Saturday, September 24, 2005

Pink Pink Beet-Walnut Dip

This beet dip is stunningly beautiful and so rich and tangy and wonderful that I will eat and eat it until it is gone. Maybe this encourages the children somehow, my gorging: it becomes so obvious that I'm going to finish this or that dip that they rush in to get their fair share in a kind of chip-wielding survival-of-the-fittest scenario.

Pink Pink Beet-Walnut Dip
Active time: 10 minutes; total time 45 minutes

The sherry vinegar gives the dip a hauntingly deep flavor--a perfect echo of the walnuts--but lemon juice is a good substitute--it makes a fresher and sharper dip. Brace yourself for how stunning this dip is.

1 pound beets (4 smallish beets), scrubbed
1 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
3 teaspoons sherry vinegar or lemon juice
A few fresh herb leaves, such as marjoram or thyme (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Greek yogurt

In a small pot of water, covered, over high heat, bring the beets to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer them until they're tender, 20-45 minutes, depending on their size. I stick a tiny knife in and call them done when I feel no resistance. Drain the beets in a colander, run cold water over them, then relieve them of their stems and skins, which should slip right off now.

Meanwhile, toast the walnuts (a toaster oven is perfect for this) at 350 for five or so minutes until they smell toasty. Let them cool and, if you like, rub them in a dishtowel to remove more of their skins, which can be bitter. Or don't bother. 

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, whir together the beets, walnuts, garlic, sherry vinegar, optional herbs, and salt, stopping to scraped down the side of the bowl every now and then, until the mixture looks like a coarse puree. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, then whir in the yogurt. Taste the mixture for salt and tang, adding more salt or vinegar as needed, then mound in a bowl and serve with crackers, veggies, or pita chips.

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