The bright color of this dish when it arrives at the table immediately attracts attention. But the real surprise is the flavor, a rich but mellow blend of rice and beets. Beet-and-goat-cheese salads have been around for a while, and turning the concept into a risotto is perfect. If you’re using store-bought vegetable stock, make sure to choose one that is light in color and flavor, so as not to muddy the look and taste of the risotto, and that it is not overly salty.
1. Put the beets in a small saucepan, and add water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on size, Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Let the beets cool, then peel them and grate them on the coarse holes of a box grater. Strain the reserved cooking liquid through a coffee filter or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Set the beets and their liquid aside.
2. Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and shallots. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the onion and shallots are wilted but not browned, about 7 to 8 minutes.
3. Add the rice, and stir to coat in the oil. Pour in the wine, and cook, stirring, until it’s absorbed, about 1 to 2 minutes. Ladle in enough stock just to cover the rice. Adjust the heat so the risotto is simmering, and cook, stirring constantly, until all liquid has been absorbed. Continue to add hot stock in small batches (just enough to moisten the rice completely) and cook until each successive batch has been absorbed, stirring constantly, until the rice mixture is creamy but still al dente, about 18 minutes total; add the grated beets about halfway through the cooking time.
4. Remove the skillet from the heat. Beat in the butter in teaspoon-size pieces until completely melted, then the Grana Padano cheese. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve immediately, ladled onto flat plates. Crumble the goat cheese on top, and finish with balsamic reduction.
5. For the balsamic reduction: Pour 1 cup balsamic vinegar into a skillet, and boil until reduced to ⅓ cup. Cool completely before using. It will keep for several weeks refrigerated.
6. Reduced Balsamic Vinegar for Drizzling Sauce and Glaze
I use this condiment on a range of dishes (and in numerous recipes throughout the book), as a thick sauce to drizzle on meats and vegetables and, in a somewhat thinner state, as a glaze on roasts. As you'll see in the recipe, the vinegar reduces with add honey and bay leaf, but you can give it other flavor notes. I vary these with the dish I intend to dress: for vegetables I add whole cloves; for meat and poultry, I add rosemary; for fish, I add thyme. The basic formula will provide you with syrup for drizzling on a half dozen dishes, maybe more. it will keep forever in the refrigerator but I'm sure you'll use it up quicker than that!
DIRECTIONS BALSAMIC REDUCTION:
Makes 2/3 cup of thin syrup for glazing or 1/2 cup thick syrup to drizzle or for dipping
1. Pour the balsamic vinegar into a heavy bottomed saucepan and place over moderate heat. Stir in the honey, drop in the bay leaves and optional cloves or herbs and bring to a low boil. Adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer and allow the vinegar to reduce slowly. After a half hour or so, when it has lost more than half of its original volume, the vinegar will start to appear syrupy, and you should watch it closely.
2. To use as a glaze, cook the sauce to 1/3 of its original volume (when it will measure 2/3 cup). It should be the consistency of molasses, thick but still spreadable. Pour the syrup through a small strainer into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Discard the bay leaves and seasonings. Brush on the glaze while warm.
3. For use as a condiment and an elixir to drizzle over vegetables, reduce the vinegar even more, until it approaches one-quarter its original volume. Slow bubbles will rise from the syrup and it will take on the consistency of honey, leaving a thick coating on a spoon. Pour it through a small strainer into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Use a heatproof spatula or spoon to clean out the saucepan before it sticks to the pot for good! Drizzle on the syrup while it is still warm.
4. Store in the refrigerator, in a sealed container. It will congeal but keep indefinitely. To use, spoon the hard sauce into a bowl or heatproof measuring cup and heat it slowly in a pan of hot water or at low level in the microwave. For a thinner consistency, stir in drops of hot water.