This salad has both Italian & Greek influences. It contains beet greens, which, when cooked, taste very similar to spinach.
Beets and their greens are classified as superfoods . They are fat-free & low in calories but packed full of nutrients & antioxidants (like beta-carotene & other carotenoids). Beet greens are a good source of betaine, folate (a.k.a. folic acid or vitamin B9), iron, potassium, and vitamin C.
Beet greens have many wonderful health benefits . They aid in the reduction of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (i.e., the "bad" kind of cholesterol), while at the same time elevating HDL levels (i.e., the "good" kind of cholesterol). They also lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, & stroke, protect against cognitive disorders (such as Alzheimer's), type-2 diabetes, & stomach cancer, and help cleanse the kidneys, spleen & gall bladder. Beet greens promote tissue growth & musculo-skeletal health, and also help protect the liver & arterial walls. Additionally, they have anti-inflammatory properties.
One notes of caution: Beet greens contain significant amounts of oxalates, which, in high concentrations, can crystallize in bodily fluids & potentially cause kidney & gallbladder problems. So, those with existing kidney & gallbladder problems (i.e., a propensity to form kidney stones, etc.) might want to avoid eating beet greens.
Beet greens (& beets) do have a high sugar content but a very low glycemic index (GI = 64). So, that means that the sugar conversion in the body occurs very slowly & therefore helps to stabilize blood sugar levels.
And lastly, if you're an athlete, you will love this last benefit. :) Beets & beet greens have been shown to naturally enhance athletic performance. In a study conducted by the University of Exeter, scientists found that cyclists who drank a half-liter of beetroot juice were able to ride up to 20% longer than those who drank a placebo beverage of blackcurrant juice.
So next time you're gearing up for a workout, you might want to eat some beets &/or beet greens a few hours earlier! :-D
Beet Greens & Tomato Salad
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. shallots (1 large shallot)
1 Tbsp. garlic, peeled & finely minced (2 large cloves)
6 c. whole beet greens (stalks & leaves), chopped crosswise into 1 1/2" pieces
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1 c. olive brine (to deglaze)
1/2 c. Kalamata olives, pitted & halved
3 1/2 c. fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped (about 6 medium-sized tomatoes)
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
1/2 c. (or more) fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 c. nonfat feta, crumbled
ground black pepper, to taste
Directions: In a large (12-13") sauté pan, sauté shallots & garlic in olive oil on low heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Then stir in beet greens & rosemary, & cook for 15 more minutes. Deglaze with olive brine, & then stir in oregano. Cook until liquid has been reduced to a thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Then remove from heat & drain remaining liquid. Transfer contents into a large heat-proof bowl & let cool. When beet greens mixture has cooled, add in chopped fresh (raw) tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, & feta. Season with pepper & toss well. Serve warm or cold.
Yield: 4-6 servings as a main course & 8-10 servings as a side dish.
Chef's Notes: This salad could also be used as a topping for pasta as well.