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When deciding what to grow in my backyard garden, I try to pick crops that will be often utilized in many different dishes. Sure, it would be cool to see if you could get a Bhut jolokia, more commonly known as a ghost pepper, to grow so that you could impress your friends at your barbeque party by unveiling (with rubber gloves) “one of the hottest peppers on Earth”! But do you really need to plant more than one of those? What are you going to use them for? Besides, things could get dangerous. When planting, try to plan meals.
This year, I have a “salsa” garden, filled with different tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and cilantro (sorry, limes aren’t growing in New Jersey) and a lasagna garden filled with more tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, and basil. For the past few seasons, two of my favorite crops, parsley and beets, have been grown in abundance and harvested throughout the summer to be put to use in a number of appetizers and salads. From beets and marinated mushroom side dishes, to parsley and roasted beet salads, these crops taste best fresh from the farmer’s market or backyard garden. This recipe for “Garden Fresh Beet Tartines with Gruyere” is great because you will incorporate the whole beet, using the root as well as the green. Enjoy!
3 medium size beets, steamed and finely chopped
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (about ½ pound)
3 tbsp. room-temperature unsalted butter
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. finely chopped parsle
Pinch of salt and few grinds of pepper
1 large loaf of rustic French Bread cut into ½-inch thick slices
3 tbsp. Olive oil
2-3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 large bunch of beet greens, washed thoroughly and roughly chopped
Place the oven rack on the top level (like you would for broiling) and preheat the oven to 375F. Wash beets and remove any stringy roots. Place beets in small pot and add just enough water to cover the largest beet. Bring water to boil and simmer for 5-8 minutes.
While the beets are steaming, chop parsley and grate cheese. Then, mix grated cheese, butter, mustard, and salt and pepper with a sturdy fork in a large bowl.
At this point, test the steamed beets by piercing them with a fork. If they are cooked, remove the beets from the pot and place them in an ice bath until cooled. At this point, you can remove the skins by rubbing with a paper towel, but if beets are young enough, you could keep the skins intact to give your dish a more rustic taste. Finely chop the beets and add to the cheese mixture.
Next, place bread on a large baking sheet and divide the mixture between the bread slices, pressing down slightly with fork. Place the bread on the top level and toast until the cheese puffs up and is lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat up a skillet over medium and drizzle in the olive oil and add the minced garlic. Add the beet greens and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, no longer than 5 minutes.
Finally, remove toasts from oven and spread the wilted greens on evenly over the cheesy toasts and serve immediately. Bon appétit!