Once we learned how good beets can taste, as opposed to how good beets are supposed to be nutritionally (we knew that), the door opened to other applications besides the baked beet goat cheese combo we had first learned about thanks to our only visit to a local restaurant during its relatively brief lifetime. This was an impromptu creation, but upon later investigation, a natural one, since similar variations appear in several of our risotto cookbooks that we never even bothered to consult at the time. And since farro (= spelt) is superior to arborio rice nutritionally, farrotto makes this a healthier option. We are not the only ones realizing this, luckily, and the market seems to be increasingly supplying this demand with both farro and farro pasta now available in many stores to feed our desire for upgraded food intake ingredients. This time we used arborio rice, but one can make the identical dish substituting farro, cooking a little longer perhaps.
By saving the beet liquid from the packaging and adding it to the boiling rice/farro, the reddish coloring is intensified, and for color contrast, some flecks of green are aesthetically mandated, which together with the application of the goat cheese leads to the national colors of Italy (red, green, white) where beets are known as barbabietola. A long word. Insert a space to make "barba bietola" and you get bearded swiss chard? Interesting. So the search term for finding the original Italian recipes would be "Risotto con Barbabietola Rossa e Formaggio di Capra." You may find it unusual to specify "red" (rosso) beets, but last weekend we discovered that orange and pink beets exist in a new trendy restaurant in Hanover, NH (the Dartmouth college town), where they were found paired with red beets in a delicious salad. Independent of color, the taste is always the same.
But don't expect kids to easily try these dishes. Since beets are not a common veggie in the American cuisine, their palettes are not sufficiently developed, and their sense of adventure in trying new foods is notoriously absent. The nephew rejected our pleas to taste the beet salad the next night, but the niece at least tried one bite. And no more. Too bad. We read somewhere that kids have to try something about 10 times before breaking down their auto-rejection reaction, at least for unusual items. Parenting, not such an easy job. We passed.
We hardly ever get any feedback, but bob saw an opportunity to bribe an astrophysicist friend gianpiero with an extra page in a scientific proceedings in order to get him to ask his wife rachele to try this recipe and report back. The response shows that kids are finicky everywhere, even teenage Italian daughters:
Subject: risotto con barbiabietola rossa e formaggio caprino
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2007
ciao Ani, ciao Bob,
I cooked the recipe Bob suggested to Gianpiero: the "risotto con
barbiabietola rossa e formaggio caprino".
Delicious! Also Giulia, who strongly doesn't like the red beets, ate it
and liked it! Therefore you also helped me making Giulia to try some
food she thought was disgusting and change her mind about it.
I hope everything his fine with both of you.
If you will come to Italy, please plan to drop in and be our guests
A small victory for socially stigmatized vegetables!
The FoodTV channel grew up to become the FoodNetwork channel and reigned supreme on cable TV for quite some time, but in 2010 a new food channel entered the scene: the Cooking Channel! Both dot coms of course. The Cooking Channel has a completely different sort of public television look and feel to it, very nice. Okay, it turns out to be a spin off from the FoodNetwork that happened while we were summering in Italy this year (used to be Fine Living Network).
A few of the celebrity chefs ended up there, like Nigella and Jaime, but a whole zoo of new and different chef shows populated its program schedule. Among these David Rocco and his (almost) bilingual Italian Florence based food and friends show David Rocco's Dolce Vita, an addictive peek into the food scene of a city full of English speaking ex-pats (ex-patriot citizens) and terrific food. For this beet dish, he purees the precooked packaged ready-to-use beets that we find at Trader Joe's and drizzles truffle oil on each serving. Here is the recipe:
A pretty neat idea that we'll try next time.