- Meal Number One: Yesterday's supper salad with roasted beets, avocado, dried apricots and more.
- Meal Number Two: This risotto, using the leftover beet greens.
- Meal Number Three: Tomorrow! (Hint: the beets are gone but there are still beets greens to use up! Update: pizza, anyone?)
But for supper, this beet green risotto is absolutely delicious. And to my taste, risotto is a perfect Friday-night supper, a bridge between the work week and the weekend. I pour a glass of wine and start to cook, stirring-stirring (but don't worry, there's time to make a salad and send someone to the grill). By the time the risotto's ready, I'm relaxed and ready to relax.
Until recently, I've always thought of risotto as 'fancy' and 'time intensive' food, something saved for special occasions. What I've learned is that once you nail the basic technique, it's extraordinarily simple and versatile. And delicious!! I've been testing risotto for an upcoming Kitchen Parade column and what you see below has become my standard 'recipe' for vegetable risottos. It worked beautifully with the ruby-colored beet stems and life-green beet greens.
Arborio is the rice usually specified for risotto. Tonight I experimented with "carnaroli rice", which Whole Foods describes, "Carnaroli rice offers a thick, rather short grain that is slightly firmer than Arborio. The darling of chefs, Carnaroli is less popular with farmers. It's harder to cultivate than other varieties, and its long, hair-like stem at the end of the stalk, called an "arista," makes harvesting difficult." At Global Foods (my neighborhood international market) it was slightly more expensive. I'm not sure I noticed a difference.
The serving size here is smaller than elsewhere. Other main-dish risotto recipes call for 2 uncooked cups of rice to serve four, a side dish serving is based on 1 cup for four servings -- HUGE servings.
My recipe calls for 1/2 cup of rice for four servings -- but always includes bulk from vegetable sources. And it's supper in just three points. (Please do not think that other risottos, especially restaurant risottos, are made in three points for they're notorious for fat amounts of butter and Parmesan.)
I find it plenty, though often it tastes so good I'm tempted to eat the pot! But to test the size on your family, think about making sure there's a big salad served alongside, or serve the risotto with grilled vegetables or meat. Still, I do hope you'll test the idea and let me know what you think.
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TWO YEARS AGO Baked Beets Late April must be beet season!
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BEET GREEN RISOTTO
Time to table: 40 minutes
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (I'm happy with bouillon)
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced small
Stems from 3 beets, trimmed and diced small
1/2 cup risotto rice (Arborio is typical)
1/2 cup white wine (or champagne, as tonight)
Salt & pepper to taste
The leaves from 3 beets, layered, rolled up into 'cigars' and then sliced very thin
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar (don't skip this, adds brightness)
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated (from about two square inches, I think it's two ounces)
In a small pot, bring stock to a boil, adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer.
In a non-stick skillet, melt the butter til shimmery, stir in the onion as it's prepped, stirring to coat. Add the stems as they're prepped, stirring to coat. Cook vegetables til they're beginning to soften. Add the rice and stir to coat, let cook for 1 - 2 minutes, stirring almost continuously. Add the white wine (it should sizzle) and stir til rice absorbs the liquid. A half cup at a time, add hot stock to the rice, stirring to incorporate, letting each addition get absorbed and the rice getting almost dry before adding more. (Stir very regularly during this process. You'll have time to make a salad, etc, just stay close to the stove so that you can watch what's happening and react quickly.) As the rice plumps up, begin tasting a grain or two for done-ness and seasoning. Risotto is supposed to be cooked only to the point that there remains a 'germ' in the center; I like it cooked past that point, more like 'rice'. To get to either stage, you may not need all the broth. If the rice needs salt and pepper, start seasoning it now, but go gently.
Stir in the beet greens (this is done late so they'll only cook a minute or two and retain their color) and the vinegar. Stir until greens are cooked. Stir in Parmesan. Serve immediately.