If you read this headline and a sunny Van Gogh cornfield didn’t pop into your head, I’d guess you’re in the minority. Why the urge to romanticize these countryside dwellers of yore? To conjure up ideas of vegetable patches and worn straw hats and to use words like “charming” and “rustic” to describe their lifestyles? (Even when we know the reality was generally a far cry from “quaint.”) The answer, I’d bet, lies in the food. Thrifty, hearty, and thoroughly flavorful, peasant dishes transform a few simple ingredients into standout meals.
It’s unlikely that real French peasants had a log of Bucheron or a bottle of Muscadet to spare on a casual Wednesday. But make this one-pan dinner and—highbrow goat cheese aside—you’ll recognize a level of resourcefulness characteristic of peasant dishes. This hearty vegetarian main uses the whole beet, tops and all. Tonight, indulge those idyllic notions of thatched roof cottages, bucolic villages, and homemade wine that actually tastes good. These beets will transport you right to Provence—or, at least, to your version of it.
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4 to 6 beets with greens (a mixture of golden and red beets is lovely)
1 bunch Swiss chard
1/2 pound Bucheron cheese
Crusty peasant-style bread
We are assuming you already have butter, a shallot, and some dry white wine (like a Muscadet). If not, add those to your list!
About 35 minutes before dinner, scrub the beets and reserve the tops. Peel the raw beets with a vegetable peeler, and thinly slice them into 1/4-inch rounds. (This is the time to break out your mandoline if you have one—if not, a knife will do just fine!) Wash your Swiss chard and beet greens and roughly chop both.
With about 25 minutes to dinner, sauté your shallot, beets, and greens. Pop open the wine, pour a glass for yourself, and then pour a few glugs over the beets. Warm up your bread, slice generous wedges of cheese, and scoop beets and greens into a bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper, and see why French “peasants” are worthy of a little envy.
You can see the full recipe for French "Peasant" Beets here.