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Christina Tkacik 22 Apr 2015

What’s So Great About Beetroot Mtabbal? Everything

As a rule, I don’t like trying new things. When I do, it’s because someone else made me. When I was a little girl, my mom once pressured me into trying a crab cake sandwich at a restaurant instead of my usual burger. I thought it sounded revolting. And yet, from the first bite, I knew it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Crunchy, salty, fresh, the crabcake has been one of my all-time favorite foods ever since that fateful day. I ordered it anytime we went out to a restaurant that had one on the menu. (It’s a common menu item in the DC-area, where I’m from).

That is, until one time, as I was in the process of placing more order for yet another crabcake sandwich, my older sister poked fun at me for being “so predictable.” Fine, I said. I’ll have the spinach Alfredo. Try new things. Now the spinach Alfredo – that was revolting. I spent the entire dinner wishing I’d stuck to my usual crabcake sandwich. Why toy with perfection? When I find something I love, I stick with it.

When I go to Ta Marbuta, one of the most popular Lebanese restaurants in the city, I always order the same things: Fattouch, spicy potatoes, cheese rolls. Ad infinitum. I love each of those items. They are perfect.

However, a few weeks ago, I was dining with a friend who suggested we try something different: the beetroot mtabbal.

“Oh,” I said, with false enthusiasm. “Why not?”

Secretly, I braced myself for revulsion.

When the beetroot mtabbal arrived along with the rest of our meal, it stood out. It’s an exuberant shade of purple that calls for one’s attention from across the room, and at Ta Marbuta it comes garnished with a spring of mint, pomegranate seeds, and a generous helping of olive oil.

With the first bite, I knew it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Beetroot mttabbal is the texture of eggplant mtabbal, but lighter and less acidic. It’s soft, but has a watery crunch that makes it something of a surprise in every bite.

They say our imperfections are what make us perfect – and to me, this is never more true than with regards to the humble beetroot. It’s almost a little bit bland at first bite, but then it leaves an earthy aftertaste with an ever-so-subtle hint of dirty water. If that sounds bizarre, just try it. You won’t be disappointed. Promise.