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I used to live right across the street from the beach. As you can imagine, that meant I had plenty of seasonal weekend houseguests. Memorial Day weekend kicked it off and Labor Day weekend was when I started looking forward to snow and solitude.
I would start planning my weekend menus on Wednesdays so I could shop Thursday at lunchtime and start prepping food early Friday morning before my workday started. I am an early riser so this was easy for me. The first order of business was to pull together some appetizers for when people started arriving. These had to be pretty easy and served at room temperature because I had to fetch people from the train station and bring them to the house.
I stocked the fridge with wine, beer, seltzer, and lots of water. My go-to Friday evening appetizer was a mezze platter. Mezze is basically small plates or finger foods, similar to tapas that can be eaten in one or two bites. If I was very busy, this would do for dinner. I have a giant ceramic platter that I would place a dip or two in the center of surrounded with fresh vegetables, dolmades, crostini, cheese, fruit, and cured meats or shrimp.
I am somewhat of a dip nerd. I have tried everything from basic sour cream and onion dip to spicy adobo black bean dip with fresh herbs. I think my best dips are the ones that are prepared with yogurt. Yogurt is a creamy and tart base for just about any dip. It is a staple in many Mediterranean cuisines, including those of Turkey and Greece. It is often served with savory meats and vegetables as a sauce. It can also be used to tenderize or marinate proteins before they are grilled.
Yogurt also pairs nicely with sweet foods, such as beets, carrots, winter squash, and a variety of fruits. Beets are something I eat often for their beautiful color and health benefits. I make a beet puree for serving with grilled vegetables. When yogurt is incorporated into beet puree, the sauce takes on a new dimension. It is both tangy and sweet, colorful, and is a digestive aid with probiotic qualities.
- 3 medium beets washed and trimmed at both ends
- ¼ cup good extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice more if desired
- 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
- All ingredients ready? Let's begin!
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Trim the beets. Wrap them in aluminum foil and place them on a baking sheet. Place the pan in the oven and roast the beets for about 50 minutes or until they are tender when pierced with a sharp paring knife.
- Remove the beets from the oven and allow them to cool until you can handle them. Using disposable gloves, rub or peel the skins off of the cooked beets. Discard the skins.
- Roughly chop the beets. Transfer them to the bowl of a food processor. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro, and cumin. Blend until smooth, about 1-1/2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Transfer them to the bowl of a food processor. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro, and cumin.
- Blend until smooth, about 1-1/2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Spoon the beet puree into a serving bowl. Gently swirl in the yogurt. The dip should look like a pretty abstract painting.
- Serve the dip with your favorite Turkish dishes or mezze platter.
Notes & Tips
- When removing the skins from the cooked beets, it is a good idea to wear disposable gloves or plastic bags over your hands. Otherwise, your fingers will be pretty red.
- The best way to serve this dip is to swirl the yogurt into the beet puree so the beets remain deep red and the yogurt contrasts that with a bright white color. If you mix it all together, the end result is very pink, which isn’t quite as attractive.
Substitutions & Shortcuts
Beets: Some people do not like beets. I am definitely not one of those people. If you are, this dip can be made with carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, or Swiss chard. Keep in mind that beets do come in different colors, such as golden yellow or red and white striped.
Cumin: If you don’t have cumin in your spice rack, use cardamom, za’atar, turmeric, or chili powder. For a little heat, add a pinch of cayenne.
Cilantro: The Mediterranean region is chock full of fresh herbs. Instead of cilantro, it is fine to add parsley, basil, or oregano.
Greek Yogurt: Really, any plain yogurt will do for this recipe. Greek yogurt is thicker than regular plain yogurt and less watery. You can actually strain regular yogurt by allowing it to drip in a fine mesh sieve for about 30 minutes to remove the excess moisture. You can substitute sour cream or crème fraiche for the yogurt.
Shortcut: One of my favorite time savers is to pick up precooked beets. They come packaged in a box and can be found in the produce section in the refrigerator display case. This convenience is a game changer. You can use the entire box for this recipe because the beets are usually small.
I am perfectly content with serving this dip with a platter of just fresh vegetables and pita bread. But, I do love a good Turkish mezze or appetizer platter with both vegetarian and mat-based protein options. Here are some ideas for assembling a mezze platter with beetroot and yogurt dip.
- Homemade Falafels
- Ackaabat (lamb and beef patties)
- Turkish Sarma (stuffed grape leaves)
- Cig Kofte (vegetarian patties)
- Mediterranean Chicken Wings
- Bazlama (Turkish flatbread)
- Chicken Shish Kebabs