beetroot dip with za’atar & feta

beets are not (emphasize!) my favorite veg… they are not. hands down, i used to avoid them altogether, really, because they taste like mud (really healthy mud, to give them some credit). or a spoonful of proper, organic earth. bleugh! (note: sorry for the ‘bleugh’… i know i shall not write ‘bleugh’ on a food blog… ahem. but i just didn’t find that muddy taste very appealing, is all… sorry). from time to time though, i was forced (sounds a bit harsh… but it’s probably true) to eat beets. mostly bland versions, you know, the kind with horseradish, that’s meant to overpower the beetroot. still muddy to me. 
but i wouldn’t be me if i didn’t show sympathy with my fellow, uhm, vegs. so, of course, i gave it another chance (and then another…). and sometimes, i really liked beet (for example here or here). for all of you beet wanna-likers with a big heart for vegs like me… try this dip. it’s not so much beet-ey (in a bad way…) as it is uplifting and fun. think of it as a pink hummus. see? never hurt anyone.
beetroot dip with za’atar and feta crumbs
adapted from yotam ottolenghi’s cookbook ‘jerusalem’
6 medium beets, trimmed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small red chile, seeded and minced
1 cup plain greek yogurt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon za’ataar
salt (always fleur de sel)
2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
more za’atar and sesame for decoration
preheat the oven to 220 degrees celsius / 350 degrees fahrenheit. put the beets in a small roasting pan and add 1/4 cup of water. cover with foil and bake for about 1 hour, until tender. let cool slightly, then peel the beets, cut into wedges and transfer to a food processor. add the garlic, chile and yogurt and pulse until well blended and creamy (note: a crumbly texture is not what you’re looking for, so pulse, pulse, pulse…). add the olive oil, maple syrup and za’atar and puree some more. season with salt. scrape into a wide, shallow bowl and scatter with the feta crumbs and garnish with additional za’ataar and sesame. serve with warm flatbread bread.
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