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Betsy Block

The Healthful Hedonist: Comfort Food for the 21st Century

Beet Tzatziki

Beet Tzatziki
Simple. Sustainable. Savory.

Wednesdays on Mama Cooks.

NB: This week's recipe has nothing to do with the essay below. Complete editorial freedom is the best part about having a website.

I walk into a bakery and there it is: the holiday pastry display. Suddenly I'm four, grubby hands pressed against the glass, all my attention on the cupcakes. There are the ones topped with Santa, the blue Hanukkah stars, but the one I can't take my eyes off of is the snowman with his heartbreaking black buttons and orange frosting nose. The sides are covered in red and green sprinkles. I stare for a long time, scrutinizing the minute differences in each hand-decorated beauty, but I'm not small and the case is by the doorway so I'm kind of in the way. Should I or shouldn't I?

The adult in me knows I won't even like the frosting, and the cupcake itself would taste good but not great, and I'd have to buy four (I could eat it while the kids are at school but that would be all kinds of wrong). I'd be spending $12 on something I don't really want. But the kid in me can't stop looking.

I know why. The four-year-old sees something she longs for in that snowman, but the adult in me knows it's a craving not even the prettiest cupcake can satisfy. I can look at sugar-frosted icons of a joyful childhood all afternoon, but even if I buy and eat one I'd still be hungry.

I don't leave the bakery empty-handed. Instead I get a very adult mocha latte. I walk out knowing that some hungers can never be sated. Given that, I'm happy with my choice.

Adapted from "Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean," by Ana Sortun (Regan Books, 2006).

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked shredded beets

Combine the lemon juice, garlic and salt in a bowl and let stand 10 minutes. This step takes some of the heat out of the raw garlic. Stir in the yogurt, olive oil, dill and pepper to taste. Fold in the beets and adjust the seasoning. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Serves 4 to 6.

(Believe it or not, both the color and taste of this tzatziki make me happier than that cupcake ever could. I know, I'm not normal.)