The base of this dish was going to be brown rice at first, but then I decided that I wanted capitalize on that beautifully bright juice and make sure those beets really got their opportunity to shine. Risotto gave me that chance to spotlight my star ingredient and with that early fall chill in the air, a nice creamy risotto seemed like a good move.
Because I wanted to play off of that earthiness that the beets already have, I added roasted parsnips to my risotto, which only deepened those fresh late summer/early fall flavors. I then took advantage of the naturally rich magenta color of the dish to add a color contrast of bright green blanched and chopped spinach and sliced heirloom tomatoes that were kept away from heat so they give off a burst of delightful freshness with each bite. The entire dish was finished off with lemon zest, for brightness, and goat cheese, to boost up the richness of the dish and make everything just sort of melt together into one giant bowl of seasonal flavors, with all the focus being on the humble beet.
Beet Risotto with Early Fall Vegetables
- 1 large beet
- 1 cup Arboro rice
- 1/2 onion, finely diced
- Water for boiling and to add to the risotto
- 1 lemon, zested and juice reserved
- 2 TBS goat cheese
- 4-5 parsnips, roughly chopped into equal sizes
- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 small bag fresh baby spinach
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Fresh parsley
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, spread out the parsnips and drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper. Entirely wrap the beet in foil or parchment paper and place it on the baking sheet with the parsnips. Roast the vegetables until the parsnips start to brown and are very soft and the beet shows no resistance when pierced. (Note: the parsnips will be done first so just remove them and set them aside while you continue to roast the beet). Once the beet is done, set it aside to cool and using paper towels to avoid staining your hands, gently pull off the skin, dice the beet's flesh and set it aside.
In a large skillet, wilt the spinach and then shock it in ice water to preserve its color. Chop the spinach and set it aside.
In a medium-sized sauce pan, bring water a boil. Heat a large skillet on medium heat and coat the pan with a light layer of olive oil. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt and sweat them for a couple minutes until they become translucent. Add the arborio rice and heat for a minute or so, stirring to warm the rice. Gradually add a ladle full of the boiling water to the rice and stir until most of the water is absorbed. Continue to add more boiling water once it gets absorbed while stirring frequently. Once the rice is almost cooked through, add the beets and stir to release their juices and to color the risotto. Next, add the goat cheese, lemon zest and enough lemon juice to give the risotto a light lemon flavor. Add the parsnips and fresh tomatoes, season to taste and add the spinach right before serving. Garnish with fresh parsley.