If you've spent any time at all reading recipes you haven't escaped the standard admonition when preparing beets to be sure to use the beet greens. Not only tasty, are these greens we're told, but so darned good for you as well.
To which I respond: Have you ever tried actually cooking the greens that typically come with a bunch of beets at the grocery store?
First, the beet greens you usually find in the grocery store aren't very appetizing at all. They look old and ragged, probably because the average beets in the average grocery store have been in transit and in storage for a week or more.
Secondly, after you separate the good leaves from the bad and trim them and wash them, what you get after turning them over a couple of times in your cook pot is a whole lot of nothing. Even if the leaves had a fair amount of life to them when you bought them, they cook down to such a small amount that you question why you bothered at all.
How many beet greens do you need--really--to make a meal?
Finally, there's the matter of flavor. Try as I might to actually consume the beet greens from the supermarket, I can hardly swallow them. The flavor's not there. I don't see the point.
All of these things were playing at the back of my mind last night as I prepared a quick and easy dinner for a couple of friends. Since these were gardening friends, I wanted to show off the produce we have growing in our yard. The menu soon consisted of tomatoes with basil and fresh mozzarella, carrot salad, beet salad and some sort of protein--oh, what the heck: a frittata. But what to put in the eggs? Onions for sure, but it needed more....
The solution hit me like a flash as I was preparing the beets. After removing the stems what lay before me on my cutting board was a pile of the most gorgeous beet greens you've ever seen. Big, strapping, luxuriant greens. These were the antidote to every bad experience I'd ever had with beet greens. And why not? They'd just been plucked out the garden. They couldn't have been fresher.
I didn't have time to search for a fancy treatment for these greens. Somehow, they had to make their way into a six-egg frittata. So I did the easiest thing I know of, which is to heat some extra-virgin olive oil in the bottom of my cast-iron skillet. I washed the greens, then tossed them a handful at a time into the skillet, turning them as they wilted to make room for more.
As I said, beet greens will cook down quite a lot and these greens did shrink as well. But when all was said and done, these greens were meaty. These greens had muscle. And the flavor? Oh, mama! I could have eaten these greens all night, seasoned with just a shake of course salt and some freshly-ground black pepper.
But there was no time to dilly-dally. When the beet greens were cooked through, I used my tongs to squeeze the excess moisture out of them right there in the skillet, then gave them a quick chop and transferred them to my fittata pan. Sauteed onions, beet greens, parmesan cheese--that was some frittata.
This morning I went out to the garden with a new mission: find more beet greens.