Beet Greens with Tempeh Salad

Beet greens are such underutilized veggies.  

Like carrot tops and fennel fronds, beet greens often end up composted or thrown in the garbage rather than eaten.  Most home cooks either don't know that they're edible, or don't really know what to do with them even if they did.  Beet greens are akin to such dark, leafy vegetables as kale, swiss chard, and spinach, which are all tremendously wholesome and, when prepared properly, tremendously delicious.  I also appreciate that beets, beet stems, and beet greens each have their own characteristic flavors and textures, with so many different applications that you're getting several vegetables for the price of one.  Not to mention that beets are my absolute favorite vegetable.  Braised, steamed, or simply tossed in a salad like this one, beet greens have amazing potential.  They just need a little love.

Clearly, beets aren't the whole story for today.  If you're of a more carniverous persuasion, you may read the title of this post and wonder, what the heck is tempeh anyway?  Tempeh is a fermented soybean product, which, unlike tofu, maintains the integrity of the whole soybean, thus better maintaining its nutritional benefits (high levels of protein, fiber, vitamins, the works).  I enjoy the nuttiness of tempeh and its toothsome texture, both qualities which you don’t get with tofu - but if you really have a thing for tofu, or can’t find tempeh, you can certainly use it for this recipe.  If you’re feeling ambitious, I would try marinating the tempeh in some lemon juice, salt, and pepper before coating in the egg mixture.  Just be sure to pat it down before dunking in the egg, to ensure proper adhesion.  You could also omit the egg entirely, but I find that the egg coating gives the tempeh a little something extra.  Now I'm having a Legally Blonde moment...

Callahan:  Do you have a resume?
Elle:  Yes, I do.  Here it is.
Callahan:  It's pink.
Elle:  And it's scented.  I think it gives it a little something extra, don't you think?

I could go on.  But you're not here for Legally Blonde quotes.

I made this salad last summer, actually.  A particular haunt of mine, when I wasn't in Cambridge, was the farm stand at Wilson Farm in Litchfield, NH, one town over from Hudson where I live.  Not only is their chocolate milk absolutely divine, in the cutest glass jugs I've ever seen (I have a thing for mason jars and glass milk jugs, don't ask, I don't understand it myself), but their produce is also beautiful and fresh.  I consumed countless pints of strawberries and so many armfuls of beets and zucchini during that all too short vacation from Chicago.  Not that I don't enjoy Chicago, but there are days when I just want to go home and cruise around the back streets of New Hampshire, where everything's familiar and green and decidedly not urban.  Thus nostalgia compelled me to share this particular recipe with you today.  It may seem like a lot of work for a salad, but if you are a fan of beets like I am, then this recipe will be worth your while. 

Beet Greens with Tempeh Salad

2 bunches assorted beets with greens (I used chioggia and golden beets because they looked lovely, but use whatever you can find)
1/2 pound yellow wax beans, washed and ends trimmed
1 package three grain tempeh 
1 egg
2 lemons
1 teaspoon honey
1 bunch parsley
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Trim away the beet greens and set aside.  Clean the beets well, trim away the roots from the bottom, and lay each on its own sheet of tin foil.  Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and wrap up each individual foil pouch.  Roast for 45-60 minutes, until the flesh is tender to the touch.  Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, trim away the beet greens’ stems where the leaves themselves begin.  Save the stems for another purpose (I like to saute them to eat with soft eggs for breakfast).  Chop or tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and wash thoroughly, then place in a large bowl.  Bring a pot of water to a simmer and steam the beans for about 3 minutes.  Once barely cooked, just crisp-tender, plunge them into the bowl of ice water to cool rapidly - this is called shocking, and it stops the cooking process while maintaining the vegetable's color.  Once cool, dry off the beans and add them to the bowl of beet greens.

Once the roasted beets have cooled, the skins will peel off easily - just run your thumb around the beets, pushing the skins off with the tips of your finger.  Cut the peeled beets into wedges and add them to the greens and beans (that’s a nice rhyme, no?).  Salt and pepper the veggies to taste.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining lemon juice, zest from 1 lemon, honey, as much parsley as you like, salt and pepper to taste, and enough olive oil to make an emulsified dressing.  The general rule is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid, but I like things particularly acidic, so I usually do 2 to 1 oil to lemon, or even 1 to 1.  Toss the veggies in enough dressing to coat, reserving a little to dress the tempeh.

Heat a small frying pan over medium with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  In a small bowl, beat together the egg, 1 tablespoon of water, the zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.  Cut the tempeh into 8, 1/4 inch thick rectangles.  Dip each piece in the egg mixture, then pan-fry until a crisp crust forms, and the tempeh is warmed through - about 4 minutes each side.  Finish the salad with the remaining dressing and final sprinkle of parsley.  

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