Be still my beet-ing heart: Beet Risotto

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Things were bustling this morning at the Downtown Austin Farmer’s Market. With a little warmer weather, the booths were crowded and there were a lot of familiar faces. It was wonderful to run into so many friends I hadn’t seen in a while and a truly delightful way to start the day.

I decided this morning that I’ve been in a vegetable rut, buying the same things I always get because I like them (broccoli, spinach, and mushrooms). For the good of the blog, I needed to stretch a little bit and try some things I don’t normally buy. Today’s victim – beets.

I didn’t grow up eating beets so it’s not a natural choice for me. I never see beets and think “oh, I could make x with that.” I also have a confession – I kind of think beets taste a little like dirt. (My friend Roxanne thinks the same thing about sprouts.) I know it’s just me, other people love them, but there it is. I did set that aside for today.

I got online and found some recipes that sounded tasty. I tried two recipes – one for the beets and one for the greens. I’m stuck on this don’t waste any part of the vegetable thing.

Since this is Valentine’s week, you can also use this beet risotto recipe to woo your sweetheart with some charming pink/red food. (Stop rolling your eyes you cynics.)

Roasted Beet Risotto
Gourmet November 2004

This risotto is good, but I didn’t love the beets. It’s my “beets taste like dirt” thing. I did like it though and I would cook it again for other people if I had beets handy. If you like beets, you’ll love it.

3 medium beets (1 1/2 lb with greens), trimmed, leaving 1 inch of stems attached
3 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (28 fl oz)
3 cups water
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Arborio rice (14 oz)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)
Garnish: Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings, made with a vegetable peeler

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.
Tightly wrap beets in a double layer of foil and roast on a baking sheet until very tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Cool to warm in foil package, about 20 minutes.
When beets are cool enough to handle, peel them, discarding stems and root ends, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

While beets are cooling, bring broth and water to a bare simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Keep at a bare simmer, covered.

Cook onion in oil in a wide 4- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.

Add wine and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup broth and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed.

Continue simmering and adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is just tender and creamy-looking, 18 to 22 minutes. (Reserve leftover broth.)

Stir in beets, salt, and pepper(mixture will turn bright pink) and cook, stirring, until heated through. (BOY, they are not kidding about the bright pink – I have lipstick that is paler than this. Woo!)

Thin as necessary with some of leftover broth, then stir in cheese and remove from heat.

Beet Green Gratin
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Show: Good Eats
Episode: Beet It

This recipe ROCKS! I had a failed turnip green disaster a few weeks ago (I spared you by not posting it) and was worried that I wasn’t going to have success with greens. Today, I learned that I like beet greens, but not turnip greens. I really like beet greens cooked like this. Yum!

1 tablespoon butter
12 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound beet greens, cleaned and picked
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 cups ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup crumbled crackers (recommended: Ritz crackers)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the mushrooms and garlic and sweat. Add the beet greens and mix well. Remove pan from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, and salt. Combine everything and put into a lightly oiled 9 by 11-inch baking dish.

Top with the crumbled crackers and bake for 30 minutes covered. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

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