I have expressed my admiration for spinach in previous posts, but this fall has produced a bounty of beets and beet greens. So I am switching my veneration away from spinach and towards the humble beet and beet greens.
People say beets taste like metal, mud, wood, even dirty socks. (Yes, I have friend who confessed that last one to me, which makes me laugh). Please stop hating on beets. They are delicious in so many ways.
Even if you really don’t like beets. Rather, even if you kind of hate them and possibly dread the thought of eating them, you’ll love this recipe. It’s an easy way — a first step of sorts — to gain some appreciation for the beet, by using the greens.
So let’s talk beet greens. If you have been tossing beet greens and their stems away, STOP. Unless they’re mildewed, browned or full of holes. Yes, you can eat the leaf and stems. Fresh beet greens should be unwilted and richly coloured. To prepare them, cut off any thick stalks. Submerge in a large bowl of water to loosen the dirt. Drain, rinse and repeat as necessary, then pat dry.
Beet greens, like beets get a bad rap — criticized as being bitter and strange. In truth they are tender in texture and mild in flavour. They taste similar to Swiss chard and are a surprising twist to the usual spinach and kale. Think of beet greens as red spinach.
Baby beet greens can be torn up and added to salad if still tender. Yes, smallish beet greens can be eaten raw or cooked or pureed if the greens are a bit bigger in size. Smoothies or dishes like Aromatic Creamed Beet Greens are a great place for mature and tougher greens. If you are still not sold on the idea, know that a one-cup cooked serving of beet greens offers 220% of vitamin A, 60% of vitamin C, 16% of calcium, and 15% of iron. That, if nothing else, should be an incentive to start eating beet greens.
I didn’t scare you off with the beet greens, did I? Hope not, because I am getting to the good part. Of recent, I have turned into a steakhouse loving person. Not sure how it came about, but I’ve come to enjoy that cliché, upscale steakhouse décor, accompanying beverage, and eating steak with delicious sides, type of scene. Totally something akin to Mad Men, but reinterpreted for 2014 (Oh that made me think of Don Draper – *Le Sigh*).
At a classic steakhouse, feasting on a medium rare ribeye or other cut usually happens. A bowl of sautéed mushrooms, or silky mashed potatoes are also mandatory. Better than all those items is the creamed spinach. You most likely have ordered the coveted side dish(if you haven’t, you are missing out).
Sometimes when I am on a steak sabbatical, the sides are just enough for me, but they have to be cooked perfectly. I know many people (okay, I might just be the only one) that craves eating just the creamed spinach. Forget the steak, I like my greens.
That’s what this dish will do. It will propel people who have ardently hated beet greens to the flipside — love. It has all of the richness of the classic spinach version (thanks to the decadence of coconut milk), but gets it’s velvety texture from cream cheese instead of heavy cream (which is normally used in addition butter and sometimes even bacon fat). Be warned, this is really saucy, so you will be hoodwinked into thinking its super decadent and something you shouldn’t be indulging in. Stop that thinking – this is utterly healthy.
The best part of this recipe is that you can use the whole part of the beet root, including stems and leaves. The secret is to barely wilt the leaves. You want them to be piping hot, but barely cooked. This dish is not especially difficult, but manages to change how you think of a side dish.
The addition of heady spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, onion, and of course chili provide complexity. I love anything spicy, so this recipe is totally up my alley, but if you’re not much into spice, tone down the amount of spice. The rich and sweet coconut milk and a few spoonfuls of cream cheese add a delicate smoothness, without the heaviness of a traditional béchamel sauce of flour, cream, and butter. The pickled beets adds a necessary tang. Serve these Aromatic Creamed Beet Greens as an accompaniment to your favourite steak recipe. Or make this side dish the focal point by serving with a fresh tomato salad.
Aromatic Creamed Beet Greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ inch piece of ginger, minced
1 chili, mince
1 lb. beet greens and stems
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard seed (rai)
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon ground garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt, pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 cup full fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons cream cheese
¼ cup of pickled beets, chopped
In a large skillet heat olive oil. Sauté the onion, garlic, ginger, and the chili. Add the rai, garam masala, turmeric, and cumin, black pepper, and salt. Continue sautéing for a few minutes and add the cornstarch to thicken. Add the beet greens and wilt briefly. Add the cream cheese and the coconut milk, stir just until the beet greens are warmed through. (You want to cook the beet greens as little as possible they don’t lose their colour. Put the beet green mixture in a blender and puree. If you are serving this dish immediately, pour into the serving bowl and top with pickled beets.