Beet Stem Curry (Dahta)

If your garden is overflowing with beets, then you’ve likely also got tons of beet greens and beet stems to make use of as well.  Beet greens are pretty similar to spinach, and so there are lots of recipes to choose from.  Beet stems… not so much.  When I happened on a description and recipe for a Bengali dish known as “dahta” in Madhur Jaffrey’s book Vegetarian India, I was overjoyed.  Here was a simple and tasty way to contend with the parts that until now, there was but limited use for.  Bonus: the recipe also works with chard stems, kale stems, collard stems – pretty much any leafy green that has a spine of some kind.  After some tinkering, this is my adaptation of the recipe, toyed with to suit my taste.

Yield: 4 generous cups

What you need:

  • 20 oz beet stems, very finely chopped, 4 generous cups
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 fresh green chile, sliced into fine rounds (use 2 chiles for some real heat, or remove the seeds from the one for a very mild dish)
  • 10-15 fresh curry leaves (optional)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons nigella (also sold as kalonji or onion seed, it can be found in most well stocked Indian groceries)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (can be substituted for brown sugar or Sucanat)

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What you do:

  1. Once all the veggies are prepped, heat a large cast iron pan or Dutch oven over medium heat.  When hot, add the olive oil and let it heat up.
  2. Add the nigella and let the seeds sizzle 30 seconds or so.  Add the curry leaves and green chile (careful, they’ll splutter) and stir them around another 30 seconds or so.
  3. Add the finely chopped stems, salt and syrup and mix well.
  4. Cover, lower the heat, and let cook 10-15 minutes, until the stem pieces are tender.  Generally speaking, there will be enough water in the stems themselves to steam it all effectively.  If, however, you’re using kale stems which are pretty dry, you may want to add 1/4 cup of water to keep things moist.
  5. Remove from heat and serve.

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