This recipe uses the whole beet plant, from root to leaf, sauteed with Indian spices, onions, garlic, ginger and chiles. Served with spiced yogurt and toasted almonds, with fresh parsley leaves on top. See the Notes section at the bottom for serving suggestions for a vegetarian main or side dish.
1 tablespoon slivered almonds
A 1-lb bunch of red beets with greens attached
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1 serrano chile, minced (or less, to taste)
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 fat garlic clove, minced
A 1.5-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
1/2 cup plain yogurt (preferably whole milk)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Juice of half a lemon
A couple of generous handfuls of parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Warm naan bread for serving
1. Toast the almonds in a small dry pan until slightly browned in places, then remove from heat, let cool and roughly chop. Remove the stems from the beets, strip the greens from the stems and reserve the stems. Fill a large bowl with cold water, tear the leaves into large pieces and swish them in the water to dislodge any dirt. Leave the greens in the water. Rinse the stems if needed and slice them crosswise into 1/4-inch (or smaller) pieces. Peel the beets and cut them into 1/4-inch cubes. You should have about 1/2 cup of sliced beet stems and 3/4 cup of diced beets.
2. Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the fenugreek, coriander and cumin and toast the spices in the oil for about 2 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to let the spices simmer gently and infuse the oil without burning. Add the beets, tossing them in the pan with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Turn the heat to medium-high and saute the beets, letting them caramelize in the hot oil, for about 5-8 minutes, until they’re somewhat tender.
3. Add the onions, chile, beet stems and turmeric, turn the heat to medium and saute with the beets for 5-8 minutes more, until everything is soft. Add the garlic and ginger, toss everything together and saute for 2 more minutes.
4. Turn the heat to low. Remove the greens from the water a handful at a time and drop the wet greens into the pan. Add the final 1/4 teaspoon salt and another splash of water if it seems dry. Stir everything together, put the lid on and cook for 5 minutes. While the beets are cooking, stir the cinnamon into the yogurt.
5. When the beets are finished, remove from heat, add the lemon juice and use a wooden spatula to scrape and stir everything together. Taste and another pinch of salt if needed. Spread about half the yogurt on a serving plate and spoon the hot beet curry over the yogurt. Top with the almonds and half the parsley. To serve, tear off pieces of warm naan bread and scoop a spoonful of beet curry into each piece. Top with another dollop of yogurt and an extra sprinkle of parsley.
This dish uses the whole beet plant: roots, leaves and even stems, so you get to feel virtuous and gluttonous at the same time. (How often does that happen?) The stems are sliced into small pieces so they can be sauteed alongside the onions and diced beet roots, where they soften and combine with all the other flavors in the dish. The leaves are added toward the end, so they add a contrasting note without overcooking.
It goes without saying that the beet lovers will love this dish. But the yet-to-be-converted will love it too (which is even better, of course). It tastes like an Indian curry and it’s great alongside a nice steak or kabab, but it’s also great as a main course scooped into warm naan bread, which is how my 12 year-old daughter enjoyed it twice this week.
The cinnamon-spiked yogurt really makes the dish, so don’t skip it! The creaminess of the yogurt and that unexpected cinnamon note combine with all the other flavors to bring everything into balance.
Two very hungry people could polish this off between them, with some nice warm naan bread. If those people were not quite so hungry, or had a salad or something on the side, they’d probably have enough to share with a third person. And if, on the other hand, those people were to enjoy this as the side dish with their dinner, they’d definitely have enough for a party of 4. But I’m guessing everyone may still complain that there wasn’t enough, because it’s one of those dishes that is so tasty leaves you wanting more. So, feel free to double it! But if you do, you’ll probably need to saute the beets in batches in Step 2 (unless you have a really large pan), so they caramelize instead of just steaming.