This blog, as many of you know, was named for Martha Rose Shulman’s beet risotto. I’ve usually made it with red beets, but last night I used a combination of red and golden and it was beautiful.
Last night I cooked rice and beans, though I didn’t realize it until after the fact. And neither did The Professor.
I’d decided to try a recipe from one of the cookbooks I’d borrowed from my mother. The cookbook was Risotto: More than 100 Dishes for the Classic Rice Dish of Northern Italy,by Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman. The recipe I’d picked out was called “Risotto con Fagioli,” and when asked what was for dinner, I told The Professor that I was cooking a bean risotto.
“It’s an experiment,” I added, as I saw his brow begin to rise.
“So I see,” he replied.
Though it was only an experiment in that I’d never tried the dish before. And somehow the idea of “bean risotto” sounded novel. But it wasn’t really. The dish could just as well have been called “Beans and Rice, Italian-style.”
The recipe called for a “soffritto” (Italian for the things you saute that will add flavor to the rice) of onion and tomato. I skipped the tomato and used onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. I also added a whole can of cannellini beans, roughly double what the recipe called for.
The result? See for yourself.
“It had more flavor than I expected,” The Professor admitted. He suggested increasing the amount of onion next time, and adding something crisp — perhaps slices of zucchini, tossed in at the last minute — to play against the soft texture of the beans and rice. But all in all, he was satisfied. Since he doesn’t grade first-time dishes, I’ll have to wait until next time to find out whether it was satisfying enough to earn an A.
Martha Rose Shulman wrote about about beet risotto in The New York Time’s Recipes for Health section back in 2008, though I came across it just last summer. When I first announced that I was cooking a beet risotto for dinner, The Professor gave me his “do you know what you are doing” eye brow raise.
I didn’t, but I forged on, figuring that, at the very least, the effort would produce some cooked beets — one of the more nutritious foods that my three-year-old daughter will eat. (Dave Lieberman, a Food Network chef and author of The 10 Things You Need to Eat, calls beets “nature’s multivitamin.”) Despite his initial skepticism, The Professor liked it. So I tried it again, and then another time. And then it inspired my husband’s challenge.
You can see the original article here, with its step-by-step cooking instructions. My version of the ingredients list (which I’m still tinkering with) follows:
1+ bunch large beets, roasted or steamed
1 bunch beet greens, stemmed, washed, and cut into 1-inch ribbons
6 to 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
The Professor, as I’ve said, gave the dish an A. I’m still trying to analyze what made the dish so satisfying. If you add enough butter or cheese any risotto can feel rich, and I did double the amount of parmesan recommended in the original recipe But I wonder, could there be something about the iron in the beets that makes this dish satisfy a regular meat-eater?