As I’ve hinted at before, my family is somewhat averse to trying new things. With so many opinionated grandparents and great-aunts, newly bourgeois parents, and well-traveled children at the table, bringing a new dish into the family repertoire can be hard. And though they have lovingly embraced some Israeli dishes, anything that smells faintly of fusion is treated with suspicion and even disdain.
So whenever I bring in something new, I try to take things one step at a time. I pair familiar ingredients, like cauliflower or beets, with “new-fangled” and “ethnic” flavours, like cumin, cinnamon, and avocado. And as three generations of my family gather around to eat, I sneak in the new dish, burying it amidst the jumble of hummus, bread, and mayonnaise-laden salads. I will divulge a few words about it when prodded. But for the most part, I will pretend there is nothing new under the sun, and let them draw their own conclusions.
But if I had to describe beet, avocado and feta wraps to my grandmother Berta, I would say it was a creamy beet salad. If I had to sell it to my more adventurous great-aunt Sonya, I would say it’s a little tangy from the feta, and that there’s a hint of spice. To my dad, I’d say the spice is hidden by the avocado. To my mom, I would brag about the dish’s healthy qualities: the good fat in avocadoes, and the low-caloric value of beets. And for my Tex-Mex loving sister, I would put this salad in a tortilla wrap with some salsa. My grandfather Abram would give it a try right away, while my grandmother Inna would probably abstain no matter what.
Unfortunately, at this moment there are 9,817 kilometres and an eight-hour time difference between my family’s dinners and my kitchen table. So for now, I’ll just have to keep eating this with my partner. And I can tell you that this unusual blending of cultures has helped quell our hunger and ease our minds during some particularly stressful evenings – and I didn’t have to convince anyone.
- 4 medium beets (or 8 small ones, or 3 large ones)
- 1 ripe avocado
- ¼ cup of feta (about 1 ounce), crumbled, or more, to taste
- 1 cup of small cherry tomatoes
- Dorie Greenspan's leftover-tomato vinaigrette, recipe follows (or any other tangy vinaigrette)
- juice of ⅛ of a lemon
- 2 Tbs fresh cilantro
- a pinch of ground chili peppers (about ½ a teaspoon, or more, to taste)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 Tbs salsa (optional, if making into a wrap)
- ½ cup of rice (optional, if making into a wrap)
- For Leftover-tomato vinaigrette:
- 1 tomato that has seen better days (or any ends of tomatoes you have in the fridge)
- 1 Tb of red wine vinegar (or any vinegar you like)
- 1 teaspoon of mustard
- 1 teaspoon of olive tapenade (I happened to have some on hand. But a few pitted olives will do just as well).
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Wash beets and trim their ends, removing all leaves and stem.
- If roasting beets, preheat oven to 375F (I always roast more beets than I need for one recipe, and keep the rest for salads throughout the week). Rub beets with a dab of olive oil. Wrap each 2 beets in an aluminum foil pouch. Place on baking sheet and roast in the oven until a fork easily goes through the beets, about 45 minutes to an hour (larger beets take longer to cook, and should be wrapped in individual tin foil packages). Remove from oven, let cool slightly, and peel gingerly.
- If boiling beets, place beets fill a pot with enough water to cover them by two inches. Bring to a boil, then cook on medium-high heat until a fork easily goes through the beets, about 35-40 minutes. Remove from pot, let cool slightly, and peel.
- Chop beets into small chunks. Place in a medium-sized bowl.
- Cut cherry tomatoes in half, and add to bowl.
- Cut avocado in half and remove seed. Score the avocado with a knife into small chunks, and then scoop out the avocado flesh into the bowl with the beets. Mix well, taking care not to bruise the avocado.
- Top with crumbled feta and cilantro. Squeeze lime on top. Top with leftover-tomato vinaigrette, or any other vinaigrette you have (or even just more lime juice and olive oil).
- Season with salt and pepper according to taste, though I find this dish doesn't usually need any.
- If making into a wrap: Heat up two tortilla wraps, and smear one tablespoon of salsa at the bottom of each wrap. Top with ¼ cup of rice, or about 2 tablespoons. Top with salad mixture, and drizzle with hot sauce, if desired.
- Leftover-tomato vinaigrette (Adapted from Dorie Greenspan, http://doriegreenspan.com/2013/08/yesterdays-tomatoes-todays-vinaigrette.html): Place the entire tomato (juice, seeds, ends and all, except the green stem, of course) and all other ingredients into a blender, and whirr until sauce reaches a desired consistency. Taste, correct seasonings if needed, and season with salt and pepper.