The Food Desert Project: ماست و لبو (Beet & Yogurt) Tarts

The Food Desert Project:  ماست و لبو (Beet & Yogurt) Tarts
I admit it: I hate canned beets.  I have since I was a girl, and I only recently forgave beets as an entire genre of food when I discovered I could roast yellow beets and toss them with lime butter, and then found beet chips, which have become a staple in the Hays household.  However, canned beets – still my nemesis – are readily available almost everywhere, even in the food desert, and they really pack a heavy nutritional punch.

I’d long loved the idea of this tart from the Kitchn, a sweet, sugar-free date crust with sour yogurt and still more sour kumquats (a fruit I love.)  When I saw the parent recipe on the Arab-food blog Kitchen Caravan, I was struck by the possibilities of this as a base for all kinds of things…but, sadly, nothing you could find in a food desert.

Musing on the tartness of yogurt, I remembered the beets with lime and realized yogurt might have the same brightening effect…after a bit of googling I found that beets and yogurt are a longstanding tradition in Persian culture.  I love the juxtaposition of flavors in my final dish just as much as I love the cultural mashup.

I’m still not sure when you would eat this:  as breakfast?  As an appetizer?  For afternoon tea? As dessert?  It could fit in any one of these situations, it’s a vegetable, it’s a sweet, and yet it’s a palate cleanser.  Most of all, it comes together quite quickly and easily and the results are spectacularly beautiful.  Try it!


1 cup pitted dates (no sugar added…please!)
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup nuts – I used pecans (I think any nut will work but I’d avoid cashews and peanuts)
1-4 tbsp orange juice as needed

1/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt (or strained plain regular yogurt)
1 can sliced beets

040Briefly toast the nuts until they are fragrant.  Put the nuts, oats and dates in a food processor and blend until the mixture resembles fine gravel.

Add orange juice as needed until the dough comes together (this depends on how dry your dates are.) and it holds its shape when pinched together.

Line 4 small tart pans with your dough, making a small well in the center.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the tart dough is fragrant and has begun to brown.  Cool.

045Spread the center of the tart with plain yogurt and top with drained, sliced beets.



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