Apparently 99 per cent of beet tops (greens) get tossed out. Stores don’t even offer them for sale and neither do fresh garden produce shops. The cashier will often say, “Do you want the greens removed, tossed in the trash?” That is such a waste.
Buy fresh beets at the produce market, with the tops on. When you get home cut off the tops, leaving about two inches of stocks attached. The stocks look a little like rhubarb. Put the beets in the fridge to cook another day.
Wash the greens several times, soaking in cold water. Cut off the red ends of the greens and cook the red stalks separately. Remove centre-leaf hard stems from the big floppy green leaves, if they are very rigid.
Start by sautéing the stalks in warm butter and a little salt. You could add a little liquid (water or chicken broth). They take ages to soften. Cover and leave them on the lowest heat to soften; you want them fork tender, mashable. When the stalks are fork tender, add the greens’ tops that have been rinsed several times, completely free of all sand.
Add the green tops to the sautéed stems. Cover and let them cook in their own moisture. They take longer to soften and don’t wilt easily like spinach does, although they will collapse into the pot and cook down remarkably. A very large bunch of beet greens will reduce to a large cup of finished greens.
When the greens are cooked, drain using a large sieve over a pot. Push the greens to release all the liquid. They won’t fully drain on their own. You want them as moisture-free as possible. You might even want to squeeze out any excess moisture using a large fresh white cheesecloth.
Using a cutting board and a sharp large blade chopping knife, crosscut chop, turning the greens and the red cooked stems at angles until the cooked greens resemble cooked, chopped spinach.
In the meantime, chop a small white onion very fine. Mash a small clove of fresh garlic, mincing it in fresh squeezed lemon juice and salt. Sauté both gently in real butter. Add a tiny sprinkle of salt as you remove it from the sauté pan.
Warm a large tablespoon of butter in the sauté pan. Add a teaspoon of granulated sugar and a tiny pinch of nutmeg. Using a wooden spoon, stir the chopped greens into the warm butter. Add the garlic onion mix.
Now you can save the greens to warm and eat another day, or decide how to eat them immediately. There are many wonderful ways to enjoy them.
At this stage you can even turn the greens into jam or stir them into scalded cream, bagna cauda style, and serve with pasta or use as a crepe filling, or just serve the greens as a delicious side vegetable dish. Spritz with Marsala wine or a drizzle of Asbach Uralt brandy or any of your favourite bitters spirits. Experiment.
Or, put the greens into a buttered ramekin lined with parchment, and add whisked eggs and cream to make a wonderful treat, baked using a bain marie. Or you could create Napoleon layering mashed potatoes, cooked ground beef and the greens. Top with a round of frozen butter puff pastry. Serve with a swish of rhubarb confit drizzled over a tablespoon of creamy goat cheese on top while still hot from the oven. (Or top with WildlyDelicious Canadian Red Onion and Beets Marmalade.)
This greens dish is terrific with my whipped mashed potatoes, served with brisket, as you would serve kale – an old Dutch dish. (see my kale recipe) alongside tender braised brisket, with its natural juices and a little ordinary white vinegar, or white balsamic (must use).
This beet greens dish is quite a lot of work and might not appeal to all home cooks. This is time-consuming but worth the effort. If you enjoy eating spinach you will likely enjoy beet tops cooked the same way, to start. Then serve in any of several ways. If you haven’t eaten beet greens, this recipe is an opportunity to try this special dish that others often throw away. Full of all sorts of good things that your diet might be missing.
Make a crostata pastry, savoury style. Prepare your favourite pastry. Sprinkle with fresh coarse, homemade breadcrumbs like you use when making strudel, to absorb any moisture. Instead of filling with fruit, fill the open pastry with the cooked beet greens, top with “seared” sliced white, firm, fresh button mushrooms, crisped prosciutto and just a little sweated herbed onion, or dot with cognac marinated baby pearl onions. Pull the sides of the pastry towards the centre, leaving the centre exposed to the filling, brush the edges with melted butter and bake on high heat (400 F) for 20 minutes. Serve pizza-style wedges, as a terrific veggie-side dish. Maybe great served next to scrambled (barely cooked) eggs, with slices of thawed frozen smoked Norwegian salmon on top of the eggs.
Try this delicious dish, using the recipe above.
Individual roasted beet tatin with my beet greens recipe
Heat butter in hot skillet. Reduce heat. Add finely chopped shallots. Sauté until fork tender. Stir in a little sugar (maybe a quarter cup) and add a little white balsamic vinegar. Watch chemistry happen. Continue to stir constantly until the sugar congeals.
Layer sliced roasted fresh beets into the caramelized sauce. Rest briefly.
