Consider the humble beet. Not one of nature’s most attractive vegetables. Yet, like a plain-looking guy or gal, when you dress it up a little, it reveals new and interesting things about itself. One thing you may not know is that beets are very rich in easily metabolized iron. That deep red color gives it away.
Beets’ earthy taste has a certain sweetness. Add something acidic, like vinegar; something sharp, like onions; and something spicy, like cumin, and you have a piquant salad. Drop a spoonful of lemony, garlicky tahini on top, and you taste a truly Israeli way to make that humble vegetable shine.
Israelis know many ways to cook beets. And remember, beets neatly packed into cans are unknown here. To get beets, you go to the shuk (OK, the supermarket also has fresh beets) and pick out firm red ones with a little of their stems still attached, and maybe a little field dirt clinging to the root end.
You find sliced beets sharing space in a jar of mixed pickles, turning all the vegetables a lovely pink color. When you sit down at an Israeli eatery, and the waiter sets down that array of small salads and dips called mezze, you can count on finding a beet salad among the cucumbers, cabbage, tomato, carrot and eggplant variations. Beets sometimes cook alongside a pot roast in the last hour of slow cooking. The North African influence in Israeli cuisine, which calls on getting the best out of every vegetable in the field, is evident in this delicious beet salad.
Spicy beet salad with tahiniPrint
- 6 medium beets
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar or juice of 1 lemon
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ¼ cup chopped scallions or thinly sliced red onion
- ½ cup ready-to-eat tahini
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Scrub the beets well and trim off any roots. Place them in a large pan, and cover with plenty of cold water.
- Bring the beets to a boil, and cook at a medium temperature, covered, for 45 minutes or until a knife slides easily into the flesh of the largest beet.
- Drain the beets. Peel them as soon as they’re cool enough to handle – the peel will slide off between your fingers. Chop the beets into coarse dice. Place in a medium-sized bowl.
- In a separate small bowl, blend the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, sugar and cumin. Pour over the beets, preferably while they’re still warm. Stir the scallions into the salad.
- Taste to adjust seasonings if desired. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the salad for at least an hour. When ready to serve, spoon the salad out onto a dish and spoon tahini over it. Garnish with parsley, and enjoy.