Sunday, February 19, 2012
Spicy Beet Greens with Bacon
To get beet greens ready for cooking, rinse them well under running water or by swishing several times in a large bowl of water (you may need to drain and repeat more than once if there's a lot of sediment or grit on the greens). Shake off excess water and use a sharp knife to trim any thick or tough stems. At this point I usually blanch them, but you can skip that step and cook them as you wish.
One pound of beets (weighed after the tops are removed) usually translates into a little less than a half-pound of greens, which is just enough for two side servings. You can combine beet greens with other similar greens for a medley of harmonious flavors and textures.
For a lower-fat, vegetarian version of this recipe, simply omit the bacon and saute in a little bit of olive oil.
Approx. 1 lb beet greens, thoroughly washed & tough stems trimmed
2 strips bacon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp (or more) crushed red pepper flakes
Half a lemon
Kosher salt to taste
Blanch the beet greens: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a full boil, and fill a large bowl with ice water. Have a colander handy, too. Add the cleaned and trimmed greens to the boiling water and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then immediately drain and transfer the greens into the bowl of icy water for a few minutes. This will stop the cooking process and intensify the color of the greens.
While the beet greens are blanching in the cold water, fry the bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Drain the cooked bacon on paper towels and reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease in the skillet (I pour the rest of the grease into a little glass jar that I store in the refrigerator for future use). Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes to the skillet and saute over medium-high heat for a few minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic (that makes it bitter). Thoroughly drain the blanched beet greens and shake off as much water from them as possible--you can also pat dry with paper towels. The drier the greens are, the less likely they will be to splatter when added to the skillet.
Use a sharp knife to coarsely chop the beet greens, then add all at once to the skillet. Stir until the greens are evenly coated with the fat and seasonings, and saute until tender and heated through (I like my greens "al dente"). Remove from heat, crumble in the bacon and add several squeezes of fresh lemon juice, stir and taste for seasoning, adding a little Kosher salt if desired.
PS: Here in the South, many folks like their greens tangy and spicy. If that's also how you like them, simply add more fresh-squeezed lemon juice and a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce: Either Texas Pete (which is actually made in NC) or Tabasco Sauce are excellent choices and often the hot sauce of choice down here. You can't go wrong with Bacon Hot Sauce, either.