I sometimes don't know what to do with beets. They're an ingredient I get excited about when I find them in my vegetable box, but inevitably they remain untouched for weeks. I've mentioned my issues with texture before and that I tend to like things smooth: soup, mashed potatoes, and beets, as it turns out.
For my birthday last year, my parents came to town and took us to lunch at a little Italian restaurant in our neighborhood. I ordered the beet risotto and proceeded to recreate it in a previous post, but after attempting the recipe again, I much prefer this updated version.
This time I wanted to highlight the flavor of the beets without having shards of them in each spoonful. To achieve this, I pressed the pureed beets through a strainer, extracting their juice while leaving the chunky bits behind. I loved it. The risotto turns a beautiful shade of pink (which is a great conversation starter at any dinner party), and the goat cheese gently melts into the rice. For some of you, it might be too warm outside to even consider making risotto for another month or so, but save it for the first chill in the air, when you want to curl up on the couch and embrace the new season.
ROASTED BEET RISOTTO
In reading reviews for other beet risotto recipes, one of the most common complaints was lack of flavor. I believe this can be remedied by using appropriate amounts of salt, infusing the puree into the stock (instead of adding beet chunks at the end of cooking), and the extra bonus of goat cheese and Parmesan. And don't forget to garnish it with parsley or chives. The freshness really adds a lot, and isn't just for looks in this dish.
1 to 2 cups roasted beet puree (recipe follows)
6 to 8 cups chicken stock
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion or one large shallot, minced
1/2 cup vermouth or white wine
2 cups arborio rice
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Minced chives, for garnish
Goat cheese (about 4 ounces)
For the beet puree: Rinse and dry 4 large beets*. (*This recipe is very forgiving, so the beet puree measurements do not need to be exact.) Trim their stems, then place beets on a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap it tightly. Roast in a 425 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until tender. When cool, rub the skins off with a paper towel, or if all else fails, trim the skins with a knife. Puree all the beets in a food processor, then push through a sieve so you're left with a smooth beet puree.
For the risotto: In a four-quart stockpot, heat the chicken stock and beet puree to a low boil, then keep at a simmer. In a heavy saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat and add the shallots. Cook for 2 minutes, until slightly softened.
Add the rice and stir to coat. Cook for two minutes, until the edges are translucent. Add the vermouth and stir until the liquid reduces almost completely.
For the next 20-25 minutes, add stock a ladle at a time, stirring consistently to coax out the starch in the rice. When all the liquid is absorbed, the rice will be tender but slightly firm, and suspended in a creamy sauce (you may have leftover broth). Test for seasonings.
Off the heat, quickly add 1/2 cup of the cheese and cold butter. With a wooden spoon, stir rapidly to get air into the rice and help melt the butter. When the butter is nearly melted, put a lid on the pot and let sit for two minutes.
To serve, add one or two ladles of rice into shallow bowls. Garnish with a dollop of goat cheese and the chives.