Beet Green & Bacon Garlicky Mashed Potatoes

We went back to the local farmer's market on Saturday, hoping for some more fresh corn. The guy we bought from didn't have corn this time, but he did have beets. Huge beets averaging a pound and a half each! I'd never seen beets so large in stores here before. My husband's comment? "Now those are real beets!"

And best of all: they were 25c each for the big ones and only 10c for the "small" ones!

When my husband pointed them out, I knew we had to get some. At the time, I wasn't sure just how we'd prepare them yet, but they looked so good we couldn't resist.

The farmer told us not to waste the greens - both stems and leaves are edible. They cook up like spinach and, according to my reference book, best steamed and braised, but sauteing is a close third. Chard and turnip greens also cook up similarly, which is why tonight, I decided to saute the greens in a bit of butter until they wilted, just like I always do with chard.

They can be pretty strong, especially the older leaves, but they have a nice, if slightly astringent flavor to them. They taste a lot like spinach but not as mild.

With autumn finally peeking in and softly shooing summer out the door, making a mash just sounded like a great idea. (Mashes, however, do not photograph well, at least not for me tonight. I am not that good of a photographer OR a food stylist so you will just have to imagine. Plus I'm upset at my kitchen right now.)

One other thing I'll be describing in this recipe is how to pan-roast garlic. This is absolutely one of my favorite ways to prepare garlic and it's really, really easy. I used to roast garlic the traditional way - with olive oil, wrapped and baked in foil. It took forever and I hated running my big oven just for a ball of foil the size of my fist. Now I pan-roast them and it works beautifully.

Pan-Roasted Garlic [printable recipe]

A tip picked up from: Smoke & Spice

  • a head or more of garlic, broken apart but unpeeled, excess paper removed

Heat a cast-iron skillet (6″ is all you need here) over moderate heat until hot. Add garlic (do not peel!) to the pan. No, you do not need fat of any kind. Shake the pan periodically to keep the garlic from burning and cook until soft – about 10 – 15 minutes. Remove, let cool and peel off the skins.

Try to resist popping more than a couple of cloves in your mouth and enjoying the soft, roasted flavor.

Cast-iron is the best to use as it does not mind being heated without anything in it. I wouldn't recommend doing this on a regular non-stick - besides, there's nothing to stick anyway. Just look around your thrift stores and yard sales for good, polished cast-iron skillets and take good care of them. They'll take good care of you in return.

Beet Green & Bacon Garlicky Mashed Potatoes [printable recipe]

Serves 2 hungry people as a main and 4 - 6 as a side

  • 1 lb cauliflower florets
  • 1 lb potatoes, scrubbed and roughly chopped
  • 1 head Pan-Roasted Garlic (recipe above)
  • 1/4 c sour cream
  • about 6 cups of beet greens (about three large beets' worth), washed well, roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 3 strips bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce (like Tabasco, use your favorite to your taste)
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red chile pepper
  • salt, pepper

In a medium pot, boil the potatoes in salted water until about 10 minutes from being done (they should still have some hardness to them). Add the cauliflower florets and cook until both are fork-tender. Drain and put back on the heat for a minute or two.

While the potatoes boil, saute onions with the spices in a bit of oil until tender and, yes, a bit brown. Remove.

In a large skillet, melt butter over moderate heat. Add chopped beet greens, a bit of salt and pepper, then cover for 2 - 3 minutes. Uncover and stir greens well. They're done when wilted.

Combine everything in a large bowl (or the potatoes' pot) and mash well. Add hot sauce to your taste and adjust other seasonings as needed.