With so many beet varieties available at farmers markets, there seem to be just as many ways to cook them, or not cook them. Beets can be delicious raw – sliced thinly and tossed in a salad, or juiced and pureed. This recipe features cooked and pureed beets which are then spiced up to make a traditional tasting hummus.
When it comes to cooking beets, most chefs have strong opinions and adhere to their own cooking methods. Some are firm believers that beets should be boiled – an hour for smaller beets and up to an hour and a half for the larger ones; while others prefer to cook beets by roasting them in a hot oven. One roasting method involves lining a baking pan with coarsely ground salt, placing the beets on top and roasting them until they are tender – an hour or more depending on their size (the salt acts as a buffer between the bottom of the beets and the surface of the hot pan). Some chefs will wrap a cluster of three to four beets in aluminum foil and roast them in a hot oven. With this method the beets are actually steamed as a result of being enclosed in the foil. Alice Waters, famed “fresh local” owner of Chez Panisse in California, recommends roasting beets in a pan with an inch of water, which is another way to ensure a burn-free barrier between the beet bottoms and the hot surface of the roasting pan.
½ pound beets (about 4 medium sized beets), peeled, and cubed
2-3 tablespoons tahini sesame seed paste
3 tablespoons lemon juice, or more, to taste
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoons ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest (zest from approximately one lemon)
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Generous pinch of sea salt or Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
To cook the beets, cover with water in a saucepan and simmer until tender, about 1/2 hour. Place the beets in a food processor (or blender) with the remainder of the ingredients and purée until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings and ingredients as desired. Chill and store in the refrigerator for up to three days or freeze for longer storage. Eat with pita chips, sliced cucumber or celery, or on a crostini. Garnish with goat cheese and shaved mint.