Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Early Spring's Brilliant Flavors: Beet Risotto, Kale Raab

Spring has come early to the fields of the Willamette Valley, evidenced by the bins of sweet green things I saw while wandering the aisles of the farmers' market in Hillsdale last weekend. Sweet because as the nightly temperatures dip into the low 40s, the plants in the field produce sugars that act as antifreeze to protect them until temperatures warm during the day.

Love that color!

You'll taste it in the carrots—I'm only buying carrots with tops attached these days so I know they're fresh from the fields, not woody from storage—and the brassicas, especially the young flowering sprouts called raab, rabe, broccolini or rapini. It's prime time for beets, too, in all colors of the rainbow, with their firm stalks and healthy leaves that make a terrific sautéed side dish to whatever you're serving for dinner.

This beet risotto, with beets just tender from simmering with the rice and infusing it with their signature brilliant color, makes a standout main dish served with sautéed market greens of any persuasion (we like to sizzle some bacon to grease the pan), or as a gorgeous side with any grilled meat.

Beet Risotto

2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. arborio or carnaroli rice
3 med. red beets, chopped in 1/2" dice
5 c. stock, either vegetable or chicken
Salt to taste

Heat butter or margarine in large saucepan or deep skillet over medium heat. When it melts, add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and stir to heat, then add rice. Sauté for 2 minutes, then add beets and a ladle of stock. Stir until liquid is absorbed, then add another ladle of stock. Repeat, stirring frequently to keep it from sticking, until the rice is creamy but still has a slight crunch and the beets are tender, about 20 minutes or so. Add salt to your taste and serve with parmesan in a bowl for sprinkling.

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