Place a little caramel sauce in the bottom of large, buttered muffin tin. Top with a few layered sauced beet slices. Add some chopped macerated marinated black mission figs from your brandy Asbach Uralt jar. Drizzle just a tiny bit of congealed figgy jus from your marinating jar over top.
Place a generous tablespoon of my beet greens into each muffin tin on top of the beet slices. (I keep a container of cooked beet greens in my freezer. You could freeze them in ice cube trays as individuals; when frozen solid, toss into a plastic bag.)
Top with a frozen puff pastry round, docked to allow to puff beautifully. (Keep the butter puff pastry very cold until ready to bake.) Brush pastry toppers with a little cream, just when putting the pan in the oven.
Bake until the pastry puffs, on high heat, in a preheated oven at 400 F. It won’t take long, maybe eight to 10 minutes.
Tip out the muffin tin. The pastry will be on the bottom. (You could bake in individual buttered ramekins in a water bath.)
Serve on a mound of mixed greens topped with Celebrity label soft creamy Canadian goat cheese pucks. (A good opportunity to use your marinated goat cheese pucks.)
Beets love blue cheese, so it’s always appropriate to top with blue cheese if you like.
Alternate: Just before topping with butter puff pastry rounds, add a couple of teaspoons of whisked eggs, for a different presentation.
Let’s beet up the menu…
Chicken breast pockets with red onion and beet marmalade
Marinate large boneless, skinless chicken breasts for 10 minutes in a little Mazola Corn Oil. Sprinkle with your favourite herbs and spices. I used dried fresh thyme, a little dried fresh mint, a little nutmeg, salt, pepper and a pinch of garlic salt. Normally I don’t use salt when marinating, but this recipe goes fast.
Using a sharp boning knife, slit a pocket into each breast. Fill the pocket with a tablespoon of Red Onion and Beet Marmalade by WildlyDelicious, and put a quarter teaspoon of Dijon in the pocket. A creative use for Petite Maison White Truffle Dijon.
Sauté the chicken breasts in sizzling unsalted butter. First side for four minutes. Set your timer. Turn down the heat and cover at a tilt, or tent with foil and sauté the other side for another three or four minutes, depending on the thickness of the breasts. Check for doneness. Juices need to run clear. But careful not to overcook. Adjust heat. You don’t want a crust to form, just a golden surface on the chicken breasts.
While the chicken is sautéing in another skillet, warm the butter until it sizzles, very hot and add a cup of fresh tiny, baby organic white button mushrooms, whole. Sear in the hot butter, just once over easy. You don’t want mushy mushrooms. Sprinkle with dried fresh thyme, a pinch of nutmeg and pepper and don’t salt until you are ready to move the mushrooms out of the skillet, to the warm chicken holding platter. Deglaze the skillet with just a little cream and add to the sauce in the chicken skillet just before serving.
Remove the chicken breasts from the skillet immediately when juices run clear and quickly place on a warming platter. Tent to rest. Add about a cup of half and half cream to the hot skillet and let it scald, reducing slightly. Sprinkle with pepper, a little salt, a pinch of nutmeg, just a little fresh lemon juice, a pinch of granulated sugar, a generous tablespoon of bottled, LiteHouse brand freeze-dried parsley (or fresh if you have it) and a quarter teaspoon of White Truffle Dijon, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat. Now add a couple of generous tablespoons of the Red Onion and Beet Marmalade to the sauce. Stir gently. Turn down the heat but keep the sauce warm. It will continue to thicken. (You could substitute your own homemade kumquat marmalade that you made using my recipe.)
Make a generous puddle of the serving sauce on a large white or black plate (yes, the chicken is golden white), but you want to show off your beet sauce. Not only is this sauce amazing, it is good for you. Gently position the chicken breasts on the puddle. Keep the plates warm in a low heat preheated oven if necessary.
Serve with a side plate of whipped mashed potatoes and sliced roasted fresh from the garden beets, spritzed with Black Maple Magic Balsamic Vinegar. You can add a tablespoon of the beet greens to the pocket you made in the chicken breasts, before sauté.
Alternate serving idea: Meanwhile, toast six baguette slices (or more), or three full-size slices of black-olive bread for each person. Butter the toasts. Smear with homemade oven-roasted garlic puree. Place on hot individual serving oval or rectangular platters and position thick slices of chicken breasts on top of the toasts. Pour the thick special sauce and the whole mushrooms over top. The bread will soak up some of the sauce.
For a king-size special “beet” celebration meal, you could add my Boston Bibb lettuce salad with warm blue cheese dressing, served with Kuhne brand whole baby beets.
© From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks – Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience