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.