I’ve been meaning to address the topic of beets for some time because, like ramps, there seem to be divided camps: those who love them, and those who would veer across three lanes of rush hour traffic to avoid them.
I would plant myself firmly in the beet lover camp, although I do admit that they’re an acquired taste. They have an earthy mustiness that takes some getting used to, but once you’re there, rejoice. Because not only do they taste great, but they’re also one of the healthiest foods on earth.
A few of their benefits:
- They help clear out BPA that resides in everything from your water bottles to your canned vegetables
- They lower your blood pressure
- They’re rich in all kinds of vitamins and nutrients like vitamins B and C
I’m sure there are more, but the purpose of this post is to talk about this beet dish and why you need to make it now.
What some of you may not know is that the beet greens themselves are also edible. And I do hate it when vegetables/vegetable parts are described as “edible” since it suggests that you caaaan eat them, but why would you want to?
Beet greens aren’t just edible, but they have a flavor profile on par with Swiss chard, kale, and other leafy greens. The problem is that when you see beet greens in the grocery store, the greens have often seen a few too many days and ill handling, and they end up wilted and yellowing. Sometimes you may scratch your head and think “do moths eat beet greens?”
Those aren’t the delicious greens that I’m referring to. Head to your nearest farmers’ market to find just-picked beets and you’re in for a treat.
In celebration of all things beet, I decided to make a dish that uses all parts of the beet, nose to tail. So put on your beet butchering hat, and take a look at what I’m calling my Jerry Garcia beets.
Alternate titles for this post included “Hallucinogenic beets” and “Meaty nose-to-tail beets” but to keep the vegetarians and non-drug users reading, “Jerry Garcia beets” seemed to be a good compromise.
I also liked the sense that I was naming my dish after an actual person. When I’m reading through cookbooks, I’ll sometimes come across a dish titled after someone special in the author’s life, like “Rinka’s mom’s beans” or “Aunt Julia’s salad dressing”, which makes me think: who is this Rinka and why is he or she so lucky to have a mom who makes such fabulous beans? And why don’t I have a dish named after someone?
I did think of referencing one of my favorite culinary folk heroes, my Dad, famous for his raw flour and red wine Thanksgiving gravy, poured through the beak of a ceramic bird called “the puking chicken”.
But unfortunately – or fortunately – he has no connection to beets. Inspiration needed to come from somewhere else.
By happy accident the beets turned out this color:
Your reaction here might be “eeeew” (particularly if you’re a beet hater) or “awesome”. So I may be speaking to the minority of people who will agree with me, but multicolored creamed beets were the highlight of my day. And this isn’t joke food. This ain’t no Janet Jackson nipple cupcake, nor is it a cookie dough ice cream-filled taco. It’s real deal food; food that I would happily serve to friends and family, whether they live in California and can handle this kind of thing, or New York, where they’d have mild, wavelike panic attacks about all of that color.
It started as a simple idea. I set out to cook some creamed beets & beet greens, using all parts of the beet, from the vibrant stems to the lush greens.
Now I’ve cooked with rainbow chard stems before without the dish turning a vivid shade of pink and orange, but beet green stems behave differently. They’re more intensely colored, with the result being that my creamed beet greens ended up with more colors than a circus clown in a candy store.
It’s all peace, love & unity in this dish. A dish to take you back to the psychedelic 60s, hitch a ride on a magic carpet and pull Jerry Garcia aside to smoke a spliff (split a spliff?) is spliff a word? It’s starting to look weird. You can see that it’s not in my everyday vocab, although I would have been much cooler in college had it been.
Not only are these beets gorgeous piled next to some sliced sirloin or a roast chicken, but they’re wonderful spooned on top of grilled bread that’s been spread with some fresh ricotta. I tested it. Phenomenal. And talk about making the color pop, next to the white ricotta, my beets nearly jumped off the plate. The only reason I don’t have photographic evidence is because sometimes my hunger gets the better of me and I can’t wait the 3 milliseconds necessary to snap an iPhone pic.
So get to it, start nose-to-tailing your veg, you’ll be happy you did.
- 2-3 small to medium beets, preferably different colors (yellow and red), with healthy looking greens and stems, washed (beets should be scrubbed)
- 4 Tbsp olive oil for sautéing, plus more for rubbing the beets before roasting
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 2 Tablespoon white flour
- 1 cups of whole milk, warmed in a microwave
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove the washed beets from their stems and rub the beets with olive oil. Wrap in foil, and roast in the oven for 45 minute – an hour.
- When the beets are done (can be pierced easily with a knife), let them cool, and then remove their skins by rubbing them off (this is easiest if the beets are roasted the day before you make the beet dish).
- Dice the cleaned beets into ¾ inch chunks.
- Once the beets have been prepped, remove the beet leaves from the stems by running a knife along either side of the rib. Tear the beet greens into large pieces and set aside.
- Using 3-4 of the beet stems, dice, and add to the pile of diced onion.
- Boil a pot of salted water, and when boiling, blanch the beet greens for a minute; drain the beet greens and run them under cold water.
- When the greens have cooled, squeeze out the excess liquid.
- Heat olive oil in a large sautee pan on medium heat, and when the pat is warm, add the olive oil.
- Next, add the beet stems and onions. Sautee for approximately 10 minutes.
- While the beet stems and onions are softening, make the cream sauce.
- In a small pot, melt the butter. When melted, add the flour and cook for a minute, whisking.
- Add the warmed milk slowly, whisking. It will start to thicken, and let it thicken to the point where it coats the back of a wooden spoon. This should take a few minutes. Season with the nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste.
- Once onions have softened, add the reserved beets, beet greens, and cream sauce (don’t add it all at once, add it by the half cup until your desired creamy consistency is reached) and heat the beets and greens together for a minute to combine the flavors.