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Pantzaria me Skordalia (Roasted Beets with Garlic-Potato Spread) is a wonderful Greek food that is traditionally served as a meze but can also be served as an appetizer or side dish.
One of our favorite restaurants in San Francisco is Kokkari, an upscale Greek place that serves the most incredible mediterranean cuisine. The last time we were there, we wanted to try something that we had never ordered before, so we got a menu item called Pantzaria which was described as “roasted beets with Greek yogurt garlic-potato skordalia, pistachio”.
As soon as I tasted that first bite of perfectly roasted beets and the garlicky, creamy spread with the crunch of pistachios sprinkled over the top, I knew I wanted to recreate it for the blog.
Historically Hungry – Old Recipes Made New
It’s time for another Historically Hungry post! Today we are going all the way back to Ancient Greece! If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, the Historically Hungry series is where my friend Jenni, from The Gingered Whisk, and I highlight historical recipes make them new and geared toward modern home cooks.
We select a theme and era together, then each make a different recipe from that period of time. Jenni’s got a delicious Beef Souvlaki with Feta and Dill Dip recipe over on her blog for you which you need to check out along with these roasted beets with garlic-potato spread!
What is Pantzaria me Skordalia?
The pantzaria we ordered at Kokkari was on their mezethes (In Greek: μεζέδες pronounced meh-ZEH-thes) menu.
The meze (singule for mezethes) tradition dates way back to ancient Greece. They are not actually appetizers, which are meant to whet the appetite for the upcoming meal, but really more like small, savory dishes that are often served with other mezethes and shared with everyone at the table so that family and friends can enjoy a variety of flavor and texture experiences.
Think tapas, which are a similar tradition, rooted not only in food, but also the socializing that goes with it. If you are interested in knowing more about the meze tradition, read here.
Pantzaria me Skordalia are actually two classic mezethes that are frequently served together.
The word pantzaria means “beetroots” or just “beets” in Greek, while skordalia is a Greek garlic dip that is typically made with either boiled potatoes or bread (the starch depends on the part of Greece), nuts (walnuts, pine nuts, and almonds are all commonly used in skordalia), lots of garlic, vinegar, salt, and olive oil, all ingredients that were commonly used in ancient Greece.
I learned a lot about skordalia and it’s many iterations from here when I was researching this post.
Pantzaria me Skordalia can be served chilled or at room temperature. You can serve them separately, or mix the roasted beets into the creamy, garlicky dip, which is how we enjoyed them at Kokkari.
How to Roast Beets in the Oven
Beets are an ancient, prehistoric food that grew along the Mediterranean coastline and were highly valued, both as a food source, but also for the medicinal uses of the leaves and roots. You can use the beet leaves when making pantzaria, but I just discarded them.
While many pantzaria preparations call for boiled beets, I prefer roasting them as a cleaner, easier, more delicious option. Just wash the beets well and place them in a pan with 1 cup of water. You can drizzle them with a little olive oil first, but it’s not really necessary.
Then just cover them tightly with aluminum foil and roast for about an hour in a 425 degree F. oven until they pierce easily with a knife.
Once cool enough to handle, the skin of the peels right off by rubbing your thumbs over it, easy-peasy. Then dice the beets into fairly small, bite-size chunks.
How to Make Greek Garlic-Potato Spread
Like I mentioned previously, there are many, many versions of skordalia depending on what region you are in and what is available to you.
If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, the traditional tool used to make skordalia, you can use a food processor to make a paste from the nuts and the garlic.
Then it’s just a matter of mashing that paste into some boiled potatoes along with olive oil and vinegar and seasoning with salt and pepper.
I stirred in some Greek yogurt to up the creaminess factor and make it closer to the inspiration dish that we had in San Francisco. If that sounds strange, just remember that Greek yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream and sour cream and potatoes are a classic combo!
Two tips to remember about the potatoes when making skordalia:
- Rinse the diced potatoes for 20 seconds both before and after cooking to get rid of some of the unwanted surface starch, which can cause the skordalia to be gummy.
- Mix the olive oil into the potatoes while they are still warm so it incorporates well. Cold potatoes won’t soak up the olive oil nearly as well and the skordalia will turn out greasy.
What do I Serve with Pantzaria me Skordalia?
- Crispy Cast Iron Skillet Chicken Thighs
- Grilled Whole Fish
- Baked Greek Feta Meatballs
- Oven Baked Rainbow Trout
- Meatloaf Hamburger Patties
Leave a comment below and let us know what historical period you would like to see us tackle next! We have a bunch of ideas but love to hear from readers so we can be sure to give you what you want!
Pantzaria (Roasted Beets)
- 4 medium red beets (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed and cleaned
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Skordalia (Garlic-Potato Spread)
- 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled, diced, and boiled until tender
- 6 cloves garlic, finely minced then smashed into a paste
- 1/3 cup finely ground pistachios, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
To roast the beets
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the unpeeled, washed beets in a large baking dish and drizzle with a little olive oil. Add 1 cup of water, then cover the pan tightly with heavy duty foil and crimp edges well to form a tight seal that will help the beets to steam as they roast.
- Bake the beets in the oven for around 60 minutes, until a skewer or knife inserted into the beets slides easily into the center. Depending on the size of the bites, you may need additional time for the beets to soften through.
- Let the beets cool for 30 minutes until cool enough to handle, then rub your thumbs over the skin of the beets to peel and the skins will slide right off. Cut the beets into small, bite-size pieces and set aside.
To make the skordalia
- Boil the peeled, diced potatoes in salted water until very soft and tender, then rinse in a colander under running water for 20 seconds to remove some of the excess starch. Let the potatoes drain thoroughly.
- In a food processor or using a mortar & pestle, if you have one, process or mash the garlic and pistachios into a paste, with the vinegar, then add the salt and pepper. You can add up to 2 tablespoons of cold water, if needed, to form the paste.
- Transfer the garlic-pistachio paste to a large bowl and add the potatoes while still hot, then mash well using a potato ricer, food mill or potato masher, until the potatoes are smooth. Stir in the olive oil thoroughly until it is absorbed by the warm potatoes, (if the potatoes are cold, the olive oil won't incorporate as well), then add the Greek yogurt and stir until combined.
- Serve the roasted beets with the skordalia spread on the side, sprinkling with additional finely chopped pistachios for added texture and crunch.
Adapted from Saveur.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 320Saturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 405mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 6g