Beet Tapenade + Za'atar Pita Chips
Update: Since we first published this post in spring of 2017, we've made this tapenade a number of times, including for a 60 person benefit. Turns out, this recipe can be made to scale using the same measurements for batches big enough to feed a crowd. And it was a crowd pleaser! Enjoy, cuties!
Hi! Mardi Gras is a thing that is very much so happening in New Orleans right now. In case the floats and parades weren't enough to tip us off, there are also a whole lotta drunk screaming people - well, more drunk screaming people then usual. Just to clarify, we are not the drunk screaming people. Not this very moment, at least.
Anyway, last night we saw one of our favorite neighborhood parades called 'Tit Rex (pronounced like "T-Rex" not "titty Rex") which stands for Petit Rex. It's a miniature parade and there are like little shoe-box sized floats that are handmade and dragged by regular sized humans who look like giants next to their teeny tiny counterparts. The floats are typically pretty topical but that used to mean "Oh look it's tiny Obama dabbing on a spinning globe, what an interesting and weird scene" but as you can imagine it's basically become a political free for all. For reference, there was a teeny tiny statue of liberty who had put her head in the oven (#same) and a teeny tiny t-rex figurine wearing a Colin Kaepernick jersey and taking a knee on a teeny tiny football field while a teeny tiny boombox played the national anthem on repeat. Take our word for it, it's all very very cute even though it's real as hell.
And that was pretty much our weekend so let's talk about this dope purple mush we're snacking on. We saw there were beets in our weekly produce box we get from St. Roch Forage and kinda on a whim decided to throw together this tapenade. It's slighty sweet and salty and obviously full of beets. We topped it with feta cheese and served it with some za'atar pita chips which are truly not optional because they go so damn well with this tapenade. In case you don't dabble in Middle Eastern cuisine on the regular, za'atar is a spice blend that has a few incarnations but is usually made of oregano, thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and other supporting spices. We've left out the sumac to keep it easy (basically if we can't easily source something with one trip to our local grocery store we're not gonna demand that you do that too) - but this shortcut za'atar fits the bill and brings a real Lebanese / Middle Eastern component to compliment the salty fatty feta and fresh beets.
Somewhere between a dip and a spread, we're calling this a tapenade in the recipe title because "mush," "goop," and "purple stuff" doesn't sound nearly as fancy and it's more or less the same texture as olive tapenade and can be used in most of the same ways. Including time for roasting the beets, this whole recipe can be thrown together in just over one hour, so get on it!
Beet Tapenade + Za'atar Pita Chips
time: 1 hour // makes: 1 pint tapenade
4 medium-small beets (about 3-4" in diameter)
1 small shallot, minced
1-2 leaves fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup feta cheese crumbles
Salt + pepper
for the za'atar chips
2-3 whole pitas
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Heat the oven to 425 degrees and wrap each beet in aluminum foil. Place the beets into a baking pan and roast for 45 minutes to one hour, until tender but not mushy (we're not tryna make mashed beets here, so they should have a little bit of body still). Remove from heat and lower oven to 300 degrees.
While the beets are roasting, cut the pitas into eight slices, and then tear each piece in half at the seam - see photo above for reference. Place the pieces onto a baking sheet and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and as soon as you see the first beginnings of a whisp of smoke, toss in the thyme, oregano, and sesame seeds. Let cook for about one minute until fragrant, pour into a small heat-safe bowl.
Use a pastry brush or spoon to brush or drizzle the za'atar and oil onto the pita chips. Give a hefty sprinkle of salt and place in the oven (at 300 degrees) until crispy, about ten minutes.
Once the beets have cooked and cooled slightly, finely chop them and toss them into a bowl. Give a slight smash with a fork or pestal and add in the lemon juice, basil, shallot, and salt and pepper. Smash together to combine and fold in half of the feta. Spoon the tapenade into your serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining feta. Serve with the pita chips and enjoy!
Tapenade will stay good in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. Any left over pita chips can be stored in a zip-top bag at room temperature for up to three days.