Are you a lover or a hater of beets? I used to be the latter, but when I discovered the wonders of roasted beets, I quickly converted to the lover category.
There’s something about that earthy, sweet flavor that makes them irresistible. Roasting them brings that out even more, converting them from mere root vegetable to true delicacy. And don’t forget that beets are considered one of those “super foods” that are all the rage right now – full of antioxidant properties and vitamins and minerals that are said to ward off disease. Just what we all need here in the height of cold and flu season.
In my efforts to clean out my pantry, I came across a half-used bag of short-grain brown rice. You could liken it to arborio, or carnaroli, but the package simply said “short grain”. Paired with the three small beets that I’d received in my produce box, along with some boxes of chicken stock I’d found in the back of the pantry, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to make a bright-red beet risotto (you could also use vegetable stock or water for this recipe).
During this process, I discovered that my youngest child, who is 13 months old, is also a beet lover. He enjoys playing at my feet while I’m cooking, and often looks up longingly at me while I’m in the process of putting dinner together. Because I’m a pushover, I tend to hand him little bits of whatever I happen to be working on – in this case dicing roasted beets for inclusion in the risotto. If it’s something he truly enjoys, he will proceed to pull on my pant leg and grunt at me, sometimes signing “more”.
This particular afternoon resulted in my strapping him into his feeding chair and giving him a snack of roasted beets and cheddar cheese. It also resulted in there being one less beet to include in the risotto. He really liked the beets.
Topped with some crumbled chevre and served alongside some house-made chicken sausage (made with chicken thighs, apples, pears, sage and a bit of maple syrup), this was a nice light meal for the new year. Even my oldest, who loved beets as a baby but has since become skeptical of them, was intrigued by this jewel-toned dish. He tentatively tasted the first grain of rice (yes, one single grain), and deemed it worthy of his praise. He was a member of the clean-plate club for dinner that night.
Brown Rice Beet Risotto
prep time: 40 minutes
cook time: 40 minutes
serves: 4 as a side
2 beets, roasted at 375F for 40 minutes and cut into small dice
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup short-grained brown rice
2 quarts low-sodium chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
- Melt butter in a saute pan over medium heat
- Add rice and saute until the grains begin to become opaque in places. This is harder to see in the brown rice because the grains are already so dark.
- Add two cups of the chicken stock and stir to combine. Allow to cook until the rice has soaked up most of the liquid before adding more stock.
- Continue adding chicken stock, one cup at the time, until rice becomes al dente. This will take a while with the brown rice – I was shocked by how much liquid it took to get the rice tender.
- Halfway through the process of adding the liquid, add the beets. The mix will immediately turn bright red. It will take a while for the rice to soak up the color, though. At this point, taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Once the rice reaches the al dente point (soft, but still slightly toothy in the center of the grain), add one more cup of stock and allow the rice to continue cooking until the liquid is almost fully incorporated, but the mixture is still a bit loose (it will continue to tighten up after you remove it from the heat). You just don’t want it to be too dry.
- Crumble some goat cheese over the top and serve warm.