Roasted beet and beet greens polenta uses up every part of the root vegetable in a plant-based dish that is creamy, comforting, and delicious. Let’s talk root-to-stem cooking. It’s a way of cooking I’ve grown quite passionate about that involves using up every part of the vegetable. Even the parts that may seem too dirty, fibrous, tough, or bitter to include in a dish. There are so inventive ways to make use of these “scraps” instead of relegating all of them to the trash or compost heap.
After all, it takes a fair amount of resources to grow our produce, so we should make the most out of all it has to offer us.This past weekend, I came across some of the most gorgeous bunches of beets at the farmers market. Their jewel-toned roots and voluminous greens pulled me in like a magnetic force and I was determined to use them in a recipe that highlighted every bit of their earthy, vegetal glory.
The leafy greens and fibrous stems actually mimic the taste of the beet itself. And although the greens may be a bit more tough than your average bunch of leafy greens, a few extra minutes in the sautè pan will soften their tough edge and render them silky.
Just be sure to rinse the green tops thoroughly before using them.When it comes to polenta, I always seek out yellow cornmeal from the bulk bin section. It’s super cheap (we’re talking a couple bucks for 2 cups) and lasts awhile.
Cook the polenta while the greens sautè so everything will be ready and hot at the same time.
A dab of butter and hit of salty Parmesan melds all the elements and adds extra dimension to the cooked grains. No scraps left behind!
- 2 bunches beets with stems and greens attached
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- 1¼ tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for garnish (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp, chopped fresh herbs of choice (chives, parsley, basil)
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Slice beets off stems; set stems and greens aside. Toss beets with 1 Tbsp. of the oil in a 13x9" baking dish. Pour in just enough water to cover bottom of the pan. Cover tightly with foil and roast for 60 minutes, until beets are tender. Let beets cool, then rub off skins with a kitchen towel. Cut beets into wedges and set aside.
- Rinse beet stems and greens thoroughly. Finely chop most of the stems, leaving about 2 to 3 inches attached to greens.
- Heat remaining 3 Tbsp. oil in a large sautè pan over medium. Add red pepper flakes; cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant. Add garlic and chopped beet stems; cook 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add beet greens; cook additional 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often, until greens are wilted and remaining stems are tender. Season with ¼ tsp. of the salt and black pepper.
- While greens cook, prepare polenta by bringing 4 cups of water and remaining 1 tsp. salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in cornmeal. Continue whisking until mixture is smooth and begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low and cook until tender and thickened, but still creamy, stirring often, about 15 minutes. (If mixture gets too thick or clumpy, whisk in additional 1 to 2 Tbsp. water or milk.) Stir in cheese, butter, and herbs.
- Divide polenta evenly into each of 4 bowls. Distribute beet green mixture evenly over polenta. Top evenly with beet wedges. Garnish with additional cheese, if desired.