Bright and beautiful.
One of the consistently best restaurants in the country is Zahav, a Philadelphia destination restaurant where chef Michael Solomonov turns out some of the best Israeli food anywhere. A feast at Zahav opens with a selection of salatim, or small salad and salad-adjacent dishes. Zahav’s salatim are inevitably bright, fresh, and imbued with subtle but perfect flavor. The Zahav beet and tehina salad may not seem fancy, but it is one of my favorites.
On the Menu From Day One — and Why
In his cookbook, chef Michael Solomonov points out that the Zahav beet with tehina salad “is one of a handful of dishes that have been on the Zahav menu every day since we opened — we should post a sign that says, ‘Over half a million served.'”
Why do people flip for humble — and, let’s face it, unsexy — beets in this way? In theory, the ingredients are too low-key to make much of an impression: little more than some beets, sesame paste, garlic, lemon, and herbs. And yet.
The combination and proportion of the ingredients together build something incredibly satisfying. There’s texture from grating (not puréeing like a dip) the beets, and softness from the tehina. Lemon and fresh herbs complement the earthy main ingredients. Garlic, cumin, and olive oil add additional depth and flavor.
Best of all, this dish can be made up to a couple days in advance. Always a win.
Tehina vs. Tahini
A quick vocabulary note. Tahini is sesame seed paste. Tehina is a sauce made from tahini. This dish is a beet and tehina (or tahina) dish because it incorporates a sesame seed paste sauce into the beets, along with fresh herbs.
Recipe Notes: Zahav Beet and Tehina Salad
This dish hews very, very closely to the restaurant’s original recipe. But I have made slight changes to the method and quantity, in order to make a recipe friendlier to a home kitchen. This recipe calls for only three beets (instead of the cookbook’s eight). This will still yield over two cups of finished beet salad, plenty for household side dish or family snack.
Definitely use all of the fresh herbs, and do not skimp on the lemon. Both are necessary to brighten the flavor of the salad. Plus, the green herbs look gorgeous against the vivid pink-purple beet and tehina mixture.
This will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days. You can eat it cold, but I prefer bringing it to room temperature.
Love this Zahav beet and tehina salad? Here are more salads and spreads love:
Israeli Beet and Tehina Salad With Fresh Herbs
- 3 medium beets
- 3 large cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup tahini (preferably Noom brand)
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about 1 1/2 lemons)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped dill, plus a little more to garnish
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint, plus a little more to garnish
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
For the Beets
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Fully cover or wrap the beets loosely in aluminum foil and roast until fork tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- When cool enough to handle, trim off the root stump and peel the beets. Let cool to room temperature or chill.PRO TIP: I simply rub the skins off with a paper towel. They should slide right off as long as they are still warm.
- While the beets are roasting, purée the garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and cumin in a food processor or blender until smooth. The consistency should be like thin peanut butter. You now have tehina, a tahini-based sauce.TIP: You can leave the garlic skins on or off.
- Grate the beets into a mixing bowl using the coarse side of a box grater. Stir in the tehina and fresh herbs. Taste for seasoning.
- Spoon into a serving bowl, top with additional fresh chopped herbs, and serve chilled or at room temperature with laffe, pita, or other flatbread.