Beet Farro Risotto
Farro, italian for emmer wheat, is considered an ancient grain, dating back to the Roman Empire, where it was a staple. It can be confused with spelt since it looks (and tastes) similarly. It is nutty tasting, distinctively chewy, and high in iron, protein and fiber.
Every time you cook down the liquid before adding more you are concentrating and intensifying the flavor. Risotto takes patience and lots of stirring - stick to it!
If you have an oven or mini-oven, there is no reason to ever buy canned beets. Roasting beets is easy and fuss-free, and can be done up to a few days in advance. The taste is infinitely better than canned, and oven roasting it keeps a lot of the nutrients, so give it a shot!
1 cup farro, soaked overnight, well drained
3 small beets, leaves trimmed 1 inch off the base (see note)
3 small shallots, finely minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, ghee or butter, plus an additional optional tablespoon
1/2 dry white wine (I like Sancerre)
5 cups good quality vegetable stock
3/4 - 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 425°F. Wrap beets tightly in 2 layers of foil (you want to make sure the beet juices do not escape - it’ll make cleaning up a breeze). Place in baking sheet and roast until tender and easily pierced with a fork. The exact time will depend on the size of your beets, and how fresh they are (fresh beets roast faster). Small beets can be ready in 25 minutes, while larger older beets can take up to an hour.
Open foil pouch to cool down, and when beets are cool enough to handle, peel beets. You can use a paring knife, but the skin should slip off really easily just using your fingers (use latex gloves if you want to avoid stained hands).
At this point, if making in advance, store beets whole in an airtight container in fridge until ready to use. (Resist eating them as is, with a drizzle of olive oil and salt…….). Otherwise, cut into small cubes and set aside, while you prep risotto.
Heat vegetable stock in a saucepan to a gentle simmer (do not boil). Cover and warm.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan heat oil, ghee or butter over medium heat and swirl to coat. Add minced shallots and cook until soft and translucent ~5 minutes or so. Add farro to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 or 2 minutes, well coated with oil and lightly toasted.
Add wine to pan, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until liquid almost evaporates. Start adding 1 cup of vegetable stock at a time in a ladle. Stir frequently, until liquid has almost entirely absorbed. At this point, add another cup. Continue doing this until farro is al dente and creamy, ~25 minutes total. Add diced beets and stir until well combined (risotto should turn a deep magenta). Incorporate parmesan cheese and additional glug of olive oil (if using), stirring well.
Taste, adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.
Beet Leaves Note: never throw away beet leaves. They can be eaten as you would swiss chard or kale, by removing woody stems and using them as part of soups, frittatas, sauteed in olive oil and garlic, etc etc.