By Kendra Murray.
Beets. I just cannot get enough of those sweet, earthy roots. The taste, the rich, deep red color, and the fact that you can find them locally ALL THE TIME have me hooked. There’s nothing better than knowing my favorite fresh, local food is available nearly every month of the year. Sure, fresh tomatoes in the summer are great, but the enjoyment is short-lived. Beets reign supreme year round.
I added beets to my garden for the first time last year and was pleased enough with the results to try again this year. It was a later start planting my seedlings due to all of the rain, but these roots were well worth the wait. Laying down fresh compost and watering with fish emulsion was a big boon to this year’s crop. Unfortunately, the beet greens looked a little sad, so those went into the compost rather than a nice sauté.
The first year I decided to grow beets, I pretty much hogged the whole crop to myself. Well, not so much hogged as my family refused my yummy roots when first offered. Beets have incredible health benefits, so that was fine with me. Betalin, a phytonutrient that gives beets their color, can help prevent cancer. Beets are also packed with vital nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Anyway, I digress. This year, I planted beets again and hoped, maybe, just maybe, someone else might dare to try my beetroots.
Here’s a vegan recipe for a creamy beet risotto which is tasty. It’s been modified to include simpler cooking techniques, more conventional ingredients, and, of course, ramped up with real butter and cheese. I put the dish down in front of my family, awaiting negative reviews. My mother, the only other beet lover in the family, took the first bite. Her response met my expectations: “Yum!” Next were my father and brother, notorious haters of beets. These were the people that refused my bumper crop and wouldn’t ever try beets, regardless of variety, preparation, or health benefits. “Wow, this is good,” said my dad. “This is beets?” asked my brother. “It’s delicious!”
The doubters were converted.
The beets had won.
Creamy Beet risotto
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- several sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped from stem and chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- pinch of salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ¾ cup Arborio rice
- 2 cups vegetable or other broth, hot
- 10 ounces fresh beets, roasted or steamed, peeled, and cut bite-size
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1-2 tablespoons butter, to taste
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, a pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper, and cook until softened, about 1 to 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and rice, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth ½ cup at a time, cooking and stirring each addition until most of the liquid has been absorbed before adding more. The rice should be al dente at the end of this step, which takes about 15 minutes.
Stir in the beets and thyme. Cook until rice turns a deep red-purple, an additional 1 to 2 minutes. If rice is not then perfectly tender, add a splash or two more hot broth or water and continue stirring over low heat. When perfect, remove from heat, check seasonings, and fold in cheese and butter.
Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main.
Kendra Murray is passionate about local and environmentally friendly living. After several years at SEMAP, Kendra’s love for local farms, food, and gardening deepened and turned into a lifestyle. Kendra currently works as the Development & Outreach Specialist at the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust.