I need a garden. The more time I spend near them in the growing season the more I uncover about the plants as I watch their growing cycle. An edible pod here, a shoot there, a seed afterwords maybe.
A couple months ago when I was showing someone how to clean chard and I had a revelation. As I took the greens off of the large stems I started making a pile of stems. After we were done cleaning the bunch, my prep cook said:
“And the stems Jefe?”
I didn’t know what to say for a moment, I realized I was about to instruct someone to throw away a large pile of something I knew was usable and for some reason, I hadn’t thought critically about it before. I would pickle chard stems here and there, and I knew they were ok peeled and cooked, but I felt like I had been mistreating the plant by not using the stems at the same time I serve the leaves. I felt secretly embarrassed and wasteful.
I took some of the stems and cut them into small pieces so that the fibers on the outside wouldn’t stay chewy, and proceeded to sweat some in butter, then wilted the leaves with the stems and ate it. It was like eating an entirely new plant, I love wilted greens, but there’s more textural stem proportionate to the leaf on chard, so it’s like almost like eating a cross of spinach and soft celery when it’s cooked.
I got some beautiful beets with the leaves attached one day after my chard phase. The beets reminded of how they’re closely related to chard, and I knew I needed to start serving the whole beet with it’s stems and leaves too. Here’s the simplest way I know how to make them.
Roasted Beets with Their Leaves and Stems
Sometimes I serve this at the restaurant with fresh dill, a dollop of sour cream, toasted pistachios, walnut oil, tarragon, yogurt or curry, there’s lots of possibilities.
Serves 2-4 as an appetizer or side
- 2 large beets with stems and leaves attached
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Dash of red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- Remove the stems and leaves from the beets, wash, dry, and reserve both separately.
- Wash and scrub the beet roots.
- Wrap each beet in foil with the thyme leaves, then put in a dish and bake at 325 until just tender when pierced, about 1 hour depending on your oven and the size of the beets. Cool the beets in an ice bath to make peeling easy (or just cool in your fridge), then cut each beet in half and cut into wedges.
- Cut the stems on the diagonal into 1/2 inch pieces. Cut or tear the leaves into roughly 2inch pieces.
- Heat the butter in a wide saute pan like a 1o inch, then add the beets and warm through on medium low heat, add the stems and cook for a few minutes more. When the beets are warmed through and the stems are tender, finally add the leaves, season to taste with salt and pepper, then cover the pan to wilt the greens with the steam quickly for 30 seconds.
- Remove the lid, toss or stir the beats, stems and leaves, and finish the dish with a shot of good quality red wine vinegar.
- Taste the mixture for seasoning and adjust as needed, then serve immediately.