It all began with a handsome little bundle of beets—a mix of baby and striped chioggia (aka candy cane) beets—that caught my eye at the farmer’s market. There was still time before the lion of March turned into a lamb and I wanted one more hearty cool weather dish, a satisfying risotto.
I grew up with a constant pot of rice on the stove, plain, humble and ready to absorb whatever my mother or grandmother were cooking. When my great-grandparents moved inland from the South Carolina Lowcountry their neighbors called them “rice eaters.” As with any food so connected with childhood, rice is comfort food for me. It is what I go for when I need warmth, when feel lost or beaten down, or when I am deep in the despair of falling in love.
This was four years ago and Mr. L and I were existing in a state of fragile joy that takes over when you begin to see your relationship stretching on into the future. When everything is so heart-achingly perfect. Before you learn that the line going towards the horizon is really a zigzag of compromises, moves, job changes, and parenthood. The push-pull of life partnership. This risotto is one we’ve made several times over the years, but the first time was at the table under the window in the small kitchen of my single girl apartment. On that night Mr. L was hesitant of the beets (the bright pink color) but he ate his serving gusto and all the devotion of a man who was completely in love.
Roasted Beet Risotto
3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup of dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or broth
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 of a small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cup arborio rice
2 to 3 roasted beets (see below), chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 small chioggia beet, very thinly sliced (optional)
In a medium saucepan heat the broth and wine until steaming. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook and stir one minute more. Add the rice and cook and stir for a minute or two or until the rice is coated in the butter and starting to turn a little translucent around the edges. Add a ladle of the hot broth and wine a little at a time. Stir the rice with a wooden spoon until all the broth is absorbed. Continue adding a little broth at a time, stirring and allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding more. The rice should still have a little bite to it. Stir in the chopped beets and the Parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with more Parm and a few super-thin slices of fresh beets if you’re feeling fancy.
Up to a day or so ahead you can roast your beets or use leftover cooked beets for the risotto. To roast, place trimmed beets on a sheet of foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap the foil up around the beets to create a packet and place on a sheet pan. Roast at 375°F for 45 minutes then remove from the oven and cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Then using a paper towel rub the skins off of the beets and discard. You can wear gloves to prevent pink fingers, but I don’t really mind it. Chop the beets and set aside. Refrigerate if you are not preparing the risotto right away.