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Recipes for Food Justice: Reem Assil’s Mutabal Shamandar (Beet-Tahini Spread)

Chef Reem AssilMeet Reem Assil! Reem is a Palestinian-Syrian chef based in Oakland, CA and owner of Reem’s California, a nationally acclaimed restaurant in Oakland and Reem’s California Mission in San Francisco, inspired by Arab street corner bakeries and the vibrant communities that surround them. Reem sits at the intersection of her three passions: food, community, and social justice. She uses food to invoke the central virtue of her Arab culture ⁠— hospitality ⁠— to build strong, resilient, and connected community.

Before dedicating herself to a culinary career, Reem spent over a decade as a community and labor organizer, building leadership in workers and residents to fight for living wages, affordable housing, and a voice in their jobs and their neighborhoods.  Reem was a 2021 Emerson Collective Fellow in the Recover & Renew Cohort to incubate Sumoud, a replicable worker-ownership apprenticeship program equipping food-service workers with the tools they need to make meaningful, systemic change in the restaurant industry and beyond.

For our Recipes for Food Justice Series, Reem shared with us her recipe for mutabal shamandar, a beet-tahini dip.

Mutabal Shamandar

Beet-Tahini Spread
Makes 3 cups

This mezze spread has a natural sweetness and electric magenta color. It starts off sweet, then gets a little spicy, and ends with an earthy, savory flavor that will make you want to go back for more. Like most mezze spread dips, it tastes even better when made a day ahead, giving all the flavors a chance to meld. This makes for a lovely dip for bread and veggies.

  • 4 red beets (~2 pounds)
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 serrano chili, stems, seeds, and veins removed, halved lengthwise
  • 1⁄4 c lemon juice (from about 2 lemons), plus more as needed
  • 1⁄2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted, or 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1⁄2 c tahini, plus more as needed
  • 1 TBS coarsely chopped herbs, such as cilantro, dill, or fennel fronds for garnish


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mutabal Shamandar

In a medium bowl, coat the beets in the oil and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Tear four lengths of aluminum foil and tightly wrap each beet individually in the foil. Roast the beets in the oven for about 1 hour, until caramelized and tender (a knife or cake tester should go through them with little or no resistance). Remove the beets from the oven and cool in the foil.

For this next step, I save old towels I don’t mind staining. When cool enough to handle, remove the beets from the foil, wrap each beet in a towel, and rub the peels away.

Coarsely chop the beets and place them in a food processor or blender. Add the garlic, chili, lemon juice, cumin, and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt and blend for about 5 minutes, until creamy and smooth. Slowly drizzle in the tahini and continue blending until the tahini is fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Adjust the salt and lemon juice to taste. If you want a thicker spread, blend in more tahini, 1 tablespoon at a time.

When ready to serve, scoop the mixture onto a serving plate, drizzle with the oil, and garnish it with the herbs.

This spread can be made ahead of time and stored, ungarnished, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.