Labbo: Persian Baked Beets
My maternal uncle was a gentle, loving, compassionate, and a lost soul at the end of his life.
Eliahou was born in Hamedan, Iran, the first of five boys who came after my mother.
Given away in marriage at age 13, my mother rarely saw her family. Eliahou was the only family member who visited us regularly.
My uncle was a traveling merchant of drug samples. He bought drug samples given to physicians free of charge and sold them to pharmacists. Visiting these physicians and pharmacists made him feel like he too was a part of the medical community. The income was good. Traveling was fun. Visiting his sister’s family was a bonus.
Eliahou Sabbar in Iran
In moving to Israel, he gained a homeland that he loved, but lost, but lost a business which gave him a sense of worth and prestige.
In Iran, my mother and I were always thankful for the days he visited since I barely knew my mother’s side of the family. This sense of love and loyalty to my mother continued after my mother moved to Israel as well and especially after my father’s death. He took three buses to visit, always bringing food treats such as dates and wild cress.
I took two vacations with Eliahou when in Iran. He took my mother and I to Hamedan when my father had taken my sister abroad for medical care. It was the only time I visited the tombs of Esther and Mordechai in Hamedan.
Another time he came when my father was away on business and offered to take me with him back to Tehran to visit the family. We took the bus from Shiraz to Tehran, a full day trip through the mountains, passing Isfahan and Qom. During each stop, uncle Eliahou bought me food treats, such as hot milk and pastries
The most memorable one was baked beets from a cart by the side of the road. These carts were the Iranian version of food trucks at that time. They sold stewed potatoes with tomato sauce, boiled fava beans, and corn, roasted on coals and dipped in salted water.
My father wouldn’t allow us to buy street food since they were not kosher. Thus my uncle’s treat of baked beets was a delicious guilty indulgence. They are still my favorite. I eat them as a snack. They are delicious in their simplicity. I add them to salads, eat a thick slice in a sandwich, or mix them with yogurt.
Clean 3-4 med beets and wrap them individually in aluminum foil, put them on a baking sheet and bake them at 400 for about 40 min until tender but not too soft. Don’t overcook. Test with a fork after 30 min.
The skin comes off easily from the baked beets. You might want to wear plastic gloves. Otherwise, the beets will stain your hands.
Baked beets are also a great addition to Greek yogurt. Dice to mix with Greek yogurt.
Grate one med baked beet, add ¼ t salt, 1 t olive oil, ½ t black pepper, 2 T fresh chopped mint, 1 t minced garlic, and one C Greek yogurt. Mix well.
This is a surprisingly delicious dip. Even my husband who doesn't care much about beets loved it!
Enjoy! Nooshe Joon!