After the glorious indulgences of our honeymoon, which included a full spread of such items as almond croissants, roquefert cheese on toast, eggs florentine and brioche french toast every morning, H. and I decided we needed to conscientiously watch our diet for a while.
We both came back, relaxed, tanned, and a few pounds heavier. Knowing H.’s penchant for rich foods and my desire to bake when bored, I’m not sure how long this “diet,” will last; though, actually, I wouldn’t even call it a diet, just an effort to eat more carefully and incorporate more of these foods into our meals.
So we started with the beet. Last night we made a beet tzatziki inspired by the one I had eaten at Sofra, a Middle Eastern bakery/cafe in Cambridge started by Ana Sortun, the James Beard award-winning chef behind another Cambridge restaurant, Oleana and the author of Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean.
My friend R. took me to the sunny cafe when I visited home in dreary January and to start, we ordered the mezze platter. The mezze I liked the most was the beet tzatziki, which was surprising, because, to tell you the truth, I don’t like beets that much. I eat them all the time because they are good for me, but I always feel like they’re missing depth; I want something to round out their initial metallicy sweetness. But one bite of Ana Sortun’s tzatziki fixed my beet hang-ups.
Her beet tzatziki is a vivacious salad, bright and snappy yet supported by a cooling, herby depth. Rich and mellow from the ultra-creamy yogurt enveloping the virtuous shredded beets, it’s also herby from the grassy dill. Loads of garlic and a few squeezes of lemon liven up the dish till it has a spicy-sweet, creamy kick and its provocative pink color enticed us into following our heaping first helpings with seconds, and then thirds. I don’t know about calories or whatnot but when you’re using such basic, healthy ingredients- beets, yogurt, olive oil, dill- you can only be doing your body good.
H. and I adapted the recipe to suit our tastes; basically we doubled the amount of garlic, lemon and dill from the original to give our tzatziki a livelier bite. If you want, try the original first (just halve the amounts of garlic, lemon and dill in the recipe) and see if you’re still looking for something more.
adapted from Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, by Ana Sortun
5 baby beets
2 teaspoon minced garlic
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt, preferably Greek-style, or 2 1/2 cups regular yogurt, strained through a cheesecloth (which will result in about 1.5 cups of yogurt)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Boil beets until tender. Once cool, rub skin off beets and coarsely grate.
In a mixing bowl, combine garlic, lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt, and let sit for about five minutes.
Stir in strained yogurt and olive oil, then beets and dill. Add salt and pepper to taste, and chill until ready to serve.