Hello and welcome to summer! I don’t know about you, but I’m sure loving it. The start of each new season is always exciting for me as it brings new and wonderful things in the garden and subsequently to the kitchen. Summer produce is always so fun and bountiful that it’s a great time to come up with new recipes. Farmers Markets are booming and it’s a perfect time to support your local farms by buying their produce. One great way to do this is to sign up for a CSA veggie box. We got beets in our most recent veggie box, which is exciting! Many people don’t know quite what to do with beets, but keep reading and I’ll show you how to cook beets and their greens.
I’m sure that some of you are familiar with CSA boxes, but if you aren’t, here’s a brief introduction for you. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is a way for farms to get a guaranteed income for the season from the produce that they grow. You pay for a “share” for a set amount of time (usually for a season, but every farm is different) and then you get a box of produce, usually weekly, for the duration. They all run a little bit differently, but you usually pick up your box somewhere or sometimes they’ll even deliver it right to your door. Many CSA programs also let you add on other types of local food products like eggs, cheese, bread and sometimes even meat. It’s really cool and you should see if you have one locally!
We get a weekly CSA veggie box here in Ashland from the Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative, which gets its produce from several local farms. It gets delivered weekly to different pick up locations that are arranged ahead of time. Here’s what our latest veggie box looked like when we picked it up:
Broccoli, lettuce, beets, basil, onions, peas, blueberries, zucchini, and potatoes. Not a bad haul! What’s cool about it is that the veggies will change based on what’s in season. I personally love getting a big box of veggies and then basing my weekly meals around what I get. I do understand that this can be tough for some people, especially when you get something that you’ve never cooked before. Beets may just be one of those veggies!
Beets are a vegetable that people either seem to love or hate. Unfortunately they have been maligned by many people, usually only because of the way they are prepared. Trust me on this one, though… once I show you how to cook beets and their greens I think you will become a convert! We are going to roast the beet roots which not only gives delicious results, but is also really easy. I will also show you how to saute the greens with bacon.
The best part about beets is that they are actually two vegetables in one, the roots and the greens. If you buy them at the farmers market or at your local grocery store make sure to buy them with the greens attached. Once you get home make sure to wash everything well, cut the root tips off and send them to compost, then cut the greens from the roots. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Roasting the beets does take a bit of time, an hour or more, for them to be completely cooked, so keep that in mind. First, if your beets are big, cut them into smaller wedges. If they are small leave them whole or simply cut them in half. Put them on a piece of tinfoil on a sheet pan or cast iron skillet, drizzle the wedges with olive oil, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
Close up the tinfoil and put it in the preheated oven for at least an hour.
In the meantime, cook your beet greens. Roughly chop up the greens. Heat a large skillet on medium heat and add a handful of bacon or pancetta pieces. Of course this is an optional ingredient, but I highly recommend it!
Once they start to get a little crispy, add the beet greens to the pan. You may need to add a little oil or butter if your bacon or pancetta didn’t render a lot of fat.
Add a little salt and pepper and saute until the greens start to soften just a bit. Then add some minced garlic to the pan and continue to cook until the greens are wilted and fully cooked through.
After an hour check the roasting beet roots with a knife to see if they are tender. They may need to cook for up to 30 minutes longer. Once they are fully cooked pull them out of the oven and open the foil to let them cool for a little while.
The next step is to peel the beets, which is easy to do once they are cool enough to handle. Just use a paring knife on the skins and they literally come right off!
And that’s all there is to it! You’ll never want to have beets any other way after this. I like to do a lot at a time if I can because of the long roasting time and also because once you have roasted beets in the fridge they are an easy addition to salads or other meals. And the greens are fabulous with eggs or added to soups or stews.
This post will be the first of many over the coming months showcasing how to cook veggies that you might get in your CSA box or at the farmers market and not know what to do with. I want to show you how easy and tasty it is to cook veggies so that you’ll actually want to eat them, because that’s the whole point, right? I’ve never met a vegetable that I didn’t like, but I can be particular on how they are cooked so that they really shine, and I want to pass that knowledge on to you!
Please tell me, what veggies do you not know how to cook and would like to learn more about?