Beetroot Risotto with Pesto, Orange, and Beetgreens (GF)

Risotto is perhaps the single most effective way of using whatever happens to be in the fridge to create a delicious and elegant meal. This particular "flavor" was inspired by a bunch of beets from the previous weekend's farmer's market, a jar of homemade pesto, and a bag of oranges.
Whenever I make risotto, I follow a few basic steps before running off in whatever direction my imagination and my ingredients take me. I always begin with a generous drizzle of olive oil in the bottom of the blue Le Creuset pot that has become, in my mind, the risotto pot. The olive oil is soon joined by a couple handfuls of finely chopped onions, which I sautée until they are tender and transparent. Then comes the arborio rice, which I toast lightly with the onions and oil for a minute or two, depending on my mood and hunger levels. Then comes a dash of vermouth (or white wine), which instantly sizzles and bubbles up, creating one of the most heavenly aromas I have ever had the pleasure of smelling. I generally push the rice around in the pot until the vermouth has completely evaporated, and at this point the arborio rice emits a sort of sticky coating. Then it is time to begin adding chicken broth. A cup of arborio rice generally takes about 4 cups of liquid to reach the right consistency, but it is not an exact science. I always add about a quarter cup of cheese (generally pecorino) to melt in near the end, as well as a few tablespoons of cream. Some people use huge amounts of butter and cream to make risotto, but the rice has such a wonderful creamy quality of its own that I find it unnecessary.
For this particular risotto, I stirred in some diced beets and topped the whole thing with some sautéed been greens, the sautéed flesh of an orange, pesto, and a few ground hazelnuts. I have made countless varieties of risotto, but this is definitely a family favorite and is as delicious as it is colorful.

Beetroot Risotto with Pesto, Orange, and Beetgreens (GF)

     3 tbsp olive oil
     1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
     1 cup arborio rice
     3 tbsp vermouth (or 1/4 cup white wine)
     1/2 cup of water used to cook the beets
     3-4 cups chicken broth 
     2 medium beets, boiled until tender (about 40 minutes), peeled, and diced
     1/4 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
     3 tbsp half-and-half or heavy cream (or 1/4 cup milk)
     Salt and pepper to taste
  Sautéed Orange   
     1 tbsp olive oil     
     1 orange
  Sautéed Beet Greens
     2 tbsp olive oil
     2-3 cups chopped beet greens (or kale)
     1/4 cup chicken broth
     2-4 tbsp water
     1 large garlic clove
     Salt and pepper to taste

   Sautéed Orange   
Use serrated knife to slice off the orange peel. Make sure that when you are slicing off the peel, you are slicing off the pith with it, exposing the orange flesh. Once the peel and pith are sliced off, slice each segment out from its surrounding skin. Do this with each segment until each of your segments is skin-free. You will be left with the skins which should be fairly juicy. I squeezed out and reserved this juice before discarding the skin so that I could add it to the risotto later.
   Sautéed Beet Greens
Coat a medium-sized pan (I used teflon) with olive oil and set over medium heat. Add your chopped beet greens and sautée briefly. They will get dry quickly and have a tendency to burn, so add the chicken broth and cover the pan with a lid. Turn down the heat slightly and allow them to cook in the liquid for 5-10 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure they have not gotten too dry. Add water in tablespoon increments if they start to stick to the pan. This will make the greens tender, since they tend to be fairly tough. Using a garlic press, add a large clove of garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
Over medium heat, sautée the chopped onion in the olive oil until tender and transparent. Add the arborio rice and stir with the onion and oil, toasting the kernels slightly. 
Add the vermouth or white wine. It will sizzle and evaporate quickly, so stir the rice constantly so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
 Add 1/2 cup of the water you used to cook the beets to the risotto. This will give the risotto a pale reddish color. Do not expect the risotto to be magenta yet. 
Begin adding the chicken broth in one cup increments, stirring fairly constantly. Wait until each cup is just about absorbed before adding the next cup.
Once the arborio rice has absorbed about two cups of broth, add the diced beets. You want to add them at this point so that they will have time to cook into the rice a bit and release a lot of color. The rice will take a little while to fully absorb the color, so do not expect it to turn bright pink right away. Stir in the cheese and cream.
Continue to cook the rice, stirring constantly. After 3 cups of broth have been absorbed, test the risotto to see how much more liquid it will need. If it has any crunch or firmness, continue to add the final cup of liquid in 1/2 cup increments. You want to add enough liquid that the kernels will be soft and tender, but not so much that they will turn into mush. Individual kernels of rice should remain distinguishable. Add sea salt and pepper to taste. Depending on how salty your broth and cheese are, you probably won't need to add any salt at all. 
Cook the rice until all the liquid is absorbed, but not so much that it gets dry and clumpy. If  the rice starts to get too dry feel free to add a bit more liquid.
Assemble your risotto, kale, and oranges however you like and serve immediately. Any leftover risotto can be stored in the fridge and reheated within the next couple of days.


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