I'm thinking they should have called beets "groundhogs" and called groundhogs something different. Why? Well, beets really are the swine of the vegetable world.
Hogs and beets share big flavor, big character and you can utilize every little bit of both of these tasty foodstuffs... nose to tail, as they say.
I'll start at the top — though most folks don't.
Every time I go to my farmers' market, I see people asking to have the tops chopped off their beets, and it just about breaks my heart.
But then I ask if I can have some of that massive pile of beet greens, and after I get a sackful, all is repaired again.
I contend that beet greens are some of the tastiest of greens. In addition to the tender leaves, beet greens sport that line of crimson stem running down the center, and that's sweet and rich like the beet root itself.
Simple Beet Greens
Just wash everything really well, chop the stems into 1/4" segments and keep 'em separated from the leafy parts. You can chop the leaves wider (2" to 3" strips works fine).
Heat a tablespoon or so of fat (bacon or olive oil, as you like) in a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium-high flame, and add the stem pieces first. You'll want to give them a head start of about 5 to 8 minutes before you add the leaves.
Wilt down the leaves for about 3 to 4 minutes, adding a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper or a dash of chili pepper flakes. Give the greens a little drizzle (maybe two tablespoons) of cider vinegar or red wine vinegar. This will steam up and help them braise a bit.
Serve 'em up hot. Greens from one bunch of beets usually feeds two as a side dish.
As for the big, sweet bulb at the bottom, there's a wide variety of things a person could do. Here's five:
1. Peel it, slice it into 1/4" pieces and pickle it.
2. Cut it into 2" to 3" chunks, rub with oil, salt and pepper, wrap in foil and roast at 375° for about 45 minutes or until tender. Cool, peel (mind that juice!) and use in a salad with feta or goat cheese or blue cheese. Add some walnuts and/or orange slices if you feel like it.
3. Use it raw in a salad, a' la Adriana's very tasty-looking Raw beets & Toasted Cumin Almonds or maybe in an Alton Brown-style slaw.
5. Beet Crisps Beets are like any other root. You can slice 'em super-thin and fry 'em up crispy. As long as you're not afraid of hot oil, it's easy to do.
Just heat 8-10 cups of peanut or canola oil in a heavy-bottomed stockpot to 350° to 375°.
To the hot oil, add paper-thin beet slices, just a few at a time, and fry until the edges begin to color and curl up (about 3 to 5 minutes). Do this in batches skimming out the cooked slices and moving them to paper towels to drain.
Sprinkle the cooked chips with salt and fine-chopped tarragon or rosemary, if desired.
Serve when cool.
All that, and they're good for you, too. Pass the groundhogs, please.