Sometime an ingredient just speaks to me. I’m not sure whether I was born with this gift or if I’ve watched too many food shows and browsed too many cookbooks. Like seashells on the surf, ideas for meals surface in my mind and evolve throughout the day until evening, when they’re realized into dinner.
This particular CSA-inspired dish was especially fun to concoct. In the produce box last week, we received a bunch of beet greens, with adorable tiny beets attached. The farmer’s newsletter shared that a single beet seed can contain anywhere from one to eight embryos, each of which will grow into a beet plant. And when there are many little beet plants sprouting in one small hole, they have to compete for nutrients and you wind up with baby beets! These darlings were totally tender and delicious, which is great since they were way too small to peel. And while beet roots are definitely getting a lot of culinary play right now, fresh beet greens are super tasty as well: earthy and faintly sweet with a similar flavor profile and texture to Swiss chard, but with slightly less bitterness.
So here’s the basic formula: I threw short grain brown rice in the rice cooker an hour before dinner, then marinated ¼ inch thin strips of tempeh in a mixture of ketchup, sesame oil, tamari (gluten free soy sauce), lime juice, powered ginger and garlic, coriander, and cumin. While the rice cooked and the tempeh marinated, I washed and trimmed the baby beets and their greens. I set the oven to 450°F and pulled the tempeh from the fridge, laying it on a foiled lined baking sheet next to the oil slathered beets, which went into the oven for about 20 minutes, getting flipped and turned halfway through. Meanwhile, I sautéed the beet greens in garlic and olive oil until just tender and bright green.
This dish is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach: for each diner, layer salted brown rice in the bottom of a shallow bowl and top with sautéed beet greens. Next lay down 4-5 strips of golden brown tempeh and nestle 4-5 baby beets (or chopped large beets) atop it all. Finish with a hefty dollop of pesto, made with any herbs or greens you have around the house. I try to make a big jar of pesto right when I pick up our produce and then use it all week long for eggs, pasta salad, sandwiches and of course, to add flavor and color to pretty dishes like this one.
There you have it: a whole foods based meal with color, flavor, and an array of nutrients. This basic idea can be interpreted in so many different varieties, changing up the beet greens for spinach, kale or chard, and the tempeh for tofu, chicken, eggs, or fish. The beets of course could be any seasonal veggie that lends itself well to roasting. Play around and have fun with your dinners! Look for inspiration and begin brainstorming throughout the day and by the time you’re getting asked “what’s for dinner?” you may find you already have a pretty solid plan.