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.
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh, whole beets
- 4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetables stock
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 large shallot finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
- Place a rack in the center of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Cut off the beet leaves near the tip of the beet (save the beet greens for another use) and scrub the beets well. Toss beets with 2 tablespoons olive oil, then wrap in tin foil (small beets can be wrapped together; large beets should be wrapped separately). Place beets on a baking sheet to catch any juices, then roast for 50-60 minutes, until fork tender (time will vary depending upon the size of the beets.) Check the beets every 20 minutes to ensure they are not burning on the bottom. If they begin to scorch, drizzle with a little water, then rewrap and continue cooking. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Slip off beat skins and slice into 1/2-inch thick wedges. (At the point, the beets can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.)
- Place ⅓ of the roasted beets into a blender or food processor with the stock. Puree until smooth (the mixture will be very liquidy), then transfer to a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Reserve remaining beet wedges.
- In a large, sturdy pot or Dutch oven, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium-low. Add shallot, parsley, garlic, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice to the pot and stir to coat, then add wine and cook 2 minutes. Carefully add 2 full ladles of the beet puree, salt, and pepper. Stir and simmer over low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed, 5-10 minutes. Continue to add the beet puree, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes and ensuring the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom. With each addition, continue to cook and stir until the mixture seems almost dry, then add the next 2 ladles. Continue until you have used all of the liquid and the rice is soft and creamy, about 25 minutes. Stir in reserved beet wedges.
- Serve immediately, topped with Parmesan cheese.
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