Beets with Tahini

From Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking. Copyright ©2015 by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. 

©Michael Persico

©Michael Persico

Makes 4 cups

A popular Rosh Hashanah ingredient, tahini, ground from numerous sesame seeds, symbolizes the hope that during the New Year we should perform numerous good deeds. And creamy tahini, made without dairy, adds richness to dishes even when meat is on the menu. As Michael Solomonov writes, “Using the slight bitterness of tahini to tame the sugar and heighten the earthiness of the beets” makes for a magical combination, “capable of casting a spell on people who normally don’t like beets.” 

Ingredients

  • 5 cups plus ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 medium beets 
  • ½ cup Basic Tahini Sauce (recipe follows)
  • ½ cup olive oil 
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for topping
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus more for topping

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread 1 cup of the salt in an ovenproof skillet or baking dish. Put the beets on the salt and cover with the remaining 4 cups salt. Bake until the beets are tender, about 90 minutes. 
  2. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the beets from the salt and peel. Set them aside to cool completely.
  3. Grate the beets into a mixing bowl using the coarse holes of a box grater. 
  4. Add the tahini sauce, oil, lemon juice, dill, and mint and season with ½ teaspoon salt. Mix well to blend. Top with more chopped dill and mint and serve at room temperature or cold.

Cook’s Note: While he grates the beets on a hand grater, I’ve had excellent results using a food processor fitted with the large-holed grating disk. 

Basic Tahini Sauce 

From Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking. Copyright ©2015 by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Makes about 4 cups
 
Michael Solomonov’s recipe makes much more than you’ll need for his Beets with Tahini recipe recipe, but “is so versatile that once you master it, there are a million things you can do with it,” he writes. “The important step here is to allow the garlic and lemon juice to hang out for ten minutes after blending but before adding the jarred tahini,” he continues. “This step helps stabilize the garlic and prevents it from fermenting and turning sour and aggressive, which is the problem with a lot of tahini sauces.”

Ingredients

  • 1 head garlic
  • ¾ cup lemon juice (from 3–5 lemons)
  • Salt
  • 2 generous cups tahini
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Ice water

Directions

  1. Break up the head of garlic with your hands, letting the unpeeled cloves fall into a blender. Add the lemon juice and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Blend on high for a few seconds until you have a coarse puree. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes to let the garlic mellow.
  2. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large mixing bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Add the tahini to the strained lemon juice in the bowl, along with the cumin and 1 teaspoon of the salt.
  3. Whisk the mixture together until smooth (or use a food processor), adding ice water, a few tablespoons at a time, to thin it out. The sauce will lighten in color as you whisk. When the tahini seizes up or tightens, keep adding ice water, bit by bit (about 1½ cups in total), whisking energetically until you have a perfectly smooth, creamy, thick sauce.
  4. Taste and add up to 1½ teaspoons more salt and cumin, if you like. If you’re not using the sauce immediately, whisk in a few extra tablespoons of ice water to loosen it before refrigerating. The tahini sauce will keep a week refrigerated, or it can be frozen for up to a month.