Sometimes beets come in a bunch at the market, a 2-in-1 kind of deal. My drive to use the entire part of the plant or animal, where appropriate, one day brought a beet green to my mouth. Very similar to chard, the beet green has a pleasant, earthy and slightly bitter flavor raw. It is good enough to chop up into a salad. So I shaved the raw beet into a salad of its own greens and served it to my family. They had never eaten beet greens. All they could say was that the lettuce was so flavorful.
And while the beet greens are flavorful raw, when braised momentarily with a bit of wine, onion and garlic, and tossed with roasted almonds and fennel, they really come alive. Plus their brilliant green, coated in a glossy finish, is such a pleasing experience to the eyes. As you gardeners get ready to pull your beets, or as you beet buyers begin to see the bunches, consider doing your senses a favor with this one.
Once you roast the almonds, the dish takes only a few minutes to cook.
A NOTE ON COOKING GREENS: They reduce in volume by a lot. It may seem like you are stuffing too much into the pan, but don’t worry. They will get smaller. Trust me.
- 4-5 cups beet greens, fresh, chopped
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped (or white onion)
- 1 clove of garlic, sliced
- Splash of white wine
- 1/4 cup almonds, whole, skins on
- 2 Tbsp. basil, fresh, chopped (or 2 tsp. dried)
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- A few drops of champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
- Fennel fronds, chopped (optional)
- Dandelion petals (optional)
- White clover petals (optional)
First prepare the almonds. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roast the almonds for 15-20 minutes, until they are fragrant and browned. Let them cool to room temperature.
Heat a frying pan over high heat. Add the oil. When it’s right before the smoke point, add the onions and shake them around. Let their edges brown, a couple minutes. Reduce the heat the medium and add the garlic and basil and cook for about 10-15 seconds, barely browning the garlic. If using stainless steel, bits should start sticking to the bottom. This is good. Deglaze with the wine.
Toss in some salt and pepper, stir, then add the beet greens. Stir to coat the greens and cover with a lid. Their juices will begin to extract and mix with the wine. Cook them covered for a minute. Give the pan a shake halfway through.
Meanwhile, cut up the almonds. They should be crunchy. Tear up the fennel fronds.
When the greens have wilted, but still have some chew, remove from heat. Toss with the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Drop on the vinegar. Garnish with the crushed almonds, sea salt, fennel fronds, white clover petals and dandelion petals.
WITH REGARD TO FENNEL AND FLOWER PETALS: In Seattle, these have two other names: weeds and specialty herbs. They are a beautiful example of a contradiction. On one hand, they are unwanted and some people go so far as to spend money to have them removed from their lawns. On the other hand, some people go to herb shops and pay money for dried versions of them. I prefer the middle route: to pick them fresh, in season, from yards or parks.