The pressure is on from my new box of farm fresh veggies! I must cook them up within a week before it's time to pick up my new CSA box at the Castro farmers market on Wednesday. It's summer so it's nice that many of the greens were fresh lettuces and the box also included strawberries, but there was also the inclusion of everyone's favorite staple crop - beets.
My mission upon receiving these beets was to finally use the beet greens. There's a weird psychology that arises when veggies are farm fresh. They are dirty and raw - raw like you just hunted them from the ground. Maybe I'm alone in this squeamishness, but I have to be honest that it took me a while to come to love fresh veggies that had dirt I had to clean off from them and a few bugs here and there that made their way into my kitchen. This was the reason for my initial apprehension in cooking beet greens, they seemed unnatural and experimental to me. They are also huge and take over a shelf on your fridge!
I was doubly intrigued to use the beet greens alongside the beets in a dish to honor the vegetable in all its glory. I landed on this recipe from the New York Times: "Pappardelle With Beets, Beet Greens and Goat Cheese".
Cooking the Beets
I turned my oven to 400 degrees, covered my elongated beet roots in olive oil and placed them in a glass cooking dish uncovered because I was out of foil (most recipes say to wrap it in foil). After cooking them for about an hour - I googled "how to know when my beet is done" and it turns out this is a very popular question for rap artists regarding "beats". I discovered my beet was done when a knife could slice through it easily and I made sure to cook it enough so that the sweetness from roasting had time to set in. I then learned that beets have skins to remove so once they were cooled I began to use a knife to gently scrape off the outer layer (who knew?!). Soon my hands became bright red and the beet cooking adventure was full on!
Cooking the Greens
I followed the New York Times Recipe and first blanched the beets in boiling water for a minute, placed them in a cold bath and then squeezed them out. I separated the greens from the stem and chopped them up separately so they were more uniform. I then followed the recipe and sauteed both the stems and the greens and the beets with garlic. A sauce was later created by adding pasta water and goat cheese to the pan to pick up the flavors and the pasta once cooked is added with a little more pasta sauce resulting in a meal of different bright red shades.
What I Loved Most
From the root, to the stem, to the leaves - each part of the beet offered a different taste that was extremely delicious and varied in texture. The beet greens are now a delicacy in my tongue/mind memory and they did a great job of picking up flavors such as pepper and salt and served as flavor bursts throughout the dish.
Nathan loved the meal. I was excited that we had eaten so many beets in one sitting and knew they were prized for their health benefits. I researched their history and looked up their benefits. Turns out historically they were prized for their greens and it wasn't until the Romans that the root portion was cultivated and prized as an aphrodisiac. Another article supported this theory mentioning that beets have high levels of "boron" which increases the production of sex hormones in the body. Beets have many more benefits for tonifying the blood and the liver, but sexy Roman talk was the most playful topic for newlywed conversation.
I expect we will receive more beets in our CSA box and I will definitely be more excited and prepared to cook the greens. We are thinking that a nice borscht would be the next experiment we perform on the beets. Perhaps I could make the beet greens a crispy topping for the soup. More research on that later!
If you want to create this recipe I describe you can find it here: "Pappardelle With Beets, Beet Greens and Goat Cheese".