Risotto Weather

Two weeks ago, Portland was experiencing a lovely late summer.  I had a dinner party in the yard and we ate a gorgeous Parmesan crusted roasted tomato tart from Patent and the Pantry made with a variety of late arriving heirlooms from my garden.  If it hadn’t been October it would have been the perfect summer evening full of laughter wine and fresh vegetables.  I should have realized yesterday, as I traipsed through a rainy farmers market full of root vegetables and winter squash that those days were long gone but I was too distracted by the stunning array of beets to notice the changing season.

Autumn is actually my favorite season, and not just because it is my namesake.  I love the changing colors, misty mornings and rainy nights  but I had only thought of  using my enormous haul of beets in lite salads, a plan which rapidly lost its appeal as the rain started to pour and the wind lashed the trees outside my window.  Still chilled from an earlier trip to the dog park, I had no interest in going out again so I had to make do with what I had in my cupboards.  When I remembered the Arborio rice I had from a recent experiment with butternut squash risotto (try subbing a little bacon for the often recommended pancetta, it gives a delicious American touch to the dish) that a dish came together in my mind.

So for tonight’s dinner I made beet risotto topped with a salad of beet greens, mandarin orange vinaigrette and goat cheese.  The rich risotto was perfect for a cold rainy evening but the salad lightened the dish and recalled the warm evenings we saw so recently.  The deep purple beets caused to rice to turn almost scarlet, a striking contrast against the greens and orange slices, and the preparation removed some of the earthiness of the beets without completely robbing them of there character.  This makes a nice light dinner or lunch but it would be easy to add a simply roasted chicken breast or piece of salmon to the dish for a more complete dinner option.

Beet Risotto with Beet Green, Goat Cheese and Mandarin Orange Salad.

For the risotto

3 medium beets, greens reserved

1/2 cups chopped cippolini onions, preferably red

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

1 quart chicken broth

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 Tbs butter

1 tsp kosher salt

for the salad

reserved greens

1/4 cup fresh mandarin orange juice

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs red wine vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

16- 20  mandarin segments

small container of chevre goat cheese

preheat oven to 400°

remove the tops of the beets and set them aside for use in the salad.  Place the whole beets on a baking sheet in the oven. Bake the beets until the skin is loose and easily removable, about an hour.

While the beets are cooking, construct the vinaigrette.

Place the mandarin juice in a small pot and cook over low heat until reduced by half, let cool.  Combine the olive oil, vinegar mustard and reduced juice and combine completely.

Once the beets have finished cooking, remove them from the oven and, once they are cool enough to handle, trim the root end and remove the skin.  Combine the wine and broth in a medium pot and warm to a slow simmer.  Chop the beets into roughly half  inch cubes.  Melt the butter over medium low heat in a large heavy bottomed pan, add the chopped onions and beets and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, add the rice.  Saute the rice until it is well coated with the butter, it will become quite pink from the beet juice.  Add 1/2 cup of the heated broth mixture and stir constantly until the the rice has absorbed the majority of the liquid.  Repeat this, adding 1/2 cup every time until all the liquid is incorporated or the rice has reached the desired consistency.  Add the salt and Parmesan, stirring to completely incorporate and remove the pan from the heat.

Trim the stems from the reserved greens,  slice the leafs into strips 1/4 inch wide.  Top each portion of risotto with 1/4th of the greens, 4 or 5 orange segment, several dollops of goat cheese and a liberal drizzle of the vinaigrette.

serves 4

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~ by whatsheeats on October 25, 2010.

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