I created Beet Risotto out of a special fondness I have for foods that suffer from misunderstanding and neglect.
I attribute this penchant to an elementary school career spent being picked last in gym class. Sure, my knees were knobby and I wasn’t the flashiest on the four-square court, but with a bit of patience and coaching, I could surprise you. I feel the same way about one of my favorite vegetables: beets.
In a high school cafeteria, beets would be banished to the table in the back with the lima beans, prunes, and other funny-looking edibles. In a Broadway musical, they would be cast in the chorus, never as the lead. Today, I’m thrilled to be giving a vegetable that we too often shove to the side of our plates the starring role at dinner with Beet Risotto.Creamy, dreamy, and comforting, Beet Risotto celebrates, rather than shuns, this hearty root vegetable. It makes the most of the beets’ wonderful qualities—and I don’t just mean their personalities. Oven roasting draws out the beets’ natural sweetness and earthiness, an ideal counterpoint to the dry white wine classic to risotto. Their smooth texture blends beautifully with the Arborio rice as it slowly transforms from hard grains into a velvety pot of lusciousness. Finally the beets’ ruby red hue shines loud and proud. This is Beet Risotto, and Beet Risotto will be noticed and adored.
As proof of Beet Risotto’s power, I should tell you that Ben doesn’t share my enthusiasm for beets. He views them with the same eagerness one typically reserves for dentist appointments—a necessary evil to good health. Kind, obliging wife that I am, I cooked Beet Risotto anyway. He loved it. Could beets be the nerdy girl you made fun in high school who returned after summer vacation as a total babe? Beet Risotto says yes.
With its charming color and heavenly texture, Beet Risotto feels fancy, but I assure you it is simple to make. Add the liquid slowly and stir regularly, and your risotto endeavors will be more successful than you dare to imagine. I love cooking risotto with friends—it gives us an infallible excuse to hang out in the kitchen, sip wine, and snack on too much cheese—and Beet Risotto is especially perfect for an intimate dinner, because its red color just shouts romance (or, um Valentine’s Day?). Beet Risotto is also attainable on a weeknight. Roast and slice the beets in advance, and you’ll be dishing up Beet Risotto in less than 40 minutes.
My other time-saving tip: Dorot garlic and herb cubes. I was recently given the chance to test-drive these handy little squares, and I must say—I was impressed. Not only were they incredibly convenient (goodbye garlic press!), but they offered just as much flavor as if I had painstakingly chopped the ingredients myself. Because the garlic and herbs are chopped and frozen when they are fresh, they maintain their vibrancy. Look for these guys in your grocer’s freezer section. (Special note if you shop at Walmart: The products will be packaged under the Walmart-exclusive brand “Pop & Cook.” Same items, different wrapper. Want to learn more? Check out Dorot and Pop & Cook‘s Facebook pages.)
If only for one dinner, Beet Risotto gives a mis-maligned vegetable its well-deserved moment in the spotlight. I suspect if you try it, however, you’ll be adding beets to the menu more frequently. After all, everyone loves an underdog.