Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lunch: Braised Beet Greens with Red Wine and Sectioned Oranges

We don't make beet greens often because there just aren't enough of them on the typical bunch of beets you buy in the store or at the farmers market.

But this morning I cleared out a whole bed of beets that had been planted last August. (Yes, you heard right--last August.) My haul was quite a load of big, healthy beets, as well as a bin full of greens. I separated the greens from the beets, then filled the kitchen sink with cold water, where the greens got a good soak and a wash. While the greens refreshed, I sorted through them, saving the majority (with stems) and tossing the wilted and damaged ones into the compost container.

I had an idea to braise these greens and literally was casting about the kitchen, looking for things to add to the pot. There were some garlic cloves, some shallots, a partial bottle of red wine and an orange sitting on the countertop. That all sounded good to me, so I fired up my big cast-iron skillet.

In the end, I had about 1 1/2 gallons of greens, so this formula is for a big mess of beet greens. Adjust according to the quantity you have on hand.

In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon or two of extra-virgin olive oil and saute over low heat 3 shallots, peeled and cut into thin rings, and 3 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped. When the shallot begins to soften, start adding the cleaned beet greens. They will be dripping water, which is fine for the braising. After filling the skillet with a 1-inch layer, drizzle some olive oil over the greens and season with a pinch of coarse salt. Turn up the heat to moderate and continue layering the beet greens with olive oil and salt until they are all in the skillet. It will make quite a mound, but will soon cook down.

As the greens cooks, turn them occasionally with your spring-loaded tongs and lower the heat so they just simmer. When the water has evaporated, after about 15 minutes, pour about 1/3 cup red wine over the greens and continue braising. If the skillet runs dry before the greens are perfectly tender, add some more wine. Season with black pepper.

Meanwhile, section two oranges over a bowl, removing the rind and pith but saving the juices. By now the pile of greens will be vastly reduced, enough to serve four to six people as a side dish. Pile the greens onto plates and garnish with orange sections and a drizzle of orange juice.

Fresh beet greens have a hearty, intensely satisfying meaty flavor that is barely reminiscent of beets. There's not much else in the world of greens that can touch them. If you were eating them as a side dish, they'd go perfectly with roast pork. Even better, a gamey piece of venison.

1 comment:

Charlotte Hume said...

I have beets and oranges downstairs so this is perfect.