Even if you’re doing your best to cook root-to-leaf and nose-to-tail, there are probably still some edible bits you’re missing. Every other Sunday, we'll focus on one overlooked scrap, and show you how to turn what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure.
Today: The summer braise you'll want to turn your stove on for.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but when I first began grocery shopping for myself, the tops of root vegetables—radish greens, turnip greens, beet greens—consistently went to waste. Not because I forgot to store them properly, which is to separate the greens from the roots, but rather because I didn’t use them at all.
It makes me cringe to think of it: I was throwing away food that was not only good for me but delicious, too. Even now, though, knowing the error of my ways, it can still be hard to think of creative uses for root tops like beet greens. The obvious options seem to be: Add them to soup or sauté them. If you buy enough root vegetables at the market, both options can get old fast—I needed another go-to recipe.
More: Don’t let good food go bad—use this handy chart to help you know how long fresh produce will last.
The creator of today's recipe for Milk-Braised Beet Greens is Jennifer Perillo, better known as Jennie; she's the author of Homemade with Love, blogger at In Jennie’s Kitchen, and a long-time Food52 member as well. In the headnotes of her recipe, Jennie shares a story in which her friend jokes that when Americans are asked how to prepare leafy greens, they always respond with: "Just sauté it in olive oil with garlic.” The truth hurts.
Jennie branched out and decided to give her beet greens “a warm bath in some milk” to soften them up and take the edge off of their bitterness. If you like creamed spinach, her braised beet greens will seem like an obvious why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?—the perfect use for root vegetable tops. But Jennie has an additional trick up her sleeve that you’ll be smart to pull out again for other types of hearty greens: She grates a single fingerling potato into the dish as it cooks to thicken it up a bit.
Braised greens might seem heavy, more suited for cold winter nights than hot summer days—but not so! First of all, in the winter months, your beets will be coming from cold storage, and they won’t be sporting lush, leafy tops anyway. And second, this recipe only makes enough for one or two people—it’s a cozy side dish rather than a weighty, belly-filling main course. Plus, even in the summertime we all need a little bowl of comfort sometimes.
Serves 1 to 2
1 head beet greens (from one bunch of beets)
1 tablespoon (14 grams) butter
1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) olive oil
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup (237 milliliters) milk
1 fingerling potato
Generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Know of a great recipe in the Food52 archives that uses scraps (anything from commonly discarded produce parts to stale bread to bones and more)? Tell me about it in the comments!
Photos by James Ransom