Crispy Beet Risotto

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My husband and I were dining with friends in Colorado recently, at a restaurant called Justice Snow’s in Aspen. It was quite bustling and busy, which means that for me, it was loud and everyone had to yell to be heard.

I was very excited about the menu, however, and without hesitation I ordered trout. Our friend ordered the roasted chicken served with crispy beet risotto, english peas, charred turnips, carrots, spiced yogurt, and ver jus.

While enjoying our cocktails, we talked at length about how the beets were prepared “crispy” in the risotto, but all of our profound thoughts were put to rest when he got his meal. The beet risotto was made crispy by frying it like a cake. Fortunately I got to taste it, and I knew then I wanted to make it at home.

It was especially tempting to recreate because I’ve never used beets in a risotto, and I thought I’d used about all vegetables, from carrots to pumpkin to zucchini and tomato. It’s probably because my husband doesn’t eat beets, and he’s the big risotto eater in our family.
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So here’s what I did. If you need a more complete risotto tutorial, check our my mushroom risotto. It’s similar to this one because it uses bits of things as well as special liquid – in this case – beet juice.
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Crispy Beet Risotto

Whole beets from a can, about 5-6 small
Reserved beet juice, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely choppped
1 1/4 cup risotto rice, like arborio or carnaroli
White or red wine, about 1/3 cup
Chicken Broth, about 1 cup
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for frying

Drain the whole beets and save the juice.

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Then finely chop the beets into bits and set aside.

Begin the risotto by heating the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for a few minutes, then add the rice.

Stir well until all of the rice grains are coated with oil. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed. Adjust the heat so there’s simmmering but no burning. Then gradually add 1/4 cup or so of chicken broth and stir until it’s absorbed, and repeat with the remaining broth.

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At this point, add amount of beet juice that suits you; I used about 1/4 cup.

After a few minutes, add the beet bits.

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Continue to stir gently. Once just about alll of the liquid is absorbed, add the cream and cheese. Stir to combine, then set the risotto to cool slightly.

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The cakes can be made free-form, but I used a 3 1/2″ ring. Smaller cakes would be really pretty for a dinner party, because they could be re-heated.

Heat a little olive oil (or butter) to a flat skillet. Add some risotto to fill the ring and cook over fairly high heat to get the risotto crispy.

Gently turn over the risotto cake and brown/crisp the other side. This was much more difficult than I anticipated. Although I used a small amount of cheese in this risotto, it was probably still too much and created some sticking in the skillet.

I served the risotto cake with a filet of salmon and roasted Brussels sprouts, just for the spectacular colors!

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Just for fun I added a little Mexican crema to the risotto cake, and sprinkled some chopped chives on top.


In spite of my problems cooking the cakes, they cut into bite-sized pieces nicely, and were delicious.
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If you don’t want to bother making the cakes, I can honestly state that this is one of the best risottos I’ve ever made! And it’s not overwhelmingly beety.

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note: In my memory of our friend’s crispy beet risotto, I think the risotto “cake” was white, with bits of beets. What the chef probably did was omit the beet juice, and add the beet bits at the very last minute before crispig the cakes. Personally, I don’t mind the bright magenta color, and the beet juice probably added more flavor. But if you don’t want hot fuschia risotto cakes, do leave out the beet juice and use some more broth instead.

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Roasted Beets

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There have been times that, when commenting on recipe posts in which beets are roasted, that the beets aren’t really roasted. We’ve all done it – we place whole, trimmed beets in a foil package with a little olive oil and salt, steam-cook them till tenderness, remove the peels, and voila! But they’re not really roasted, are they?!!

So I set out to actually roast beets, as one would potatoes or broccoli. I know they will be good, like all roasted goodies. My husband claims that roasted broccoli is better than candy!
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So here’s what I did.

Really Roasted Beets

3 beets
Olive oil
Black pepper
Salt

Preheat oven to 375 degree roast setting, or 400 degrees.

Trim tops and bottoms of beets.

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Peel the beets completely.

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Chop the beets into 12ths. Or just make fairly uniform pieces of the beets, any shape you prefer. Place the beets in a baking dish, and drizzle some olive oil over them. Sprinkle them generously with pepper and salt.

