Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Beet You To It
Soooo...remember that whole spiel in the last post about how I now contain myself when I get the urge to make risotto? And how it's soooo hard because it showcases great ingredients so beautifully? Well...I had a minor self-control issue earlier in the week when I got the contents of my CSA. I know, I know, I should know better, right? After all, I'm a grown woman, well versed in not only cooking but in the myriad ways one could handle almost any ingredient. But much to my surprise I found that when confronted with two fat, juicy beets and their lovely greens, all I could think to do was make a risotto. Not that I was lacking in ideas by any means (a ravioli and a mixed drink also came to mind), but I didn't expect to be seeing beets for quite some time. I figured by the time late summer/early fall rolled around I'd be due for another big batch of risotto, fitting nicely into my plan of not making risotto too often. I'd had the beet risotto in my mind for at least a year and just couldn't bear the thought of passing up the chance to make it with my lovely CSA beets. After all, this could be a one-time shot, what if I never got beets in my CSA ever again? Right? Right? Who's with me?!?!
In any case, I had a vision for this risotto that did not translate very well on film (or, well, digital camera). Despite looking like minced meat or steak tartare in print, in person the risotto was a sight to behold. I was fortunate enough to get one gorgeous, deep red beet and one Chioggia, or Italian beet (they're also often called candy cane beets because of their red and white striations). Both were beautiful, with the classic red beet lending it's ruby hue not only to the rice but also to the lighter Chioggia beet, that ate it right up and blended into the rice. The whole dish turned pink, but the dark red beets somehow retained their coloring. The beet greens played an important role as well, flecking the dish with deep green pockets of earthy and rich green flavor. The last touch was to add goat cheese in place of the traditional parmesan. Not only did it keep the texture nice and creamy, but the cheese's slight tartness cut through the subtle sweetness of the beets perfectly.
I was fortunate enough to find a few different versions of beet risotto in my cookbooks and online, so I used an amalgam of all those recipes. A few called for roasted beets (I'll save that for a frosty fall night) and a few left them in huge chunks, which just looked strange and unappetizing. Another recipe used water instead of stock, which I don't particularly like. So in the end, I just came up with a bare bones, simple risotto recipe that used more of my cooking instincts and knowledge of risotto than anything else. Besides, with such great, flavorful ingredients, who needs all the extra effort? Here it is, and for the beet lovers out there, this is a must cook. And for the beet newbies, this is a great introduction. Oh, and if your beets don't come with the greens (sacrilege!), you can use any other hearty green you like (swiss chard, mustard greens or kale would be lovely).
Beet and Goat Cheese Risotto with Beet Greens
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
5 cups chicken, vegetable or pork stock, heated
2 large beets, peeled and diced, greens reserved, washed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 package (about 5 1/2 oz) soft goat cheese
extra virgin olive oil
1. Heat olive oil, garlic and beets in a large non-stick skillet on medium heat. Cook until garlic is fragrant and beets are slightly softened.
2. Add rice and cook until white and opaque. Add a ladleful of stock and stir rice frequently until stock is absorbed. Repeat until rice is cooked through but still slightly al dente. Stir in goat cheese (saving a few crumbles for garnish) and stir to combine. Add greens and stir until just wilted (add more stock if needed for moisture or heat). Plate and serve topped with a few crumbles of goat cheese. Enjoy!