This is an especially delicious way to eat beets and their greens. 34 years ago, when I was in architecture school and had no time to cook, my friend Kathy taught me the absolute easiest way to cook beets. Boil them. I’ve used it ever since.
I used to peel beets before cooking, which took forever. When roasted beets came into vogue, I tried that too, because roasted anything is delicious and the word roast is so much more appetizing than the word boil. I thought I might be missing something and I was willing to give up my time-honored beet cooking method if it was going to give me a better beet. But honestly, I couldn’t really taste any difference between a roasted and a boiled beet. And getting the skin off a roasted beet is no picnic. The skin sticks to the beet, your fingers turn pink trying to rub off the skin, and you end up with little pieces of beet skin all over the cutting board.
Boiling beets is a totally different story. Fill up a pot with some water, chuck the unwashed beets in it, cook them until soft, drain them, and peel while holding under running water. Not only do you not have to wait for the beets to cool, the skin slips right off with no effort at all. Plus, the peel goes down the disposal so there is no mess.
In addition, boiling beets allows you to steam the greens at the same time. This way you get the benefit of the dark leafy beet greens as a part of the dish.
This simple salad is surprisingly tasty and a favorite around my dinner table. The 6 seemingly simple ingredients complement each other perfectly and turn beets and beet greens into something special.
This salad is very forgiving and can be changed around to suit your taste. I would love to know if you come up with any delicious variations.
- 4 medium beets (4-7 ounces each) with leaves
- beet stems and leaves from 4 beets
- 1/3-1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- Bring a medium pot of water, that fits a steamer basket, to a boil. While waiting for the water to heat, prepare beets and beet greens. Remove beet stems from beets (no need to cut off the root end or clean beets up). Cut off stems from leaves just at the point that the leaf starts. No need to remove the stem between the leaf itself. Rinse leaves.
- Put beets in pot, turn heat down, and cook at a low boil until beets are tender when pierced with a fork. Cooking time varies depending on the beet size, freshness, and type.
- While beets are cooking, steam beet leaves. Put leaves in a steamer basket and steam until just wilted. Remove leaves and let cool. Squeeze water from greens and roughly chop.
- When beets are done, empty pot and beets into the sink. Hold beets, one at a time, under cold running water and slip off the skins. This happens very easily. Cut beets into bite-size pieces.
- Lightly toast pine nuts under the broiler or in a pan on the stovetop on low heat. Pine nuts toast quickly. (I usually burn the first batch.) So watch carefully because they're too expensive to waste!
- Put beets and greens in a bowl. Add olive oil, vinegar, salt to taste, and toss. Salad may be made a few hours ahead up to this point and kept covered in the refrigerator. Toss in pine nuts and sprinkle feta cheese on top right before serving. Don't toss in the feta or it will turn pink.