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Place the baking dish in the oven. After about 15 minutes, use a spoon and toss them around to brown the pieces on different sides. Continue roasting for 10 or so minutes. They should be nicely browned, but also piece a chunk to test for tenderness.

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If they’re still firm, turn off the oven and let the baking dish sit in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

I used them in a salad so as to let the roasted beets really “shine.”

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For the vinaigrette, I used some beet juice strained from a can of beets, along with an equal part of leftover Riesling and reduced it. I then added red wine vinegar, olive oil, a little heavy cream, and a pinch of salt.

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If you want recipes for other “reduction” vinaigrettes, check out Beet Vinaigrette, or Beet Apple Vinaigrette.

The roasted beets are exactly what roasted beets should be. Tender beets with a lovely roasted exterior!

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Beet Vinaigrette

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You all know by now that I love vinaigrettes, and I always make them with different ingredients. To me, it’s really fun to mix and match seasonal ingredients and flavors in pairing a salad with a vinaigrette.

Whenever I purchase canned beets, which happens when I run out of my own pickled beets, I always save the beet juice. That’s just a rule. I typically pour it, strained if necessary, into a little pot and reduce it to a syrup-like consistency. Then, it can be added to any basic vinaigrette for that beautiful beet color and earthy flavor.

But today I simply added an equal amount of white wine (red or champagne would have worked as well) to the beet juice and reduced the liquid to a syrup.

Then I poured it into a jar.

I added about 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/3 cup vinegar, in this case red wine vinegar, plus a little salt, and shook the jar. I prefer a more emulsified look of the vinaigrette because of the resulting red color.

Of course, you can get more involved with the vinaigrette and add garlic, cloves, mustard, and so forth, but I like the simplicity of the reduced beet juice in a simple vinaigrette such as this.

My salad was one of those use-what-you have salads which, besides lettuce, included sliced beets, mushrooms, carrots, sprouts, and toasted pumpkin seeds. I used a little bacon and some soft-boiled eggs for protein, as my avocados weren’t behaving properly. And I’d recently picked up a pomegranate, so I decided that the pomegranate seeds would be wonderful with the beet-based vinaigrette.


And it was delicious. I encourage you to save every little bit of everything and use it in a vinaigrette! It always works!

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I’ve posted before on a beet and cider vinaigette, based on a beet juice and apple cider mixture. And I’ve also posted on a pear vinaigrette I made with a fresh pear. Think how creative you can get with different fruits and juices!

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This beet vinaigrette would be fabulous with all types of protein, including salmon, avocados, beef, duck and chicken. It pairs beautifully with walnuts, pecans, pine nuts and sunflower seeds. And of course, ingredients like tomatoes and red bell peppers would be good additions to your salad as well, I just didn’t want them in this particular salad because I feel they would clash with the pomegranate seeds.

Pom Cider Vin

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I happened to have some pomegranate juice left over in my refrigerator from making festive cocktails in December, as well as some apple cider that I’d used for hot buttered apple cider over the holidays, so I had an idea. No, not more drinks, but instead – a flavorful and pretty vinaigrette.

If you read my fresh pear vinaigrette post, you know I like to make my own vinaigrettes. To me, there’s no need to buy them. Ever!

At home you can control the ingredients, and make the vinaigrettes customized to your liking. And the list of possibilities are endless.

So with the leftover juice and cider, I created this vinaigrette. Some people prefer a more oily vinaigrette than I do; I like the flavor of the vinegar, so I like a 50-50 ratio of oil to juice and vinegar. It’s a personal choice.

But this recipe is a place to start, if you’ve never made a vinaigrette from scratch.

Pomegranate Apple Cider Vinegar

1/4 cup pomegranate juice
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Firstly, place the pomegranate juice and apple cider in a small pot. Begin the reduction process. Which means do not leave the kitchen for a good hour. It’s a slow procedure, but an important one.
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Towards the end you will have created a pomegranate cider syrup.

