Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Save the Greens
What’s cooking? Beet Greens with Bacon and Tomato

I lost my mind at the framers’ market yesterday. It was the first day for peaches, the first for field-ripened tomatoes (or so they said, tho they looked suspiciously like the hothouse variety), and the first for sweet corn. High season has hit for the blueberries, and as I entered the marketplace, a woman passed by me with the most gorgeous beet greens sticking artfully out of her shopping bag. I vowed right then to get some for myself.

So after snagging a bunch of beets along with the peaches, tomatoes and blueberries, and my usual allotment of lettuce and mushrooms and zucchini and fresh fish, I was heading toward the car when I ran into my friend Claudia. She mentioned how nice it was to have sour cherries available for her cherry pies. What the heck, I said to myself – maybe I should make a cherry pie, too. (More on that in my next post.)

Needless to say, I arrived home with a really ridiculous amount of stuff (including the sour cherries), and no good idea of how to fit it all in my fridge. Adding to my problem, the friendly folks at the organic veggie stand had given me a free bagful of beet greens to go with what I’d bought. Apparently, lots of people buying beets have the greens cut off and thrown away. Who are these people?

The Kitchen Goddess is deeply offended by this wasteful behavior. Not everyone likes beets – I get that. But beet greens are tender and delicious and easy to cook. Okay, it may take a few minutes to ribbon them the way I do, but ribboning isn’t a necessity – as with any type of large green leaf, you just want them chopped coarsely enough that they’re easy to fork into your mouth. I decided we’d just have to have them for dinner.

The secret to cooking greens of any sort, in my not-so-humble opinion, is bacon and onion. This may be my Southern heritage speaking, but frankly, I can’t think of many foods that won’t go well with bacon and onion. I added the tomato just because it was there.

I served these greens with fresh cod fillets from the fishmonger – did I mention I’d bought cod and scallops and a bag of clams? Oh, and a simple green salad using some of my enormous stash of lettuce. Dessert was homemade apricot sorbet – and that reminds me of another recipe I must give you... next time. I've added my modus operandi for broiled fish at the end of this post.

So I hope you will join me and do your part to save the greens – it’s sort of like saving the whales, only cheaper and more fun.

**Kitchen Goddess note: Measuring beet greens is an inexact science, as it’s pretty much up to the grocer or farm stand as to what constitutes “a bunch.” Beets generally come 4 to a bunch, so a bunch of beet greens should be much smaller than, say, a bunch of collards. I started with the greens from one bunch of beets, then added at least one more bunch worth from the bag I got free. That made enough for 4 servings of greens as a side dish. But these dishes remind me so much of the meals I was served as a child that I probably could have eaten the entire batch myself. Does that mean this recipe only serves 1?

Beet Greens with Bacon and Tomato

Serves 4.

2 slices of bacon
½ cup onion in ¼-inch dice
Leafy tops from 2 bunches of beets (see note above), rinsed well and ribboned**
¼ cup water
1 medium tomato, in ½-inch dice
garlic salt/pepper to taste

In a large (10-inch) skillet, cook bacon on medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add onion. Sauté onion for 4-5 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t burn.

Add beet greens in batches, stirring each batch with a folding motion to get the greens well covered with the bacon grease and onion before adding more. The greens will wilt as you stir them in, which will give you the space to add more. Once all greens have been incorporated, stir in the water and cover. Continue to cook the greens on low heat for 4-5 minutes, then stir in the tomato. Cover and continue to cook another 4-5 minutes, until the greens are tender.

Crumble the bacon and stir it into the cooked greens. Season to taste and serve.

Kitchen Goddess note on ribboning: It’s a lot easier than it looks, and it doesn’t take long once you get the hang of it. Once the leaves have been well rinsed and spun dry, stack as many as you can control (I take 8-10 at once), positioning the tops of the stems together. (See photo above.) Holding the stack firmly in place, slice across the stack in ½-inch wide strips. Throw away the stems.

* * *

Nothing could be easier than broiling fish fillets, but the Kitchen Goddess herself has only recently perfected her technique (and after all these years!). In case you’re interested, here it is:

Preheat the broiler. Place 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a pan lined with foil, and put the pan on an upper rack in the oven. When the butter is good and hot, remove the pan and place the fish on top of the butter. Brush butter from the pan on top of the fillets and season with salt and pepper. For thin fillets such as flounder, broil 90 seconds to 2 minutes; for thicker fillets such as cod, broil 5-7 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.


  1. I love the new "What's cooking" in the post title. Great idea!