If you typically cut the stems and leaves off your beets and discard them, you are missing out. They complement one another in flavor and nutrition. The leaves of the beet plant are delicious raw, when they are especially tender and young, as well as cooked. It seems the parts are meant to be together, not only in the soil, but also on the plate.
Beet greens and roots are packed with nutrients, but they are mates with different assets. Like other dark, leafy vegetables, the greens are packed with vitamin A, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and the eye-health duo lutein and zeax
anthin. The roots are rich in folate, fiber, nitric oxide (which improves blood flow) and antioxidants called betalains that give them their crimson color and also can help the human body neutralize toxins and fight inflammation.
The parts of this power plant even taste as if they are meant to be eaten together, the roots' earthy sweetness balanced beautifully by the pleasant bitterness of the stems and leaves.
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The accompanying recipe is a case in point. In it, the beet roots are roasted so they are tender and sweet, then cooled and diced. The leaves and tender stems are chopped, then cooked with a touch of oil and garlic. They are joined in the skillet by the diced beets and a sweet-tangy splash of orange juice and balsamic vinegar.
Of course, a key to the dish is finding beets that have a bounty of fresh leaves attached, which is mostly easy to do throughout the year. When you get home, if you aren't cooking them that night, separate the stems and leaves from the root, leaving about an inch of the stems on the roots, and store each separately in the refrigerator. The roots can be roasted several days ahead so they'll be on hand to make this quick, flavorful, whole-plant side dish.
Roasted Beets With Sauteed Beet Greens
MAKE AHEAD: You'll roast more beets than you need for this recipe; they can be roasted, cooled, peeled and refrigerated in a stainproof, airtight container several days in advance.
1 bunch beets with bountiful green (about 1- 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the stems and leaves from the beet root and reserve them. Scrub the roots, and cut off any long "tail" ends. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet and roast for about 1 hour or until tender (for a medium-size beet). Allow to cool, then use your fingers and/or a paring knife, as needed, to rub off the peel. Dice one of the beets (or two, if small) and reserve the rest for another use.
Use a knife or your hands to separate the beet leaves from their stems; coarsely chop the thinner, tender parts of the stems. (Discard the thicker stems, or reserve for another use.) Rinse the leaves well, then coarsely chop them. You should wind up with about 4 cups of greens.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the chopped stems and cook for about 2 minutes, or until they have softened a bit. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, then add the greens and cook, stirring, for a few minutes, just until they have wilted.
Stir in the orange juice, balsamic vinegar and diced beet root; cook until well incorporated and heated through. Season with the salt and a light amount of pepper; serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 2 servings.
Nutrition | Per serving: 180 calories, 3 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugar
-- Krieger's newest cookbook is "You Have It Made: Delicious, Healthy, Do-Ahead Meals" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016). She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.