I had dinner at Zahav in Philadelphia recently. It’s a very popular Israeli restaurant with tons of acclaim and awards. It was a fantastic meal with lots of small vegetable appetizers, some delicious hummus tahini, and very good lamb shoulder and chicken (the dessert on the other hand was not exactly my cup of tea). What really stood out for me, way more than the meat courses, where all the awesome vegetable dishes. These included spicy roasted eggplant, tart napa cabbage salad, pickled persimmon salad, roasted cauliflower and this excellent beet dish (I am sure I am forgetting a few too).
Since I already had the Zahav cookbook on my shelve I took a look in it to see if the beet dish is there and sure enough it was. Beets are definitely a dividing line dish. So many people hate them. Others love them. I’m certainly in the second camp of people. I’ll eat them almost any which way. I even like those canned ones in salads. Back to this simple recipe. I learned the value of salt roasting the beets here.
Usually I would wrap the beets in foil and just roast them. This works great but the shredded beets in this dish had a totally different texture. They were perfectly cooked, a bit dry but also had a nice mild crunch. Salt roasting is the answer. Solomonov (the chef/owner of Zahav) buries the beets in kosher salt and roasts them. This wicks away moisture, concentrates the flavor and of course cooks the beets. They can be then peeled and grated to shreds without getting mushy or losing their texture.
Sure it takes some time to get the beets cooked, but after that the rest is very quick. The shredded beets are tossed with tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, mint, cumin and dill. I served it initially with some more dishes from the Zahav book including the onion marinated chicken skewers and the kale apple salad. The best part is that this stuff keeps pretty well and tastes amazing for days with crispy pita chips.