Conscious Cook: Nothing can ‘beet’ the Merry May beet dip

The merry month of May invites us to all kinds of celebrations.

Even if you are still celebrating close to home, there is plenty of inspiration this month for conscious cooks to create memorable meals.

The Kentucky Derby will run on May 1. What fun it is to sip a special cocktail while watching the heart-pounding excitement of this classic sporting event.

Cinco de Mayo presents an opportunity for preparing zesty, spicy dishes. Mother’s Day may be the perfect day to plan a luscious brunch. And graduations are grand occasions to break out the barbecue.

Local gardens are just beginning to produce seasonal crops during May, providing perfect ingredients for festive gatherings. Tender baby lettuces and sprightly herbs add fantastic flavor to salads. Red and golden beets, including the wonderful Chioggia with its whimsical, striped interior, lend breathtaking color to both roasted and raw vegetable platters. Cooked beets can be whipped up with cream or goat cheese for a fabulous fuschia colored dip. Not only do beets provide gorgeous color on the plate but gorgeous health benefits as well, as they are rich in immune-boosting vitamin C, and are a nutritious source of fiber, potassium and folate.

Rhubarb is another marvelous May ingredient. Its sour sweetness is absolutely divine in cakes, breads, pies or cobblers, or it’s enjoyable when cooked down into savory or sweet sauces or a scintillating accompaniment to grilled pork or chicken. Sweet rhubarb sauce can top pancakes or French toast, or crown a dish of frozen yogurt, for a superb spring sundae.

Straining rhubarb sauce will yield a perfectly pink syrup that can be combined with cold, sparkling seltzer water for festive non-alcoholic drink, or added to Prosecco for a beautiful brunch beverage. Rhubarb also beautifies the body with fiber, protein, vitamin C, potassium and even calcium.

Prepare for a delicious life with the festive flavors of the season and savor the merry month of May.

Merry May Beet Dip

2 medium beets, scrubbed and trimmed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2cup toasted walnuts

1 very large clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

4 ounces room temperature cream cheese

2-3 tablespoons lemon juice, more to taste

2 teaspoons chopped dill

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

To roast beets, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place beets in a small baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Add 3 tablespoons of water to the bottom of the dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake until tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, turning beets after 45 minutes. Let cool, then rub off peels.

Using a food processor, grind walnuts, garlic and salt until very finely ground. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the peeled beets, oil, yogurt, cream cheese, lemon juice, dill and parsley and pulse until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more lemon juice or salt, or both, if needed. Serve with pita chips, bread toasts, or use as a dip for fresh sugar snap peas and other veggies.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook,” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England, She is a professional cook, organic gardener and a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.