Asparagus and French Lentils on Red Beet Greens Polenta

Remember the succotash from last week? We had red beet greens left over and although we didn’t get to braise them, we found a novel way to eat them – blanched in polenta.
Cooking with leftovers lets me get creative: what needs to be cooked now or thrown out serves as a starting point, often with the added challenge of having to combine random foods, especially after big holidays! Soup is always a great option as it takes everything (even arugula, hmm… 😉 ), but I try to aim for more solid food now with leftovers to be taken to preschool the next day for lunch.
We also prepped two different cranberry sauces and still have a full jar, and the delicate asparagus I saw on sale and had to therefore buy never made it to the table over the holidays.

So, this dish took care of rescuing food from the compost and fed us well!
Ilian happily snapped away when prepping the asparagus, and he “played music” on the red beet greens by pulling a wet leaf through his fingers. [This actually works even better with Lacinato kale, which sings its pretty green song when you rub a hand over a wet leaf!] And he helped himself to plenty of figs, feeding me a few when my hands were busy 🙂

Asparagus and French Lentils on Red Beet Greens Polenta

  • Servings: dinner for 4
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  • greens of three red beets
  • 2 cups polenta
  • 1 cup french lentils
  • 1/3 cup diced dried figs
  • 1 bunch thin, green asparagus
  • leftover cranberry sauce (recipe on bottom of page), if you have it
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • water


  1. Blanch the red beet greens: Put in boiling water for 3 minutes, drain. Place in ice water until cool, drain again. [I use frozen cooling elements to cool down my water. Much less work than actual ice cubes!] Squeeze out as much water as possible. Cut the resulting compressed mass into small cubes. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the polenta: Bring 8 cups water to a boil. Add polenta while whisking continuously. Add 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp tarragon. Reduce heat to low, whisk frequently, until polenta thickens, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add beet greens to polenta. Stir to mix. Pour into baking dish. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Let cool.
  4. Cook the lentils: Place lentils in a pot with 2 cups water and the dried figs. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes, or until water has been absorbed.
  5. Prepare asparagus: Hold asparagus spears with one hand in the middle of the spear, and two fingers of other hand at the very bottom. Bend spear. The wooden bottom part will snap off where the soft, edible part begins. Dry spears and place on cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with salt. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes.
  6. Plate the polenta, top with lentils, place asparagus spears on top. Add a spoonful of cranberry sauce if you have Thanksgiving leftovers. Enjoy!

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