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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Roasted Beet Risotto

This deep red risotto is as pleasing to the palate as the eye. Roasted beets and red pepper give it a complex flavor and a beautiful color.

Beets and red peppers are good sources of phytonutrients with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and liver-protective properties. And if you eat grains, this is a good way to go: in their whole form and with lots of vegetables. Here I use one cup roasted beet purée and one bell pepper per cup and a half of brown rice.

Risotto is usually made with white wine. But because my risotto is red, I used red wine. I chose a dry and flavorful Merlot, but feel free to substitute another dry red wine, like a Syrah or Pinot Noir.

1 bunch beets
1 quart vegetable stock
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic or more, grated, crushed or minced
Sea salt
1½ cups short-grain brown rice, soaked overnight if possible
1/2 cup red wine, merlot or other
4 sprigs of savory, or substitute rosemary
Pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
Black peppercorn to taste

To prepare the beet and red pepper:

This step can be done a day or two in advance.

Preheat oven to 400.

Place the red pepper inside and roast until soft and brown. Cool, remove skin, chop roughly and set aside.

Scrub the beets and remove all but 1 inch of the greens (reserve the greens for another purpose). Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and roast until tender, about an hour. Open the foil, drain and reserve any juices, the set the beets aside to cool.

Once the beets are cool, remove the tops and roots, leaving the peel intact. Chop roughly and purée with reserved juice until smooth. If you don’t have a food processor, dice them into bite-sized cubes and add the juice later with the wine. Set aside 1 cup of beet purée or a heaping cup of cubes for this recipe. Reserve the rest for another use (serve the purée like you would mashed potatoes or any vegetable purée, or use it to make borscht).

To prepare the risotto:

When the beet purée is ready, warm the vegetable stock in a sauce pan over low heat.

Warm the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Stir and cook until the garlic becomes aromatic (less than a minute). Do not burn the garlic.

Add the rice to the skillet and stir to coat each grain thoroughly. Cook for 3 minutes, until the grains start to toast. Stir in the wine and cook until most of it has been absorbed. Add the beet purée, savory sprigs, crushed red pepper, black peppercorn, and another pinch of sea salt. Stir to combine. Once the beet mixture is warm, start adding the vegetable stock a ladle or two at a time and stir frequently, until the rice is tender and the sauce has thickened. If you anticipate needing more liquid as you use up the stock, warm a teapot full of water and keep it on standby.

Once the rice is tender and the sauce has thickened, remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the roasted red pepper pieces and most of the fresh dill and grated Parmesan, reserving some to garnish the dish. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Cover the risotto to keep it warm and set it aside for 10 minutes before serving.

Stir the risotto again, then transfer to a serving dish or individual plates and garnish with reserved dill and Parmesan. Serve immediately.


Georgiev VG et al. Antioxidant activity and phenolic content of betalain extracts from intact plants and hairy root cultures of the red beetroot Beta vulgaris cv. Detroit dark red. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. 2010 Jun;65(2):105-11.

Ingram D. Diet and subsequent survival in women with breast cancer. British Journal of Cancer. 1994 Mar;69(3):592-5.

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