Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Eat Your (Beet) Greens

There's nothing quite like a fresh beet, roasted to perfection.  I could probably eat them every day.  What about the leaves and stems, though?  Don't throw them into the compost just yet!  Not only are beet greens edible but they are great sources of vitamins A and C as well as iron and calcium.  And they're delicious!  

When I bring home a bunch of fresh beets, the first thing I do is cut the beet roots from the stems, leaving an inch or so of stems on the root.  Then I put the leaves in one bag and the roots in another.  I mostly do this because then I can fit them in the refrigerator a little easier.  Also, while the beet roots will last 1-2 weeks the greens will only be good for a few days. 

I must warn you, though, that the greens have a strong and somewhat bitter flavor so I wouldn't recommend eating them by themselves.  The following recipe is a great way to eat them because it has a nice balance of flavors.  We made this for the first time last week, based on this recipe.  It was one of those meals where I just kept marveling at how delicious it tasted.  I hope you enjoy it!

Couscous with Tofu and Beet Greens
(printable recipe)


Spice blend

½ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp chili powder

½ tsp cumin powder

2 tbsp water


¾ cup water

½ cup Israeli couscous

¼ cup raisins

Tofu and beet greens

1 lb extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ sweet onion, diced

Stems from the beet greens, chopped into small pieces

1 cup of water (not to be used all at once)

Beet greens, from 1-2 bunches of beets or about 10 cups loosely packed, rinsed well and cut into strips or bite-sized pieces [See Note]

Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Prepare the spice blend: Measure the turmeric, chili powder, and cumin and place in a small bowl.  Add 2 tbsp water and stir to combine.  Set aside.

2. Prepare the couscous:  Bring ¾ cup water to boil in a small saucepan; add couscous and raisins.  Cover pan and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all water has been absorbed.  Set aside.

3. While the couscous is cooking, preheat a large pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil.  Carefully place tofu cubes in pan and cook for about 10  minutes, turning to ensure equal browning on all sides.  Remove from pan and set aside.

4.  Add garlic, onions, and beet green stems to the pan.  Add about ¼ cup of water and stir.  Continue to stir as the onions and stems cook and soften, adding additional water as needed to prevent sticking. 

5. Add spice mixture and stir to combine.

6. Return tofu to the pan.   Add beet greens, cover pan, and allow the  greens to shrink down a bit.  Remove lid, stir, and continue cooking until greens have shrunk to about ¼ of their original size and are tender (5-10 minutes).  Spoon couscous into pan and combine with tofu mixture.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 2 servings.

Be sure to use the stems, as well.  They add color, texture, and flavor.

NOTE: If you don’t have beet greens, you could substitute another green or a mix of greens.  Collards, chard, or dinosaur kale would probably work equally well, though you may have to adjust the cooking time to ensure that the leaves are tender.

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