Beet Tzatziki

It was mid summer on a small island in the Cyclades. Evening fairy lights twinkled in the plane trees around a village square. There, in an open air taverna, I first laid eyes on a bowl of beet tsatziki. Ravishingly purplish pink, I had to have it. Creamy, tangy, sweet, it turned out to be the taste highlight of a journey to the place of the “wine dark sea” where that “rosy fingered dawn” breaks through the night. It’s as ancient as  yogurt, beetroot, garlic and walnuts that come together in this traditional salad perhaps Socrates or even Homer may have eaten.

Today we return to these nourishing Mediterranean foods that have held on through centuries and sing of good health. Yogurt to stimulate beneficial flora, beets to cleanse and strengthen the blood and garlic to boost immunities.

When I presented this dish to a group of vegetable-curious cooks, even those who shied away from beets were swayed with this amazing flavor combo. Here the humble beet lifts to Elysian heights as a perfect picnic side dish. Beet Tsatziki may be a dip for pita or vegetables, a sauce for grilled fish or chicken, part of a composed salad plate or a lunch in itself, nestled in a bowl of butter lettuce leaves with crusty toast on the side.

Greek Beet Tzatziki

 1 or 2 small beets, baked, steamed or raw

1 clove garlic

salt

1 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or wine vinegar

1 cup plain whole milk yogurt, preferably homemade

freshly ground pepper

chopped fresh dill, mint and/or chopped green onion

olive oil

chopped roasted walnuts (optional)

Mash garlic with salt and mix with lemon juice or vinegar, let stand few minutes. Peel and grate beets on wide holes of a box grater (use small holes for raw beets); you should have a scant half cup. Combine beets with yogurt, macerated garlic; season with little chopped dill or mint and green onion. Taste for salt and acid. Garnish with olive oil drizzle, freshly ground pepper and chopped walnuts. Makes generous l ½ cups.

                                                                         Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/9lOnZv

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