“Nine in Ten home cooks don’t enjoy cooking at home” says Karen Page at a recent Melissa’s Produce event.
How incredibly sad, don’t you agree? I know sometimes the task of procuring ingredients along with cooking can be daunting. However, the results of a home-cooked meal, even a simple one, are infinitely tastier and better for you than a quick meal from your local fast food joint. There’s a pride to be taken in finding the freshest, natural ingredients to put in your body. They provide essential nutrients, and protect you from all the outside crap that’s out there.
“There’s no point in cooking with ingredients that aren’t great”, Karen says, and I couldn’t agree more. Check out this Rosa di Padova radicchio for instance. Isn’t it gorgeous? Wouldn’t you love to eat that, with all of its fiber, anti-oxidants and minerals to help your body function, and delight your taste-buds?! We will, but first…
This was my first time meeting Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, and they were extremely warm, and passionate about food and cooking. Their latest book, Kitchen Creativity, aims to spark everyone’s creativity in the kitchen. It becomes the “ultimate brainstorming tool” by interviewing the world’s best chefs, and extracting their methods by seeing what they’re doing, so the rest of the world can benefit from it. So incredibly cool!
Obviously we have our outer senses that tell us what is good or not; taste, touch, and smell to name a few. Karen outlines the inner senses as well, which help us develop into better cooks, which are instinct, intuition, insight, imagination, and inspiration. All of these senses help us develop great dishes in the kitchen. She goes on to say that ceativity emerges from both stimulation and stillness in combination with our senses. For instance, I was stimulated by this demonstration, thinking about how I can “not copy” people for the recipe I have for you today. Stillness is when you have alone time in your car, or while you’re doing your daily meditation. When your mind is relaxed, you can imagine up crazy dishes like making a risotto with beets and radicchio.
But creativity starts by learning the basics, which is the first step in un-leashing your kitchen creativity. I have made many risottos in my day, so I understand the method. They almost always start with onions or shallots, toast the rice a bit, de-glaze the pan with wine, and add stock gradually to make an extremely creamy and elegant rice dish.
The second stage according to Karen is Alchemy – converting the common into the precious. We have radicchio, beets and rice, and will convert these common ingredients into a precious dish worthy of Valentines Day! Beets are always a striking choice because of their color on this day – they make everything a beautiful, earthy red.
Beets are sweet, so the bitter radicchio is a great counter-point to the dish – and we have our alchemy! A common risotto dish, with common beets and radicchio, turned into something precious. If you’re interested in finding the varieties that I use in this dish, you may be able to find them at specialty markets, but you can definitely find them on Melissa’s Produce website. You can also find already steamed and peeled organic beets, making this dish a cinch to put together.
“Creativity means not copying.” – a quote by Jacques Maximin, an iconic French Chef, at a lecture back in 1987. The final step is Creativity – combining all of these into something new and valuable. Being that beets are sweet, radicchio is bitter, and it’s Valentine’s Day, I decided to make this savory dish a little less savory. Bored-O ROUGE, grape nectar by Domaine Santé is an all natural sweetener, low calorie with a low glycemic index, and made with California grapes! This one is made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec grapes, and adds a lovely, sweet depth of flavor to the risotto. Now, we have a new and valuable dish for an amazing Valentine’s Day Dinner!
I really hope you enjoy the recipe, delight your loved one, and that I’ve sparked your own Kitchen Creativity!
Valentine's Day Risotto
- 3 1/2 Cups Vegetable Stock
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Cup Diced White/Yellow Onion
- 1 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice
- 1/2 Cup Red Wine Cabernet or Merlot
- 4 Cups Shredded La Rosa di Veneto Radicchio
- 1 Cup Shredded Rosa di Pavoda Radicchio
- 8 Ounce Package Melissa's Steamed Red Beets, chopped
- 1 Teaspoon Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cracked Black Pepper
- 2 Tablespoons Vegan Butter
- 2 Tablespoons Bored-O ROUGE Grape Nectar by Domaine Santé
- 1/2 Cup Hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- Place a medium pot over a low simmer, and add 3 cups of vegetable stock. Place a ladle nearby, as we'll add the liquid to the rice throughout the cooking process.
- Dice the onion into a small 1/4" dice, and shred the radicchio. Cut the radicchio in half, then quarters. Remove the core, then thinly slice to make a nice shred. Reserve 1 cup of the shredded radicchio (you can use a combo of both types), for topping the risotto later.
- Add the chopped beets to a blender, and add the remaining 1/2 cup of stock to the beets, and blend until very smooth, about 20-30 seconds.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, and add the olive oil. Add in the onions, and cook about 5-7 minutes until translucent, stirring frequently so the onions don't burn on the edges.
- Add in the rice, coat with oil, and toast until the rice becomes fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the radicchio, and stir until it is slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper.
- De-glaze the pan by adding the wine while still stirring. Keep stirring until all the wine is absorbed into the rice.
- One half cup at a time, add the vegetable stock, and let the rice absorb most of it before the next addition. After you've added two cups of stock, check the rice for done-ness. It should be under al-dente, or under-done.
- Add the blended stock/beet mixture to the rice, and cook until the rice is perfectly done or al-dente, about 2-3 minutes longer. Remove from heat, and add the vegan butter. Stir until incorporated, then add the Bored-O ROUGE, stirring again.
- Portion finished risotto into four bowls, top with the remaining shredded radicchio, and hazelnuts. Serve with a glass of red wine and enjoy!
*Disclaimer – Melissa’s Produce provided me with the radicchio, onion, beets and the Kitchen Creativity book. Domaine Sante provided me with the sweetener. I was not compensated in any other way, and all opinions are my own.