How often do you hear stories about children who do not want to eat their vegetables? If you’re my brother, a single guy with (mostly) single friends, the answer is probably “not often, actually”, but if you’re a parent, or know parents, or spend anytime talking to parents this topic is likely to come up. Turns out, I’ve learned, that a lot of kids don’t like vegetables.
I understand why- a lot of the time vegetables are not cooked properly and end up as flavorless, shapeless, versions of their former selves. But, when a vegetable is prepared with care (and this does NOT, necessarily, have to mean a lot of time and energy as well), with thought to it’s texture and natural flavors it can be marvelous. In my opinion, kids just need more experience with this kind of vegetable.
Our Farmers’ Market (and any in the area, I’m sure) is overflowing these days with beets- purple and golden piles of sweet beets. I suspect this is a very under appreciated vegetable. It is not as accessible as the carrot, exotic as the artichoke, or beautiful as the eggplant, but it has fabulous flavor and packs a nutritional punch (they are an excellent source of folate, manganese, potassium and fiber). Beets are also have nearly as much sugar as 8 ounces of plain yogurt, making it an ideal candidate for enticing picky little eaters, who might be convinced to eat anything that contains “sugar.” (Random side note: my aunt used to tell my brother’s that all the sugar was found in the crust of the bread in an attempt to get them to eat it. And it worked…suckers!)
Beet and Greens Pasta
This recipe, adapted from Laurie Colwin’s More Home Cooking, is one of my favorites…and it has quickly become one of Eleanor’s favorites too. The color is richly vivid, and the taste intriguing. Kids can help with the prep too- have them wash the beets and greens and help with the final toss of beets and pasta.
|1-2||Bunches of beets, with greens|
|2 to 3||Tbsp. olive oil|
|~||Pinch of dried red pepper flakes|
|4-5||garlic cloves, peeled and minced|
|1||cup vegetable or chicken broth|
|2||Tbsp. fresh lemon juice|
|~||Zest of 1 lemon|
|Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, cilantro, and dill|
|½||lb. pasta, preferably spaghetti, linguini or fettuchini style- but any will do|
|Fresh cheese of choice (I prefer a soft goat or feta)
- Wash, peel and dice the beets. Dry and chop the beet greens; set aside.
- Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente and drain.
- While the pasta is cooking, coat the bottom of a cast-iron skillet or sauté pan with olive oil. Over medium heat, cook the diced beets, shallot, and red pepper flakes, stirring often, until the beets are almost tender. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for 1 minute, then add the broth and lemon juice.
- Bring to a simmer and cook until the beets are tender and the broth is reduced to a syrup-like consistency (I find that it helps to cover for 5-10 minutes, then uncover and continue to reduce). If necessary, add more broth or water. Add the reserved, chopped beet greens, lemon zest, and chopped herbs. Stir and cover.
- Once the beet greens have wilted, season to taste with salt, then toss the beet mixture with the drained pasta. Serve with cheese and toasted walnuts.