Buy one bunch of beets with their green tops still on and you get two vegetables, a green one (the leafy beet tops) and a red one (the beet roots). Either one is an excellent addition to your menu.
To prepare them as a green vegetable, cut the leaves off the beets, leaving 1 to 2 inches of their stems as well as the roots on the beets (that way, all the nutrients, flavour and colour won’t leach into the water when you cook them later). Wash the greens, discard old leaves, remove the thick ribs, and cut the leaves horizontally into strips.
I cook the leaves like spinach: steam them in a bit of water for 10 minutes or so (don’t overcook!), add butter or olive oil, salt and pepper, stir and serve. Or do like my daughter does: add a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream to the greens; either complements them very nicely and takes away that nasty feeling on your teeth that you sometimes get from leafy greens. They are very good cooked à la Florentine: just poach one or two eggs on top during the last minutes of steaming, and scatter some Parmesan over all before serving.
For a red vegetable, scrub the trimmed beets, place them whole, skin-on, in water to cover, add a large bay leaf and salt, and boil until done – 25 to 50 minutes, depending on size. While they are still hot, slip off the skin (best done under cold, running water). If the skin does not slip off easily, they are not done; return the beet(s) to the boiling water and cook until done. Cut the beets in wedges, quickly sauté them in a bit of balsamic vinegar, ground cloves, salt, pepper and, of course, a generous dab of butter, serve hot.
Or serve them cold as a salad:
German Beet Salad
4 medium beets, cooked as above
For the dressing:
1 small yellow onion, chopped finely
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Tiny pinch of ground cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
While the beets are cooking, make the dressing in a bowl large enough to hold the salad: beat all dressing ingredients together until creamy.
While the beets are still hot, slice them thinly and evenly into the bowl. Fold the beet slices into the dressing carefully. Let cool to room temperature and serve.