Beet Hummus

Tina Wasserman
Recipe by
Tina Wasserman

Say "beets" in the Jewish community and people often think of borscht, that slightly sweet/tart, cold soup, whose bright magenta color morphs into pastel only when a dollop of sour cream is added. Beets were a cheap and plentiful tuber abundant in Eastern Europe and Ukraine (the word borsch refers to soup of any kind in Ukraine) and became a staple of the impoverished Jewish and Polish communities. In most temperate climates, beets were harvested in summer and early fall and stored all winter in root cellars.

Hummus, the mixture of chickpeas and sesame paste, originated in the Middle East and could probably be considered an Israeli national dish, because it is served at all meals and festive occasions. A few years ago I was served beet hummus at an upscale restaurant in Tel Aviv. The following is my interpretation of this delicious dish and a great way to introduce children to beets.

One 15-ounce can whole beets, rinsed and drained
One 15-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/4 cup tahini (sesame butter)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon baharat, or cinnamon or allspice and a pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon kosher salt
10 grindings of black pepper or to taste
  1. Place drained beets and garbanzo beans in a food processor work bowl, and pulse the machine on and off until the two ingredients are blended into a coarse texture. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl with a rubber spatula.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, and process until the ingredients form a fairly smooth paste.
  3. Place the mixture in a decorative bowl, and serve with pita bread or vegetables for dipping.
Additional Notes
  • As an alternative to canned beets, this recipe may be made with one large, fresh beet that has been oven roasted and peeled.
  • When pulsing the processor, incorporate counting skills. Count each time the child presses down on the button. A machine that is to be turned on for 5 seconds can be timed by calling out "one-100, two-100," and so on.
  • Baharat is a mixture of spices whose use originated in India but is widely used in the Middle East. Different mixtures of spices are found in different regions, but cinnamon, cumin, cloves, and sometimes pepper or lemony sumac are most often included as the basis for this mixture. Cinnamon or allspice can be substituted for this recipe.
  • Do not substitute peanut butter for the tahini in this recipe. Peanut butter and peanut oil are so distinctive in flavor that they rarely can be substituted for other butters or oils called for in a recipe.