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  • Writer's pictureChef Kelly Unger

We got the beet! And their greens!

Beets have arrived at the Doylestown Farmers Market! But equally as important, beets with their greens have arrived! Beet greens are gorgeous and delicious, raw or cooked. Take advantage of this root to leaf crop by preparing root to leaf dishes. Some of my favorites are: beet sandwiches with beet greens and microgreens, a beet green and cooked beet salad with goat cheese and beet poke with beet green “seaweed”. Poke is traditionally a fish dish but I’m sharing my vegetable version with you.

But how to cook a beet, you might ask? I prefer boiling rather than roasting most of the time. I trim the greens and stems from the beet with my kitchen scissors and wash the beet well, sometimes using a scrub sponge. I boil the beets with the roots still attached and about a ½ inch of the stems still attached. The boiling liquid still turns the color of the beets, but the majority of the color stays within the beet. I save the cooking liquid to use in various ways, but mostly to drink. I refrigerate the beet water because it tastes great cold and there’s still great flavor and nutrition in it. Sometimes I puree a whole cooked cold beet with the beet water and drink that for a morning cleanse before coffee.

Once the beets are cooked and cool enough to handle, I trim the root and stem ends. When the beets are this fresh, they do not need to be peeled. I usually only peel beets that have been stored for Winter use. Just dug up beets have such thin skins and boiling the beets makes the skins disappear. Plus there’s so much nutrition in those skins! No need to peel them.

I use a fork with my knife to quarter or slice the beets for recipes so my hands don’t turn purple. I prefer beets at room temperature for eating. If I’m going to make beet sandwiches, I prefer one, thick slice of beet per sandwich, like the thickness of a hamburger. For salads I like to cut them into small wedges, and for my Beet Poke recipe, I dice them into bite size pieces.

Other root to leaf crops in June are radishes, turnips, Swiss Chard, fennel and kohlrabi.

Beet Poke Bowl

Yields 6 servings

For the bowl:

12-18 small beets, washed well

12 leaves and stems of beet greens, stems finely chopped, leaves chiffonade

1 medium or 2 small zucchini or cucumber, grated

2 medium carrots, unpeeled and grated

2 cups jasmine rice + a few tablespoons vegetable oil + 1 ½ teaspoons salt + 3 ¾ cups of water for cooking

For the sauce: amounts are approximate, adjust to your taste

1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce

¼ cup sesame oil

2/3 cup rice wine vinegar

1-2 tablespoons sugar

2 garlic cloves minced, or more to taste

About 1” fresh ginger minced (about 1 tablespoon) or more to taste

Garnish: Sesame seeds, 3 large scallions, white and green parts chopped

Place well washed beets in a soup pot and cover to 1” with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a rapid simmer. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes or until fork tender.

In the meantime, make the sauce. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a medium to large bowl and stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste. Set aside to allow flavors to blend while beets are cooking.

Also while the beets are cooking, prepare the rice. Add the rice, about 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of salt and 3 cups of water to a medium pot with a tight fitting lid. Stir to combine ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat uncovered. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, keep covered, allow to rest for 5 minutes or until you are ready to serve.

When the beets are cooked, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon to a plate. Working quickly, cut off the ends, peel if necessary, and cut the beets in half or quarters and place them in the bowl with the sauce. Allow the hot beets to absorb the room temperature sauce while you are working. Optional; to thin/stretch the sauce, add some of the beet cooking water. You should have about 1 cup of liquid left in the pot. Reserve the rest of the beet liquid and refrigerate for another use.

To serve: spoon a bed of rice into 6 individual bowls. Top bowls with vegetables placed in individual sections (carrots, zucchini or cucumber, beets, beet greens and stems). Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. Serve with remaining sauce for individual garnishing. Enjoy!

Note: this dish can be served when the beets and rice are hot to have a contrast with the cold vegetables or at room temperature. It is based on personal preference.

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