August 7, 2012

Beet Risotto: a fuchsia infusion

When I used to live in Aspen, I signed up for a CSA produce box from Fresh & Wyld Farms. Every week, I received loads of greens, peaches, leeks, garlic, zucchini, squash and....beets. You're probably thinking, "you can find a way to use a few beets here and there." No. I am talking about 10-15 beets a week! Seriously, how many beets can one individual consume? I was faced with a problem: I hated beets; but,  I don't like for things to go to waste and all of my friends were tired of my weekly beet-pawning schemes. Along came a solution: beet risotto. I first found out about beet risotto here. Voila, here is the key to my beet solution: risotto fanatic (me) + plain risotto with lots of Parmesan cheese + beets = it can't be so bad!

After having made beet risotto a handful of times, I am officially obsessed with beet risotto and I even like roasted beets sprinkled with goat cheese too (I'll save that recipe for another post). In any case, this is how you can solve your beet problem or impress your friends with a spectacularly bright and tasty dish.

Preparing the Beets: Cut off the beet greens, rinse the beets, and scrub off the dirt. Place the entire beet on a large sheet of foil. If you are serving risotto for 4, you will need six medium-sized beets. Wrap the beets in the foil and place them in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour. You will know when they are finished because they will begin to give off a nice smell and if you peek into the foil, the beet juices will also be visible. You can always poke one of the beets with a fork to see if it is soft enough. When the beets are finished, their skin should peel off with ease. You will want to cut the beets into small cubes. However, the beets are HOT! They just came out of an oven at 400 degrees...So, don't be impatient like me and burn your fingertips. Cool the beets under cold water or set them aside to cool naturally.

Preparing the Risotto: You can find specific directions for risotto, here. Toward the end of the process, as the rice is softening, add the cubed beets. A bright fuchsia color will infuse the rice, making it bright and colorful. Your last step is to add the Parmesan cheese and serve hot.

Presentation tips: During the summer months, yellow beets are often available. These are just as tasty as the traditional red beets, but they will not create the bright fuchsia color that you want. If you try to mix yellow and red beets, you risotto will become an orange/peach-color. However, if you roast one yellow beet in addition to your red beets, you can use it to add some aesthetic appeal to the final presentation. I like to use a carrot peeler and peel off thin shavings of the yellow beet to be used as a garnish for the fuchsia risotto. The beet juices slowly penetrate the yellow beet and the colors are pretty spectacular. So is the presentation.

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