Those customers at the market who don’t know that the lush bunch of greens attached to the beets is a vegetable in itself look at me inquiringly and ask what I do with them. I use them exactly as I would use Swiss chard; they are very similar. The simplest thing is to arrange them, blanched or steamed, on a platter over or surrounded by sliced roasted beets. Drizzle everything with olive oil, add a little vinegar or lemon juice if desired, sprinkle with feta, and serve.
Now I’m glad I’ve stocked up and have some blanched greens in the freezer, as alas, I’m not going to the market. I still order beets from the local market, hoping for the best, though I’ve observed over the years that the supermarket beets are trimmed more; maybe not as much in the organic section. Meanwhile, I’m putting my pre-coronavirus greens to good use.
Beet Greens and Grains Gratin
Serves 4 to 6
1 generous bunch beet greens, stemmed and washed (about 3/4 pound) in 2 changes of water (more to taste)
2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion (more to taste)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (1/2 teaspoon dried)
Salt to taste
1/2 cup milk
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup cooked farro, brown rice, black rice or Arborio rice
3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (3/4 cup, tightly packed)
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish with olive oil. Either blanch the beet greens for 1 minute in a large pot of generously salted boiling water, or steam over 1 inch of boiling water for 2 to 5 minutes, until wilted and tender. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, drain, then take up by the handful and squeeze out excess water. Chop medium-fine. Set aside.
2. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender, 4 to 5 minutes, and add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the cooked greens and toss together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. Add a scant 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir in the greens mixture, the farro or rice, and the gruyère and mix together well. Scrape into the oiled baking dish. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top. Drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of oil.
4. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until sizzling and nicely browned on the top and sides. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Advance preparation: The gratin will be good for 3 or 4 days, and is as good served cold or at room temperature as it is hot.