Unfinished business

The beets in my garden are knee-high. But before I could even think of what I would make with them, I had to use up the frozen beet greens from last fall. Given the effort that I put into growing, harvesting, trimming, washing, drying, chopping and freezing them, there was absolutely no question, these had to go first! Besides, being wasteful while people who don’t have a garden complain that beet greens are not always available would made me feel really guilty.

I have made Risotto with Beet Greens so frequently these past months that I needed to give that one a break. So I tried different side dishes. Marissa Grace’s Pink Greens on Food52 were my husband’s favorite. I liked them but I would also put these Beet Greens with Sesame on the top of my list. Not covering them and adding lime juice juice helped them maintain their green color.

There will be so many new fresh beet greens coming my way that I will certainly make both dishes again.

Beet Greens with Sesame

1 tablespoon raw sesame seeds

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 pounds trimmed beet greens, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon lime juice


Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a non-greased pan. Set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute until soft. Add the beet greens and the ginger and cook until wilted, stirring often. Do not cover.

3. When the beet greens have collapsed, add the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Pour off some of the pink liquid and transfer greens to a serving bowl. Drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings


If life gives you beet greens…

Risotto with beet greens

Growing beets has always been difficult for me in my garden. Before I put up a Berlin Wall-like fence, the tender greens were chewed to the ground by rabbits as soon as they emerged. But even now, and despite painstaking soil sifting and amendment with sand, most of the beets in the rocky Pennsylvania soil are small, woodsy and gnarly. Their greens, however, is a totally different story! It is as if the plants put all their energy into the lush, shiny, large foliage. So every year I end up with several bags of frozen beet greens.

Before I became a gardener, I did not even know that beet greens are edible. That’s no surprise, because unless you buy the beets super-fresh from a farmers market, they reach the store leafless. And that’s a shame, because the leaves have more nutritional value than beet roots.

I have tried different recipes with beet greens but I always return to the same two recipes: Trouchia, a French vegetable omelet, and this risotto. The recipe is adapted from Amanda Hesser’s terrific book The Cook and the Gardener. But since I have such an abundance of beet greens, I maximized their amount and left out the chard used in the original recipe.

Frozen beet greens are easy to break into small bits while still in the bag so no chopping needed.

Risotto with Beet Greens

8-10 ounces cleaned and trimmed beet greens, fresh or frozen

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

4 cups low-fat chicken broth

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 cup Arborio rice

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan


Freshly ground white pepper

1. Chop the beet greens if using fresh, or break frozen leaves into small pieces.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and add the garlic. Cook for 2 minutes until soft. Don’t let the garlic brown.

3. Stir und cook until leaves are wilted. Remove from the heat and set aside.

4. Heat the chicken broth in a saucepan.

5. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium-size pot with a heavy bottom. Add the shallot and cook 2 minutes until translucent.

6. Add the bay leaf and the rice and stir to coat evenly. Cook over medium heat until the rice releases a nutty smell and looks glassy.

7. Add the wine and ¼ cup hot broth. Cook while stirring constantly until all the liquid has been absorbed.

8. Continue adding chicken broth in ½ cup increments and stirring constantly, only adding more broth when the previous addition has been absorbed, until all the broth has been used and the rice is tender but not mushy, about 20 to 25 minutes.

9. Add the beet greens and stir until reheated. Then stir in the Parmesan and butter and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and let stand for 1 to 2 minutes before serving.

Makes 2 servings as a main course, or 4 servings as side dish

Beets? Sweet!

I was a beet-avoider – until I found the best way to prepare them: roasted in the oven. What a difference in flavor and texture from the boiled, rubbery slices in jars and cans! Now I am growing beets in the garden, and for the first time I have a real harvest (thanks to Berlin Wall No. 2).

Tonight we’ll have a beet salad that I’ve made a few times already this year. But I will add a new, also homemade ingredient: raspberry vinegar. I found the vinegar recipe in the superb recently published River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin (though I used less sugar than the recipe calls for).

Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese

8 medium-size beets

3-4 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

4 ounces crumbly soft goat cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil or walnut oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar


Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.

1. Peel beets and cut them into ½-inch dice. Toss with the raspberry vinegar and spread in one layer on a greased jelly roll pan. Roast in the preheated oven, turning once in a while and adding a bit of water if they seem dry. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until you can pierce them with a sharp knife. dry. Cool completely.

2. Lightly roast the walnuts in a pan. Cool.

3. Whisk oil and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Toss dressing with the beets, walnuts and crumbled goat cheese.