Roasted Beet Risotto with Sage and Chickpeas

>> Wednesday, February 11


(Risotto served here with sauteed chard, leek,
and lentil sprouts, and vegan mint raita)

The only beef I have with rice dishes lately is that I crave something, simply, juicier. I love a bowl of brown rice, and with some tamari and nutritional yeast to moisten the grains, it’s certainly enjoyable. I might describe it as satisfying, healthy, nutty, and earthy. Great. But it’s a far cry from mouthwatering, or fingerlickingly creamy, which is what I really want this week. I’m searching for something more like the vegan, gluten-free equivalent to the texture of fresh-grated parmesan melting over basil lasagne.

Enter risotto, the transvestite, showgirl sister of the simple boiled rice bowl. How often have I heard brown rice dishes defined by non-vegans as “why they would never go vegan”? Enough to know that they are not thinking outside of the box. A brown rice risotto is a truly luxurious meal, and one that everyone can enjoy, vegan, omnivore, and devout carnivore. This one is so tenderly soft, melty, and moist I think even my Swiss roommate would forget to ask if it had cheese, and of course, we know the answer.

The creaminess I was hunting came from an unexpectedly perfect source. To start, I knew I didn’t have wine to use in my risotto, and I found myself dreading the lack of such a crisp, dry flavor. I peeked around the fridge and tried to think of something with that special “bite” a steaming white wine gives. Vinegars just weren’t going to cut it, likewise homemade pickle-brine. And then-Aha! The aged soy kefir whey on the windowsill caught my eye.

When you let a kefir whey age outside of the fridge, the beverage takes on a wine-cooler kind of quality, with an alcoholic edge to its original sour flavor. The clear, zingy drink has something strongly reminiscent of white wine, and even provides a bit of a cheesy taste too. From using water kefir for wine, it was just a short jump to using soymilk kefir for cheese, and voila, a creamy, edgy risotto lacking none of the richness a dairy version promises.

The beetroot gives a beautiful color and lovely sweet flavor to the dish, and celeriac and carrots finish off a wonderful trio of seasonal root veggies. Sage, fresh-picked from the front yard, not only looks great with the purple beet, but adds a slightly smoky undertone to the mix. Finally, chickpeas partner up with rice as our vegan serving of complete protein (grass plus legume) and lend a soft nutty texture in the process. Altogether, a multicultural, healthy take on risotto that practically sighs for you as it touches your taste buds.


Roasted Beet Risotto with Sage and Chickpeas

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups short or medium grain brown rice
  • About 5 cups of veggie stock or water*
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped into half-rounds
  • ½ celeriac, cubed
  • 1 very large or 2 medium beets
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 3 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup soymilk kefir**
  • ½ cup kefir whey (or dry white wine)
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • salt to taste

Directions:
  1. Wash the beets and remove the greens***, being sure not to chop into the beets (leave a little stem). brush them with olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 350 F (175 C) for 30 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork. Let cool. Grate ¾ of the beets, coarsely chop the rest.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil and add the onions, stirring. Add the pepper and a dash of salt, and cook until the onions are transparent.
  3. Add the rice, stirring, and cook for a few minutes, until the rice is very lightly browned and shiny.
  4. Add the kefir whey or wine and stir for another minute or two, then add the grated beets and ½ cup stock or water, continuing to stir until all liquid is evaporated. Repeat this until the rice is about half done.
  5. Add the herbs, carrots, celeriac, and 1 cup of liquid. Cover until the veggies are almost done (check that there is still liquid, stir and add more if necessary, then cover again).
  6. Stir in the chickpeas, chopped beets, and milk kefir. Taste and add salt if needed, and more kefir if desired.

Notes:
*I used water and a splash of homemade kimchee brine. **You could probably use soy yogurt too. If you’re not a vegan, obviously some parmesan will do! *** SAVE YOUR GREENS!!! Chop them up and toss them in if you like, or sauté them for a gorgeous side dish to the risotto.

(I'm considering a new name:
"Disappearing Act Risotto." The bowl
never seems to stay full...)

3 comments:

Liz February 11, 2009 at 9:32 PM  

Wow. That sounds great! I loooove roasted beets and making a rissoto with them is simply brilliant!

chou February 16, 2009 at 4:54 AM  

I've never had kefir whey, but am really excited about the possibilities. Thanks for sharing your creativity.

Erin February 18, 2009 at 10:17 PM  

Actually, I never tried roasting beets before this recipe, but it has got to be the tastiest way to eat a beet. I'm hooked ;)

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