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While the syrup is still warm, pour it in to a heat-proof jar and let it cool for a little bit.
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Add the red wine vinegar. I’m using approximately an equal volume as the syrup.
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Then add the olive oil. I’m adding approximately an equal volume as the syrup and vinegar mixture.
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Add the salt, then close the jar and give the dressing a good shake.
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If you don’t like the brownish color of the dressing, omit the apple cider and stick with pomegranate and cranberry juices only.

The slight fruitiness of this vinaigrette pairs beautiful with all kinds of salad ingredients.
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Today I prepared a green salad with beets, orange slices, garbanzo beans, goat cheese, and pine nuts. I kept this salad light, but grilled chicken or salmon could easily have been added; both would also compliment the dressing.
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Because of the sweetness of the dressing, it would also be good on spicy greens like arugula, plus the addition of fresh pears or apples.

Get creative with these dressings. You can use just about anything that you have leftover – even champagne – for a wonderful and unique vinaigrette. I very often use leftover beet juice as well, as I did here, using a combination of the beet juice and apple juice for a little sweetness. Beet juice adds a wonderful earthiness that pairs with carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, and many other salad ingredients as well.

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note: Pomegranate and cranberry juices both make red vinaigrettes if you use the juices by themselves, without the addition of apple cider. So they’re really pretty to serve over the Christmas holiday season, or even for a special Valentine’s meal! !

Asparagus with a Vinaigrette

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It’s finally spring, and asparagus is abundant. Yay! Like many of you as well, I love asparagus. Simply steamed or packed into a savory pie, it’s just a lovely vegetable with a soft texture and a punch of flavor.

Since my blog is written primarily for people who are beginning cooks, or just trying out new foods, I’m doing a very simple post on asparagus, served as a salad.

Asparagus of course works well as a side vegetable, perhaps with a little olive oil and salt, or a tab of butter. But it really lends itself to a vinaigrette as well.

I use beets a lot in my cooking, including canned beets, and I always save the leftover beet juice. That way, I can reduce the juice and create a fabulous beet syrup that can be turned into a number of things, including this beet-apple vinaigrette I made in last fall.

Since it’s spring, I decided to lighten the vinaigrette up a little. I’m still calling it a vinaigrette, because I don’t like the word dressing, but there’s actually no vinegar in it. Just lemon juice.

So here’s what I did:

Asparagus with a Beet-Lemon Vinaigrette

Strained juice from 1 can (15 ounces) of beets
Juice of 1/2 lemon, strained
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
Few grindings of pepper
1 pound fresh asparagus

Place the beet juice in a small pan and begin reducing it over very low heat. It’s best not to leave the kitchen during this process because it can happen quickly.

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I estimate about 1/3 cup of beet juice, originally, which reduces to about 2 tablespoons at the most. At this point, remove the syrup from the heat and immediately whisk in the lemon juice and oil. Whisk well, then add the salt and pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile, clean the asparagus, which means removing the stiff, woody ends, which are the ones that were closest to the dirt. I simply snap off the ends. Some people prefer to shave the ends, using a vegetable peeler. There’s really no right or wrong here. However, when you have a pile of asparagus ends, you can use them to make an asparagus broth using a little onion and garlic, and then use that for asparagus soup! It just adds a deeper flavor. Otherwise, the compost pile will enjoy them as well.

Personally, I only steam my asparagus. They can be steamed with any kind of contraption, as long as the asparagus is sitting over water, and the pan has a lid. Once the steaming begins, I don’t ever go beyond 5 minutes, but you’ll have to play with this time. Asparagus just isn’t good overcooked.

Place the warm asparagus on a plate, and add some of the beet-lemon dressing. Sprinkle with some extra pepper, if you like.

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Also, a bit of crumbled goat cheese or chopped toasted walnuts would also be good on this salad. Or both! This would make a fabulous first course.

If you don’t like the look of the syrup separating from the oil, place the mixture first in a mini blender and emulsify it. If you prefer it a little creamier, add a 1/2 teaspoon of mayonnaise or cream.

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Note: I know some people try to pick out the skinniest of asparagus, thinking that they are more tender, but having grown asparagus, they all come out of the ground in varying thickness, and are all tender, as long as the weather hasn’t gotten too hot.