Thursday, April 19, 2012

beet risotto with greens

For the beet-phobic, or even beet-indifferent, this risotto will be a tough sell.

It does not belong to the Jessica Seinfeld school of thought, in which vegetables conceal themselves to deceive small children (scrambled eggs with cauliflower puree! spinach and carrot brownies!). Instead, this risotto declares its beetiness quite forcibly, both in its flavor (sweet, earthy), and in its rich garnet color. It even takes a nose-to-tail approach, utilizing the oft-discarded (but very tasty) beet greens.

For all these reasons—and for the simple fact that it is delicious—this risotto has become an established favorite among beet-loving friends and family. It's simple enough to make on a weeknight (K. froze huge batches to survive early motherhood), but the visual impact makes it appropriate for occasions as well. This year I (somewhat mawkishly) made it for M. on Valentine's Day, and Jambo (somewhat awesomely) served it at her Saturated Color dinner party. The latter should be reason enough to try it.

Beet Risotto with Greens

Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

Don't omit the lemon - it's brings brightness, and balance, to this dish.

6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil, or a mixture of the two
1/3 cup finely diced onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 to 3 medium beets, peeled and grated (about 2 cups)
2 to 3 cups beet greens (or substitute Swiss chard, kale, or spinach), stems removed, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, or to taste

Have the stock simmering on the storm. Heat the butter/olive oil in a pot. Add the onion, and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the rice, stir to coat it well, and cook for one minute. You should see a white fleck in the middle of each grain of rice.

Add the wine and simmer until it’s absorbed, then stir in the basil, half the parsley, the shredded beets, and the chard or kale, if using. (If you are using beet greens or spinach, see final step.) Add 2 cups stock, cover, and cook at a rapid simmer until the stock is absorbed.

Begin adding the remaining stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each addition is absorbed before adding the next. When the risotto is nearly done, add the beet greens or spinach. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the lemon juice and zest, and the Parmesan. Garnish with additional cheese and the remaining parsley.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

blondies, redeemed

Brownie vs. Blondie.

For me, this debate has always verged on absurdity; a match-up so asymmetrical, its only value exists in affirming the brownie's obvious superiority.

I won't call these blondies an exception to that rule, but I will say that they transcend their genre, and approach cookie bar perfection. (Apparently cookie bar perfection = butter + brown sugar + booze + chocolate.) A very large hat-tip to Mollie, who served these to us at a birthday party, thereby redeeming the blondie—and inspiring me to make my own batch.


Adapted from Mark Bittman via Smitten Kitchen

I like these best fresh from the freezer, or warm over ice cream. The bourbon is optional but highly recommended. (If you decide to abstain, reduce the flour to one cup.) I've considered experimenting with mashed banana (1/2 cup folded in with chocolate chips), butterscotch chips or shredded coconut, but it would be hard to improve on this version.

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch salt
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 to 1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 to 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup bourbon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8×8 pan.

Whisk together the flour and salt.

Combine melted butter with brown sugar; beat until smooth. Add the egg, beating well, then the vanilla and bourbon. Reduce speed to low; then add the flour mixture.

Using a spatula, stir in the toasted nuts and chocolate chips.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until set in the middle. Cool on rack.