Beet Greens and Brown Rice Casserole (AMY BONCHUK / FOR THE SUN)
Happy belated Canada Day, Westman foodies! I hope that the past long weekend was a great kickoff to your summer. Potato salad, macaroni salad, and coleslaw would have been fairly prominent among barbecues and campfires this previous summer holiday. The weather was awesome and as we hit the hottest months of the year, I have some great recipes to pull out and serve on the patio or picnic table.
As I compose this article, a typical evening thunderstorm is rolling in from the west, lighting up the horizon — and my kitchen — with fantastic displays of high-humidity thunderstorm activity. While the threat of hail and winds is always a concern, there is relief in knowing cooler temperatures will follow this spectacular high-def nature show.
This recipe is a lot like the trademark evening thunderstorms: a signature prairie experience of rich flavours from seasonal ingredients. With our short summers, I love bringing our best to the front of the page with decadence and simplicity, and this week I am doing it with Beet greens.
Based on a homemade classic, this recipe is enriched with the most gorgeous garden greens. Wholesome and savoury, it is a great way to use the bounty of the moment and capitalize on the palate-pleasing rewards of eating the freshest food possible.
Classic cabbage rolls are something we enjoy quite frequently as a part of our Ukrainian heritage. But, I always found beet leaf rolls to be much more interesting. Vibrant emerald green with contrastingly purple-jeweled veins; the beet leaf is tender with robust flavour and a pleasing bitterness that is comparable to other young greens. While they are just as great in simple salad, this recipe infuses an entire casserole with their signature flavour.
Because of their tedious nature, my mother makes her beet leaf rolls in a casserole in a more efficient manner. I will never call this method lazy, as cooking from scratch from ingredients grown in one’s own garden is not the definition of lazy. As the foodie dictionary reads, this is defined as genius!
The richness of this dish balances effortlessly with the simplicity of the freshest ingredients. Dill weed infuses into the rice and lends a fantastic herbaceous contrast to the savoury garlic I love so much. I cooked the rice in a 50/50 mixture of beef and chicken broth. Feel free to use just water, but if you want a richer-flavoured end product, cooking the rice in stock adds depth and interest. To maintain texture and add contribute a nuttier profile; I used brown rice instead of white. Not only does this maximize flavour, it adds significantly more nutrition.
I will be bold enough to say that in the future, I look forward to testing this dish with pearl barley, buckwheat, or a wild rice blend. The basic concept is the same. Take an al dente cooked starch, toss it with the onion, garlic, dill, and greens, place in casserole, top with more greens, season, add cream and bake.
The secret to a great casserole is to ensure that the starch is not cooked to mush before you begin.
Cooking the starch al dente allows it to adequately absorb the creaminess and flavours of the ingredients. This casserole is also like most great food and tastes even more amazing when it’s reheated the second day. If you don’t have the luxury of a garden or know someone who wouldn’t miss a few cups of greens, I have made this recipe using store-bought mixed baby greens.
Experiment with greens this summer. While potato salad and coleslaw will always dominate the summer menu; shake things up a little and serve a casserole of electric green and purple. It will knockout your picnic table, and palate, with the intensity of a prairie summer storm.
Beet Greens and Brown Rice Casserole
- 4 cups of cooked brown rice
- 1 onion, diced small
- 4-8 cloves of garlic, minced fine.
- 2 green onions sliced
- 2 heaping tablespoons of fresh dill, chopped
- 3 cups of fresh beet greens, or salad greens,
- diced and lightly packed
- 1 tsp of kosher salt
- 1 tsp of freshly ground pepper
- 500 ml of heavy cream
Pre-heat the barbecue (use indirect heat: turn on one burner and place the casserole over the unlit portion of the grill) or oven to about 275 F.
Mix the rice, onion, garlic, green onions, dill, salt and pepper, and 1 cup of the beet greens. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Place into a 9x13 casserole and top with the remaining greens. Pour cream over top and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling and beautiful.
**the temp. must be gentler; the cream will separate if it is heated too much.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 7, 2012