By Miriam Garron
Last week I went to a conference about food waste recovery. In a highly technical presentation about cutting edge recovery technology, I learned that there is a massive plant in Seoul, South Korea that collects tons of local food waste every week to produce electricity–much of it from Seoul residents bringing it in by bike.
While the speaker talked anaerobic digestion, I pictured hundreds of locals pedaling up to this futuristic plant with their baskets full of egg shells and vegetable trimmings. And I thought about how this complex system–which ends with the people of Seoul turning on their lights–starts with the simple act of making dinner.
And that made me think about beets. Most of us eat the roots roasted, pickled, or steamed, and most of us throw out the greens (if we even find beets with greens intact).
We shouldn’t. They are delicious–slightly bitter, in need of longer cooking than chard or spinach–and high in Vitamin A and C, iron and calcium. Like most leafy greens, they cook down a lot. And there’s the rub: One bunch of beets won’t give you enough greens for the recipes below. My solution, other than buying too many beets, is to ask the folks at the farmers’ market to save the greens–either the ones they pull from loose beets, or the greens customers ask them to remove at purchase.
The first recipe is adapted from a recipe by Greek food expert and author Diane Kochilas (made with spinach at many of the Turkish and Greek restaurants on Coney Island and Emmons Avenues). The second is one i developed for the Food Network. So keep composting the truly inedible stuff in your kitchen, but don’t forget to eat your greens.
Beet Greens with Yogurt
Adapted from The Glorious Foods of Greece by Diane Kochilas
1 lb. beet greens, trimmed and washed
1 large clove garlic, peeled
1 tsp. lemon juice
½ cup Greek yogurt
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small red onion, chopped, approximately 1 cup
- Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water generously and boil the greens until tender. Drain the greens and plunge them into the ice water, then drain again. Pound the garlic to a paste in a mortar. Or, finely chop the garlic, then work it into a paste by smashing and smearing it with your knife blade at a slight angle to the cutting board. Put the garlic paste into a small bowl, add the lemon juice and let sit 5 minutes. Stir in the yogurt.
- Heat half the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the greens and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and transfer to a serving platter; set skillet aside. Spoon the yogurt like a sauce over the hot greens.
- Heat the remaining butter in the same skillet and cook the onions over high heat, stirring, until brown and crisp at the edges. Season with salt and spoon the onions over the yogurt.
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Spaghetti with Beet Greens
From Food Network Kitchens
12 ounces spaghetti
1 1/4 pounds beet greens, stems removed and saved
1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh ricotta or ricotta salata cheese, or Parmesan shavings, for garnish
- Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil over high heat and salt it generously. Add the spaghetti and boil, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
- Cut the beet stems into 2-inch pieces. Cut the larger leaves into wide ribbons; leave the smaller ones whole. Swish the stems and then the leaves in a big bowl of cold water to clean (in batches if necessary); lift them from the bowl with your fingers, shake them off and blot with a paper towel—they don’t have to be really dry.
- Put the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic until it is golden, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and save. Turn the heat to medium, add the beet stems and season with salt to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until you can insert the tip of a knife into the stems without resistance, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
- Turn the heat to medium-high, add the beet greens and cook, tossing occasionally, until the greens are coated with oil and just starting to wilt, then season with salt to taste and cook until the leaves are wilted and tender, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Pour the pasta on top of the greens and salt lightly. Toss with tongs, add the reserved pasta water. Divide among 4 pasta bowls and top with reserved garlic slices and desired cheese.
Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
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