Last summer, I flagged a recipe for beet risotto in my copy of The Farmer’s Kitchen. Beets were a recent culinary discovery thanks to our CSA: for whatever reason, I had never tried them before. I fell in love at first bite with the simple perfection of boiled beets, vivid purple-red or brilliant orange, subtly sweet and silky smooth. Other than a batch of borsht, I didn't venture beyond boiling as a method of preparation. I hate peeling vegetables, and the beauty of the boiling beets is that you can leave the skins on and just slip them off the prepared beets with a fork and knife.
But the beet risotto has been beckoning to me, regardless of the necessity of peeling. As a neat freak, I had horrifying visions of beet juice spattered across my person and kitchen, so I changed into an old t-shirt. Sure enough, with the second stroke of the vegetable peeler, the slippery beet exploded from my hands, whacking me in the stomach before tumbling down the cupboard door and rolling across the floor, leaving a path of purple juice in its wake. I yelled some choice words that caused Mike to rush downstairs, knowing that I had either cut off a finger and needed to be driven to the ER, or had made a serious mess and would need help cleaning it up. Sadly, the "Twelve Angry Jurors Fall 2004 HHS Theater Department" t-shirt was a loss, but our vinyl plank flooring and cabinets were easy to wipe clean, and the rest of the beets were peeled without incident.
The risotto itself was well worth the sacrifice of my t-shirt. The beets colored the rice a beautiful purple, and the saltiness of the Parmesan and the tartness of the lemon juice balanced the beets' sweetness. If you don't have any wine, you can leave it out--although it adds a bit of depth to the dish, I don't think it's crucial. The Arborio rice called for in the recipe is the classic variety used in risotto and can be found in the Italian section of the grocery store.
Adapted from The Farmer’s Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Enjoying Your CSA and Farmers’ Market Finds, by Julia Shanks and Brett Grohsgal
Serves 4 as a light entree
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large shallot, minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 3/4 cup Arborio rice
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 2 medium beets, diced into 1/4 inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a small saucepan, bring stock to a boil. Reduce heat to low.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about two minutes. Stir in rice and cook until rice is glossy and coated with butter, about one minute. Add wine and stir until the wine has evaporated. Add beets.
With a ladle, begin adding the stock a 1/2 cup at a time. Turn heat up to medium-high. When stock is almost evaporated, add more. Continue in this manner, stirring frequently, until all of the stock is incorporated and the rice is tender, but not mushy.
Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper. Add Parmesan and mix thoroughly. Finally, stir in the lemon juice.