Prize beets for their lovely leaves, not just roots

Fellow food writer Tod Davies and I seasoned a recent “mystery bag” cooking demonstration with plenty of anecdotes.

One of Tod’s favorites, gleaned from a recent shopping trip to Food 4 Less, involved advocating the consumption of not just beets, but the root vegetable’s greens. She attested that beet greens are delicious in response to a fellow shopper wondering aloud why the store didn’t do customers a favor and trim off all the beets’ bothersome stems and leaves.

Why would they do that when greens are the best part of a bunch of beets? Tod replied.

I’m inclined, as in many food-related assertions, to agree with Tod. Beet greens offer a plethora of vitamins and minerals, not to mention fiber, in a gorgeous, magenta-veined package. And they’re also far milder in flavor than their appearance suggests, compared with chard, kale and other greens that enjoy wider appeal.

I love to excise the tiniest leaves from inside the beet bundle to toss with salad greens and then roughly chop the larger leaves for sautéing. I’ve tossed them into pad Thai and pasta carbonara, soup and stew and I’ve even topped pizza off with garlic-seasoned beet leaves.

Here’s a recipe that takes roasted beets out of the restaurateur’s realm, where they’ve become a salad unto themselves with goat cheese. Quesadillas confer casual status on the trendy root vegetable, particularly paired with their greens. Or skip roasting the beets if you’re in a hurry and simply saute their leaves for this dish, courtesy of Tribune News Service, and save the beets for another meal.

Tribune News Service photo

Beet Green, Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

2 bunches small beets with greens attached (about 12)

Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large sprig rosemary

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

11 ounces soft goat cheese, or to taste

Hot sauce, for serving

Heat oven to 400 F. Remove greens from the beets, coarsely chop greens and reserve.

Place beets on a double layer of foil and drizzle over 3 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle over the salt and add the rosemary. Seal foil around beets, making a pouch, place on a baking sheet and bake until beets are tender, for about an hour (a knife should pierce beets easily). Set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel and thinly slice.

In a skillet heated over medium-high heat until hot, add 2 tablespoons oil. Stir in the garlic, cooking for a minute or so until it begins to color, then add chopped greens. Cook, stirring frequently, until greens are wilted and stems are tender, for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat until hot and coat with a thin layer of olive oil. Place a couple of the tortillas in pan and top with some of the goat cheese, beet greens and sliced beets. Top with tortillas, flattening each to spread filling evenly.

Cook quesadillas until cheese is melted and tortillas are golden, carefully flipping to cook filling and tortillas evenly. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling. Halve quesadillas and serve while warm, with hot sauce on the side.

Makes 4 servings.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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