Beet Risotto with Fresh Arugula from the Garden

Last summer I attempted to renew my vegetable gardening after a 35-year hiatus.  I bought a small raised-bed self-contained garden and put it behind the garage.  I did my planting late in the Spring (lazy and disorganized, as usual), but the vegetables (mostly specialty Italian greens — destined for our pizzas — plus some haricots verts) came up beautifully.  Then, disaster struck: critters ate everything, two days before the time came to harvest.  They were probably rabbits and woodchucks, though deer may have also been involved.  But this is a new year, and hope springs eternal, they say.

So I try again, mostly encouraged by the fact that two items are growing now in that garden, with no help from me at all yet.  One is a robust Provence thyme plant that I started from seed last year; the other is a nice patch of zesty arugula from the Franchi Italian seeds I also planted last Spring.   Thus, the blog from tonight’s dinner.

Judith Barrett has written two excellent cookbooks on risotti.  Her second one, Risotto Risotti, written in 1996, has some unusual combinations, all very good eating.  Since I had some beets I needed to use, I looked up the beet risotto dish I had made once before, and adapted for tonight’s meal.  Her recipe called for raw beet, wilted watercress and goat cheese.  Aha!  I have no watercress, so I picked the arugula!  We also have a prolific chive plant in the herb patch along the grass, so I took a handful of that as well.

Even when I am being only 98% vegan, I am not eating goat cheese these days, but we did have some grated mozzarella leftover from pizzas the other night, so the dish was pretty well taking shape.  One more adjustment: I wanted a bit more protein in the dish, as well as contrasting color and texture, so I cooked some black lentils to frame the risotto on the plate.  Here below are the recipe and its results.

Not everything I do is high-end, you know.  For example, the wine for the meal was a Trader Joe’s 2010 Grifone Primitivo, as recommended by my friend, Hank.  It was a perfect match, and I did not mind the fact that it was $3.99 a bottle.

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