Beetroot Za'atar Salad




Last year, my husband arranged a cooking workshop for my birthday where one of the dishes we cooked was a beetroot salad in a yogurt base. The beetroot salad recipe was by far my favorite we cooked in a Middle Eastern inspired menu, and has since become a staple in our house with some modifications. Not only does this beetroot salad display a stunning pink color on plate, it also makes for a perfect side to protein, a great dish to show off with at barbecues or potlucks, or eaten on its own as a healthy lunch. Beetroot is packed with essential nutrients and boasts an extensive list of health benefits, making this beetroot salad such a great way to incorporate more beets in our diets, and super easy to assemble once the beets are cooked! The beetroot salad is best served at room temperature and can be stored in the fridge for a few days, making it a convenient make-ahead dish. 





This recipe makes enough for 6-8 people served as a side. To start, you will need six beets. I like using a mix of red, golden and Chioggia that I can find at my farmers market easily. They peak between June and October but I have found them outside of these months. 

First, you need to strain your yogurt for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight. For this, you will need a cheese cloth. Pour the yogurt into the cheese cloth and let it sit inside a jug or bowl where the yogurt water can fall into. This allows for your salad to be thick and yummy with no excess water. Greek yogurt is the best for this as it is already thicker than natural yogurt. Keep this in the fridge until needed.





When you are ready to cook, set the oven to 250C. In the meantime, prep the beets by washing them and laying them on a baking sheet. Once the oven has preheated, place them into the middle for around an hour and ten minutes, or until tender. Once cooked, let them cool off before you start to peel the skin off. You may want to wear gloves for this as the color of the beets can dye your skin or anything else around you! Then, cut the beets into wedges. At this point, take a few wedges and place them aside for garnish later. 





To prepare the 'dressing' for the salad, you will need the following ingredients. The herbs and spices are pretty interchangeable with what you may have at home. You can use regular cracked black pepper instead of lemon pepper, omit the chili flakes if you do not like heat, and the nigella seeds are optional. You can add oregano or fresh dill as well. The base ingredients are olive oil, za'atar, which is a popular Middle Eastern spice mix, yogurt, garlic and date molasses. Nuts will be toasted and used as garnish later. 





First, crush two cloves of garlic, and deseed and chop the red chili finely. Mix this until the yogurt has fully coated and separated the garlic and chili. Next add in all of the spices and herbs, saving a little extra for garnish at the end. Mix thoroughly.





Next, add the beetroot wedges, coating each and every piece. Then add in the olive oil and date molasses. The yogurt will start to loosen and the color of the beets will bleed into the yogurt mix. Season with salt.

Now for the nuts - toast a handful of nuts in a pan. I used what I had at hand - a mixture of almonds, cashews and hazelnuts. Once toasted, rub them in a kitchen towel to remove any loose skin then chop them up and set aside. 





Transfer the beet mix to your serving bowl. Add the chopped nuts then sprinkle with extra red chili flakes, nigella seeds and za'atar. Drizzle some more olive oil and date molasses to the top as well. Chop the spring onion and sprinkle that also. You can add fresh parsley or dill as a garnish then lastly place the reserved beet wedges we saved earlier to the top, and your salad is ready! 





With its vibrant color and nutritional benefits, this dish is certainly going to be a crowd pleaser! My husband really dislikes beets yet polishes his plate off and asks for seconds! The base for this salad is really easy and packed with flavor from the garlic and za'atar and goes beautifully with fish or roasted chicken. I hope you try this and if you do, please share how you like it! 





BEETROOT ZA'ATAR SALAD


Prep time: 1-24 hours   Cook time: 1 hour 15 mins    Yield: 6 as a side    Origin: Middle East     Author: Anika Pannu



Ingredients


6 beetroots 300g greek yogurt, strained 2 large cloves of garlic  1 red chili, deseeded 1 1/2 tablespoons za'atar 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper or black pepper 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional) 1 teaspoon nigella seeds (optional) salt  3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons date molasses  handful of nuts  2 spring onions parsley or dill for garnish (optional)



Method


1. Place the yogurt in a cheese cloth for at least one hour in the fridge, but preferably overnight. 2. Preheat the oven to 250C. 3. Wash the beats and place into the oven. Let these cook for an hour and ten minutes, or until tender.  4. Once cooked, remove them from the oven and let them cool down.  5. Once cool, remove the skin and cut into wedges. Keep a couple of wedges aside for garnish later.  6. Crush or grate two large cloves of garlic and deseed and finely chop the red chili. Add them both to the yogurt and mix. 7. Add the za'atar, red chili flakes, nigella seeds, and pepper, saving a little for garnish.  8. Now add the beet wedges, coating each piece with yogurt.   9. Add the olive oil and date molasses and loosen the yogurt to coat the beets more. Season with salt. 10. Toast a handful of nuts on a pan for a few minutes. Using a kitchen towel, place the nuts under one side and roll until the skins come off. Chop the nuts up coarsely.  10. Transfer to a serving dish then add the nuts, and a pinch of red chili flakes, za'atar and nigella seeds to the top.  11. Cut some green onions and sprinkle on top.  12. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and date molasses and garnish with parsley or dill and the reserved beet wedges on top. 





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