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Originally published Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 6:00 AM

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Putting the whole beet to work, including the tops

City Kitchen: Golden beets and their flavorful greens, paired with yogurt, mint and dill, make for a rich summer salad with an Eastern Mediterranean slant. Recipe: Golden Beet and Beet-Greens Salad with Yogurt, Mint and Dill

The New York Times

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I spend a lot of time meandering through the greenmarkets. When planning my pedestrian itinerary, I always make a deliberate detour, and not just for research but also to pick up something for dinner.

Already we've seen asparagus and early peas and green garlic and the first strawberries and cherries, which are always exciting. But the other day I was most attracted to bunches of beautiful new crop beets. Piled high, glistening with water, their lush, leafy greens still attached, they looked gorgeous. There were ruby red ones but also the bright orangy-yellow ones called golden.

This particular stand was bustling, and the workers were jolly. "Tops off?" an enthusiastic vendor asked when I requested two bunches of golden beets. "Heavens, no," I said. "Fresh greens like that? I want them." The woman next to me was about to leave with just the beets, and I couldn't resist trying to persuade her to take the greens, advising her to treat them like chard or kale or spinach.

They really have great flavor, so why not cook them? Sometimes I cook the greens and beets for different meals, but this week's salad uses them together.

The only time-consuming part of the recipe is the actual roasting of the beets. They can take at least an hour, sometimes a bit longer to become truly fork tender. A well-cooked beet is easier to peel, and it's best to peel while still slightly warm, when the skin can be easily slipped off with the aid of a paring knife. Cooking the greens takes only a few minutes.

Both the beets and greens are dressed in a vinaigrette with red onions, cumin and coriander. An additional sauce of spiced yogurt adds richness, and fresh mint and dill give the salad an Eastern Mediterranean slant.

For this kind of sultry weather, it's a dish that's good any time of day. As the summer progresses, improvise with other vegetables, like cucumber; or grilled zucchini or eggplant; or, when they finally arrive, sweet ripe tomatoes — or any combination thereof.

GOLDEN BEET AND BEET-GREENS SALAD WITH YOGURT, MINT AND DILL

Time: About 30 minutes, plus time to cook the beets

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

2 pounds medium golden beets in skin, well washed (or other beets)

12 to 16 ounces beet greens (or chard or other greens)

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

For the vinaigrette:

1/3 cup red onion or shallot, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, finely grated

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon toasted cumin-coriander mixture

Pinch cayenne

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the yogurt sauce:

1 cup full-fat plain yogurt

1 garlic clove, finely grated

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch cayenne

1 teaspoon toasted cumin-coriander mixture

2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons freshly snipped dill for garnish

1. Roast the beets: Put them in a baking dish in one layer (if some beets are larger, halve them so they will cook evenly). Add about 2 inches water to the pan and cover tightly with foil. Bake at 375 degrees for at least an hour, or up to 1 ½ hours, until fork tender. Remove the foil, pour off the liquid and let cool for a few minutes, then peel while still slightly warm. Cut into wedges and set aside.

2. Cut beet greens into 1-inch ribbons, then wash well 3 times in abundant cold water to remove any sand or grit. Bring a large pot salted water to boil. Add the greens and cook briefly till wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain, cool under running water, then squeeze out excess water.

3. In a dry pan over medium heat, toast the coriander and cumin seeds until fragrant and just lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Grind to a coarse powder in a mortar or spice mill.

4. Make the vinaigrette: Put the onion, garlic and vinegar in a small bowl and leave for 5 minutes or so, then whisk in the remaining ingredients.

5. Make the yogurt sauce: Put the yogurt in a small bowl. Add the garlic, salt and pepper, cayenne, cumin-coriander mixture, mint and olive oil.

6. Season the beet wedges lightly with salt and dress with half the vinaigrette. In a separate bowl, lightly salt the greens and dress with the remaining vinaigrette. Arrange the dressed beets and greens on a platter and top with a little smear of the yogurt sauce. Sprinkle with the dill, and pass the rest of the yogurt sauce at the table.

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