It is definitely beet season, and color abounds!
Some of the prettiest side dishes are made with beets and radishes. Vibrant reds and pinks and golds, all invite you to eat that rainbow everyone is always talking about. However, as much as others in my family adore beets, I don’t really care for them, and I’ve cooked them every way possible. Have you ever noticed it’s always a good year for beets?
All right, I’ll eat them!
Now, I’ll eat them. If you cooked them for me, I would not hide them under that last lettuce leaf on my plate. I learned to eat them as a child when we were expected to clean our plates. One didn’t waste food, and there were no second options available. Mother didn’t ask us if we’d rather have a grilled cheese instead, she was too pooped to make two meals, so we learned quickly to eat what was served us, and usually it was pretty darn good.
Taste like dirt?
But I didn’t like those beets. They tasted like dirt. I thought them rude, their bloody juices attempting to ruin my fluffy mashed potatoes! And we had lots of beets. They grow really well in the north, and when you ran out, the canned varieties were waiting on the grocery store shelves for pennies a can.
I’ve made peace with the mild candy-striped Chioggia beets and the little golden ones, but I probably wouldn’t even cook those if beets weren’t my husband’s favorite vegetable.
A compromise of sorts
Thus, a recipe that used a variety of beets seemed perfect for our household. Pairing them with a flavorful, creamy dip, even better. The earthiness of the beets is tamed by the whipped feta, in a really good way! The lemon shines through and helps in that regard as well. Do I sound like I am still trying to disguise the beet flavor?
The whipped feta
I’ve made whipped feta before, served up with cumin scented roasted carrots and that is delicious. Use an imported Greek feta made with goat or sheep or both cheeses. This will have the most flavor by far. Domestic “Greek” feta usually uses cow’s milk, and lacks that distinctive tang. I want that tang!
Use a favorite yoghurt
For my yoghurt, I used Green Mountain plain Greek-style yoghurt, my house standard. It is so creamy and delicious; you’d never think it was fat free. But if you are not watching your saturated fat and cholesterol, use any plain yoghurt you like.
Mix them up, or use a favorite
For this dish, I found a lovely variety of dark red, Chioggia, and golden beets, as well as some lovely new, vibrant pink watermelon radishes. They all took the same amount of time to roast in the oven.
A little work, then a wait
While this dish has a long baking time, it’s pretty quick to put together and looks stunning at a gathering.
And, if you like, you can even swap out carrots for the beets and invite me over. I won’t mind at all.
Whipped Greek Feta with Roasted Beets and Radishes
- Assortment of beets and winter radishes
- 6 oz. Greek feta
- 8 oz. non-fat plain Greek yoghurt
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped mint
- 1 tsp. finely chopped thyme
- 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Few dashes of hot sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (180 C.) Brush a baking sheet with olive oil.
Scrub the beets but do not peel them. Cut them into roughly four to six wedges depending on size. Place on the baking sheet and drizzle with a bit more olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes, turn them over, and bake an additional 25 minutes, or until tender. This will depend on the size and age of your beets.
Meanwhile, place the remaining ingredients in a food processor, along with some salt and pepper to taste, and whirl everything up until it is your desired smoothness and texture. Taste and correct seasoning. You can also use a blender or a hand mixer, just make sure the garlic is crushed well and herbs minced very finely.
Spread the whipped feta on a large platter and arrange the beet wedges on top. Spritz them with a bit more olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and more fresh mint. I also decorated mine with some beautiful autumn roses! Such a treat this time of year.
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