There are some unholy colors out there in processed food land thanks to Red #3, Yellow #6, and Blue #2. But there is naturally occurring neon that will light up the dinner table and set off your mineral and vitamin meters.
Beets, in all their pink/purple, betacyanin glory, kick cancer’s arse and taste amazing too. Beets are a pretty recent discovery for me. Growing up, they were only offered in pickled form, which grossed me out. As an adult, I’ve only had them in salads with nuts and goat cheese. And while that’s a great combo, I knew there must be some other way to use them.
Luckily, I found a recipe with a flavor intensity to match the out-of-this-world color.
At the farmers’ market, I had picked up a bunch of beets with their tops, plus an extra bunch of greens. (Yes, Kris, we love our greens!) I wanted a recipe that could incorporate both. Once again, I visited with my imaginary mentor, Madhur Jaffrey, via World Vegetarian, making her Beet Curry with Mushrooms with a few renovations.
Essentially, I made it fit my market haul, and the results were eye- and mouth-popping. It takes a little bit of time, but it’s worth the effort. The earthy, sweet beets bounce off the slightly bitter greens and spicy ginger and chilies. Chickpeas make it a hearty almost-one-pot-meal in a skillet. (I served it with rice cooked separately.)
Speaking of chickpeas, I am a new convert to dried beans. I finally mastered the soak, boil, cook process, and wow! The difference is outstanding. I may never buy canned beans again. Organic dried chickpeas from the bulk bin were even cheaper than the conventional my local natural food store.
An economic side note, dried beans are the best deal in town. My only argument with Food Inc. was the moment Michael Pollan (I think) claimed it was cheaper to feed a family with fast food or processed food.
I understand the point he was trying to make—that farm subsidies have skewed the market in favor of the meat industry—but I wanted to raise my hand and offer to feed the movie theater with a bag of dried beans, a bunch of spinach, a bulb of garlic, and my spice cabinet. It would have been a liberal New Yorker version of the loaves and fishes.
Sorry, back-to-back digressions. Back to the beets. Seriously, this recipe is rockin’, and as you can see, it comes out a gorgeous shade of ‘80s hot pink with nary a food additive in sight. If your only experience with beets is a jar of pickles, give this a try and bask in the glow of your good health.
The beets, the greens...They’re atomic!
Beets and Greens Curry with Chickpeas
1 bunch of small to medium beets (about 9 oz.), peeled and cubed
6 cups beet greens, chopped
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
1 tbsp + 1 tsp ginger, peeled and grated
4 large garlic cloves, minced
3 dried red chilies, whole
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 cups chickpeas
2 tsp salt
1) Heat oil in large cast iron skillet or pan of your choice. When the oil is hot, add cumin and mustard seeds. Stir occasionally.
2) When mustard seeds pop, add the beets and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
3) Add ginger, garlic, and chilies. Stir and fry for another 2 minutes.
4) Add the beet* greens, chopped tomatoes, plus 1 cup of water, and salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer.
5) After 10 minutes, toss in chick peas.
6) Simmer for 30 more minutes.
7) Serve with basmati rice. Dig in and radiate.
Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
227.75 calories, 5.5g fat, $1.36
9 oz beets: 108 calories, 0g fat, $2.00
6 cups beet greens: 48 calories, 0g fat, $1.00
1 tbsp canola oil: 120 calories, 14g fat, $.08
1 tsp whole cumin seeds: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1 tsp whole mustard seeds: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1 tbsp + 1 tsp ginger: 14 calories, 0g fat, $.06
4 large garlic cloves: 17 calories, 0g fat, $.05
3 dried red chilies: negligible calories and fat, $.02
2 fresh tomatoes: 66 calories, 0g fat, $1.33
2 cups chickpeas: 538 calories, 8g fat, $.86
2 tsp salt: negligible calories and fat, $.02
Totals: 911 calories, 22g fat, $5.46
Per Serving (totals/4): 227.75 calories, 5.5g fat, $1.36