Before Sunday, I had not tried beets before. The opportunity just never seemed to present itself; certainly if it had I would have pondered curiously at the delightfully fluorescent red creatures, creatures which shamefully remind me of the screaming baby Mandrake roots in Harry Potter, sniffed their raw, baked potato-like essence and poked with my tongue to taste. I have no recollection of ever seeing them on a menu, or as a delicacy in a foreign country, as a side dish or entree. Instead, I have waited patiently for 22 years to be handed them, freshly pulled straight from my aunts garden, spiders and all. I could not wait any longer than a day to get my hands on these gorgeous plants.
First, I cut the stems off and chopped them up for salads. I then carefully and diligently washed the giant, oblong green leaves, dried them in a rolled up paper towel, folded the leaves to one side and cut them from the stems into bite sized pieces.
There were many recipe variations for sauteing the greens, but I used what I had.
Although online videos told me to cut the body of the beet from the stems and drop them in boiling water just like that, my aunt suggested I cut them into halves instead. First, I brought a saucepan filled less than halfway with water to a boil. I cut each beet into halves and dropped them into the water. The magenta color from the vegetable immediately dispersed throughout the water. I covered the pot, and let simmer for a good 25-30 minutes until a fork could easily poke through the meat.
After the beets were cooked, I placed them in a colander and ran cool water over them as I peeled the skin of. This was quite easy with a bit of an aggressive thumb. After they were fully bare, I sliced the beets and sprinkled salt and pepper over them.
I looked at the vegetable as it sat on the white cutting board in the afternoon sun and wondered why so many people turn their noses up to beets. They looked so innocent and pretty, so I stuffed one in my mouth. It dripped a bit on my fingers. It had the essence of a potato; but not as starchy, and the flavor was subtle, like the smell of the air after it rains. It did not taste like mud or metal as some folks say, but almost sweet, and delicate. As I went in for my third slice of beet, I remembered suddenly a crostini from a wedding shower I attended in the spring, a perfectly round, purple beet and a loving dollop of creamy, tangy goat cheese sprinkled with olive oil. It was amazing; so simple and what a savory pairing of flavors in my mouth. How could I have forgotten? I thought to myself, “Beets, we must stop meeting like this.” Or maybe, the delightful surprise makes a beet more endearing.
Sautéed Beet Greens
- 3 cups beet leaves, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tbsp Trader Joe’s tomato paste
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- ½ an onion, sliced and caramelized
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat coconut oil spray in a frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and tomato paste. Once aromatic, add a handful of beet leaves and two tablespoons of water so paste can break up and distribute evenly. Add the rest of the greens in separate handfuls and stir in between. Add pre-caramelized onions, salt and pepper to taste.