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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

An easy DIY pickled and sauteed beet greens recipe

One of the best things about living in California is our year round access to fresh produce at the Farmers Markets that seem to be in almost every community Bay Area wide.

Happy Boy Farms is one of my favorite vendors at the Campbell Farmers Market. They've been growing organic produce in California's Central Coast region (near Watsonville) for the past 20 years.

These Happy Boy Farms beets only cost $2.00!

I buy beets not because I love beets, I love their greens. I discovered last year they are delicious pickled with salt the Japanese way.

I trim the leaves from the beets and rinse them repeatedly in cold water discarding any that are damaged or discolored.

I use my fingers to pinch/trim the stalks from the leaves, saving them for a soup pot or salad.

After loosely chiffonading the greens I put them in a flat'ish bottomed bowl and sprikle liberally with salt. The salt helps to draw the moisture out of the leaves.

The traditional way of making salt pickled vegetables, a type of tsukemono (audio pronunciation here), is to use cabbage (recipe here). Because of this recipes online will tell you how much salt to add relative to how much cabbage you're using. With the beet greens the amount of greens isn't exact so I liberally sprinkle salt over them and toss them.

Once salted you need to press the moisture out of the leaves. You can use a tsukemono press, or place the veggies in a bowl, put a plate on top of them, then weigh the plate down with a clean, heavy object. But not all plates are flat across the bottom and because I was using smaller than normal quantities of greens I discovered, especially for small batches, two tupperware containers and a weight are the best solution.

I place the salted veggies in a tupperware, nest another container on top of them, then add a heavy object into the second/top container.

In cool or warm weather I leave the container on the counter overnight and it's ready to eat the next day. In hot weather it goes right into the fridge. I save any leftovers (still salted) in the refrigerator.

After one night you can see how much water has been pressed out of the beet greens. Be sure to rinse them with cold water or they'll be too salty. Also wring them out a bit to remove any excess water after rinsing.

Traditionally a small portion of tsukemono is served as an appetizer but my family always enjoyed it with hot rice as a side dish with dinner. I love it with my breakfast brown rice porridge (the recipe is in this post).

Beet Green Okayu tsukemono with freshly ground flax seeds.

I chopped and added the stems to the rice as I reheated it with extra water allowing it to simmer on the stove top for 20 minutes. Cooking them released the yellow hue to the water.

In Japan a dry condiment added to dishes is called gomashio (pronounced go-ma-she-o), which is ground sesame seeds mixed with a bit of salt. I replaced the sesame with flax seeds for the added nutritional benefit, which as it turned out, didn't offer a lot of flavor. Next time I think I'll use a bit of both.

As I mentioned earlier, tsukemono is traditionally made with Napa cabbage but I've found that not everyone appreciates the smell of cabbage whether it's tsukemono, kimchi, or sauerkraut. So less odiferous greens are an option to consider. This year I'm going to try all kinds of greens from carrot tops to collards. I'll let you know which ones are the tastiest.

My most recent trip to the Farmers Market is another example of how, despite perception, junk food is not always cheaper than healthy food. With $10.00 in my pocket I purchased from four different vendors and was surprised to still have $1.50 left over after purchasing certified organic golden beets, carrots, cauliflower, a fava bean plant and three swiss chard plants in a tiny pot.

All I would need would be to spend that last 1.50 on some rice, pasta, or lentils, add some seasonings, and I could turn these veggies into several healthful, inexpensive, and delicious meals.

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