beet dip can be used as a spread, as an appetizer with whole wheat crackers from a Smitten Kitchen recipe or even a light dinner with wholewheat pita.    

A word about Za'atar 

I've written about my discovery of and use of za'atar before on SmartCooks and once again encourage trying it.  It's both a herb (known as the 'King of Herbs' in the Middle East) and a spice blend.  The herb is rarely exported so in North America we tend to find a variation of the spices depending on the region (as in photo right).

It's a versatile spice blend that can be used in a variety of dishes -- from meats and rice to veggies, dips and breads. It can be bought mixed or try a variety of recipes for it, which typically involve thyme, marjoram, oregano, sumac and roasted sesame seeds.  


Za'atar-Spiced Beet Dip with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

6 medium beets, or about 1.5 lbs 
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 small red chile, seeded and minced
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used 0% fat)
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 T pure maple syrup
1 T za'atar
Kosher salt
1/4 cup roasted skinned hazelnuts, chopped
2 T goat cheese, crumbled
2  scallions, thinly sliced 
Interesting bread, wholewheat pita, or crackers, for serving 


Preheat the over to 350 degrees.  Place beets in a roasting pan and add 1/4 cup of water, cover with foil and bake, until tender, about 1 hour.  Let cool slightly, peel, and cut beets into wedges, then transfer to a food processor.

Add garlic, chile and yogurt to food processor and pulse until blended.  Add the olive oil, maple syrup, and za'atar and puree.  Season with salt.  

Scrape into a wide, shallow bowl.  Scatter roasted hazelnuts, goal cheese and scallions on top and serve with bread, crackers or wholewheat pita.

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