The Obamas’ plans for a victory garden on the South Lawn of the White House are all over the news today. As a first-time veggie gardener myself, I’m following their plans with a lot of interest (hey, they only spent twice as much as I did on seeds! If only I had the space—and the household help—that they have).
But I was a little bit outraged over this little nugget from the New York Times‘ coverage of the garden: “There will be no beets (the president doesn’t like them).”
Doesn’t like beets? This is giving me flashbacks to Bush senior, the famous broccoli hater.
With all due respect to Obama and Sam Kass, the chef he imported from Chicago, I don’t think he’s had beets done right. He should try Susie’s Warm Roasted Beets & Shallots with Prosciutto, which could turn any beet hater into a fan: crisp salty prosciutto playing off the sweet tender beets with a little tang from sherry vinegar and heat from a pinch of chile flakes. Or since Obama loves Mexican food (so says the Times) perhaps he might try our Ruby Salad, which has a little south-of-the border influence, including a sprinkling of crisp pepitas on top. My favorite way to convert beet haters is with my Beet Orzotto: you grate the beets and cook risotto-style, along with orzo pasta. The beets are truly transformed, really disappearing into the orzo, as they turn the whole dish a brilliant shade of red. It’s change we can believe in.
Beet Orzotto with Goat Cheese
Serves two as a main dish, four as a side
1 large or 2 medium beets, peeled and trimmed
1 Tbs. olive oil
½ small onion, diced
1 cup orzo pasta
2 cups chicken broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tsp red wine or sherry vinegar
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 oz. fresh or aged goat cheese (such as Bucheron), crumbled
Grate beets on the large holes of a box grater. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 3 minutes. Add the orzo and toast, stirring constantly, until golden brown.
Add the broth, beets, two generous pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper to the pan. Stir and bring the broth to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and the beets and orzo are cooked, about 10 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and butter. Spoon into serving bowls and crumble a little goat cheese over each portion.