“Will you do me a favor?” Tim says to me, the two of us sitting side by side in the car.
He’s driving, just as he usually is when we’re in the car together. It’s our habit. He knows I’d rather sit – sit and look at Instagram, sit and watch people out the window, sit and zone out to ponder some new topic he will no doubt hear about from me in due time.
So the fact that he usually drives is one way he serves me. It’s right up there with killing bugs, cleaning out gutters, and replacing the battery in our car – all tasks I guess I could do, if pressed, but which to me are becoming as good as poetry and candlelit dinners. I know, to Tim, they’re acts of love.
While it’s words that flow out of me when I feel great affection, for Tim, it’s more practical things, simple actions to show that he cares.
“Will you make beet greens for dinner?”
As he throws out this request, two bags of produce rumble along with us through industrial corners and residential streets in Woodbine and Berry Hill. Included in this week’s CSA haul are lettuce, celery, radishes, garlic, a handful of thyme, and the item that prompted Tim’s idea: beets.
Tim loves beets. More specifically, beet greens. In fact, he loves all greens.
As you may remember from his salad post, he grew up in a home where they were everyday fare. His family ate salad every night, and to this day, they all like sauteed spinach, sauteed mustard, sauteed Swiss chard.
When we were in Chicago recently, visiting his grandma in a rehabilitation home, Tim’s aunt pulled out a thermos of escarole for her, cooked exactly the way Tim likes it: sauteed in garlicky olive oil until soft and wilty, combined with water or broth and a little salt.
He pulls the car up our driveway, and the two of us walk inside. As I wash vegetables, he packs them away in the fridge.
I ask him to grab me a baking dish to roast the beets. I wonder if he could turn on the oven, and he does. While I wash dirt off beets, revealing deep red skin and rosy stems, I ask him to tell me again how to cook them.
“Tell me in a linear fashion,” I say to him when I think he’s getting distracted. “So I saute the garlic. What’s next?”
Tim heads out to a meeting, kissing me goodbye as he does, and I set to work at the stove. While he’s gone, the garlic dances in the pan. The giant pile of leaves wilts and reduces into an almost paltry amount.
I check for softness – tender, with no more bite. I taste for salt – needs more. Remembering what he told me, I add water to the pan and let it cloud and darken, absorbing the flavors of what’s been cooked.
“One of the bonuses of buying raw beets is getting the tops,” Marcella Hazan writes in her book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which I’ve pulled out and am flipping through while the kitchen fills with a heady garlic scent. “Both the stems and the leaves are excellent when boiled and served as a salad.”
I think back to the first time I held raw beets, like foreign jewels inside my CSA box. It was 2009. Then, Jacqui had been my encourager, just like Tim was for me today. She’d written instructions; Tim spoke them. In both cases, I felt blessed.
I know I talk about Tim a lot around here. I’m always telling you how thankful I am for him and how I’m still surprised he’s mine. This is the sort of thing many people don’t like: too sappy, too happy, too private, too young love.
But words are what come out of me when I feel something, sort of like doing the dishes is what comes out of Tim, sort of like cooking is what comes out of a lot of you.
When Tim returns, I slide a plate in front of him at the table. It’s my attempt to love him in the way he feels it best. His eyes light up. He smiles. We feast.Print
When you’re in the mood for wilted garlicky greens, skip standard spinach and reach for some beautiful scarlet beet stems instead.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
- Stalks and greens of four fresh beets, washed and roughly chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the garlic and cook until lightly golden, about 1 minute.
- A few handfuls at a time, add the beet greens and stalks, allowing them to wilt slightly before you add more. Continue adding in the greens and stalks, and a splash of water to help them cook down.
- Once you’ve added all of the greens and stalks, add the salt, and stir to combine. Saute until the greens are wilted and the stalks are tender, about 5-8 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt if necessary and serve warm.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Vegetables
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Side Dishes
Keywords: beet greens, garlic, side dish
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Rinse the Produce and Chop the Garlic
Thoroughly rinse and dry the beet greens and stems, and thinly slice the garlic with a sharp knife.
Step 2 – Soften the Garlic
Step 3 – Add the Greens, Stalks, and Water
Add the chopped greens and stalks a few handfuls at a time, allowing them to wilt slightly before you add more.
Continue adding in them in the skillet, and add a splash of water to keep them cooking down.
Step 4 – Season and Saute
Once you’ve added all of them, add the salt. Stir to combine.
Saute until the greens are wilted and the stalks are tender, about 5-8 minutes.
Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.
Beet it, Greens
Just kidding. Please come back.
If you’re guilty of tossing that beautiful bunch of beet greens to the side, don’t worry – now is the time to redeem yourself.
We love a classic creamed greens recipe, but opt for our simply sauteed beet greens for that healthy fix. Whether you need a landing zone for a fried egg, a base for seared scallops, or a quick side to partner with roasted chicken, these garlicky veggies are as versatile as it gets.
Beet greens don’t fly solo, so if you need some tips on how to use the rad root veggie itself, check out these earthy recipes:
- Coconut Ginger Roasted Kale with Beets, Farro, and Goat Cheese
- Fresh Green Salad with Arugula, Beets, Goat Cheese, and Olive Oil
- Rainbow Guacamole with Beets and Apples
- Vegetarian Borscht
- Homemade Pickled Beets & Turnips
What other aromatics do you use to “turn up the beet” on your greens? Lemon zest? Chilies? Spill your finest flavor tricks in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on June 28, 2013. Last updated: February 1, 2022 at 10:15 am. With additional writing and editing by Fanny Slater and Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.