Rainy days, slow and soft. With deadlines looming and a long list of chores to complete; must confess I feel a twinge of guilt when allowing myself an afternoon of luxury in the middle of a busy season. But it sure feels good. The sound of acoustic guitar plays along with percussive showers on my tin roof. There’s no where to go, and there’s nothing I can do. Fresh beet leaves from the garden —in brilliant, gemstone colors— inspire a late lunch of fresh greens, crusty homemade bread and good, red wine. Sweet surrender…
Springtime greens —saturated in brilliant hues— are beautiful, both in the potager and on the plate. I’ve been working in gardens all my life and yet I am still astonished by all of the gem-like colors emerging from earth at this time of year. Ruby and rainbow chard, red-stalked rhubarb, fuchsia veined beet greens; impossible beauty all around.
I love sauteed baby greens of most any kind, but beet greens are truly a favorite. When thinning rows, I like to toss the tiny beet leaves in a salad. But when larger, they are delicious steamed or quickly blanched and sauteed with a bit of olive oil and garlic. Today, looking to jazz this favorite side dish up for lunch, I decided to combine my fresh beet greens with caramelized onions and reduced balsamic vinegar. Just look at the colors…
Sauteed Beet Greens with Balsamic Vinegar, Caramelized Onions & Toasted Pine Nuts
1 Pound Beet Greens
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Cup chopped sweet onion
1 Garlic clove, minced
1/4 Cup Artisan Quality Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 Cup Water
1/4 Cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste
Freshly harvest and wash beet greens thoroughly. I like to use a three rinse method. Drain and chop leaves into pieces. If your beet greens are fresh, young and tender, you can leave most of the stems attached. Otherwise, remove and chop the stems separately and set aside.
Heat one tablespoon of butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the onion, spreading evenly across the skillet. Reduce heat to low and allow onions to cook slowly, occasionally stirring, for about 30 minutes (until soft and golden brown). Add 1/4 cup of artisan quality balsamic vinegar and continue cooking onions and reducing vinegar on low heat for another 20-30 minutes. Raise heat back up to medium, and add garlic. Cook for a another couple of minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water and raise heat to high. Bring the liquid to a boil while stirring and scraping to loosen bits of sticky onion from the bottom of the pan.
If your greens are all very tender, add them all at once. If the beet stems are thicker, add them to the pan first and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the chopped leaves. Toss everything together in the skillet, and reduce the heat. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 – 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook (a visual, not to mention culinary crime)! The fresher the greens, the less cooking time you need.
Remove from heat and toss with optional pine nuts. Place the greens in a shallow serving bowl. Allow the greens to cool a bit before serving. This recipe is great alone, or it can be used in pasta or even on pizza.
If you are a meat eater, I highly recommend Elise Bauer’s version of this dish: sauteed beet greens with bacon. Like many of Elise’s recipes, this one gets rave reviews from the omnivores in my life. If you aren’t familiar with Simply Recipes, visit Elise and find her tasty spin on sauteed beet greens here (click for link).
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