Think Pink!

Mark won't eat beats. He doesn't like beets. Unless he eats beets and likes them and, in that case, he likes beets. Confused? Welcome to my world...

The trick with Mark is for me to take the foods he doesn't like (in the context of a recipe), ask lots of questions to determine what exactly it is that he doesn't like, then work around the offending parts to create something he does like. My first foray into this was, "I don't like sweet potatoes. They are a crime against nature."

This is the point where everyone says, "Well, you've never had my sweet potatoes!" Then the person goes on to describe their dish and, all the while, Mark is turning greener and greener... That, which is everyone's favorite, is usually the exact kind of recipe he despises.

I discovered the 'crime' was the sweetening of an already sweet tuber. My solution, don't add maple syrup, brown sugar, pineapple, marshmallows or even sweet nutmeats to make it 'palatable' for him - run in the opposite direction! Thanks to a recipe from an old Bon Appétit, I chose rosemary, Gruyère, Parmigiano-Reggiano, cream, salt and pepper and made a gratin combining sweet and white potatoes, which our friends have dubbed "Crack Potatoes" - because once you start, you can't stop. Mark loves them.

In between sweet potatoes and beets (today's subject) were Brussels sprouts, squash (all variety) and lima beans. I won't go into the details, but if there were a category for 'food dislike conversion' in the Olympics, I would be sporting a gold medal. (A note on the Brussels sprouts - Mark ate them dutifully at home without complaint because they were grown by his beloved father.)

But here I am with a small bunch of lovely, locally grown beets and I am reminded of the dish that won Mark over. I recreated this dish when I returned from a trip to San Francisco where I dined at Clémentine, a lovely French restaurant in the Inner Richmond district, now sadly closed.

There, I had a visually stunning beet risotto topped with seared tilapia and a citrus beurre blanc. At that time, pre-Internet, it never occurred to me to write and request the recipe. I just made up my own version and have been using it since. As the years have passed, I have aged, and the fat content in my cooking has decreased; the beurre blanc for this recipe has lightened - a good change.

When I originally mentioned to Mark that I planned to make this dish for him, I got the funny wrinkled nose that non-verbally said, "I don't like beets." Before he could actually say that, I asked, "What is it about beets that don't like?" "They taste like dirt. And I hate the pickled Harvard beets." Fair enough, I thought. But I assured him out loud that he would like this. (But you haven't had my beets!)

And he did like it. I am not saying that everyone will like this, but it's worth a try! The creamy magenta-colored risotto topped with tilapia is wonderful, and the zingy citrus beurre blanc is the perfect foil for the earthy beets and sweet tilapia. If you are a vegetarian, make the risotto with veggie broth and skip the tilapia. Simply make a small indentation on the risotto and add the beurre blanc.

It seems that one either loves beets or hates them. Our friends Susan and Towny (The Modern Trobadours) did an entire post on how roasted beets are readily available in markets in France, and how they love them, and use them in many recipes. They also discuss how some people really dislike them, and why. Check out their post - Beets: Can't Beat Betteraves Cuites from the French Markets.

So, if you have any beet-lima-bean-Brussels-sprout-sweet-potato-squash haters in your life, let me know and I am happy to share some more successful conversions.

Think pink!

~ David

Seared Tilapia with Beet Risotto and Citrus Beurre Blanc

5-6 small beets, trimmed (reserve greens of another use)
3 large pieces of orange zest
3-4 fresh bay leaves (or 1 dried)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons slightly sweet white wine
6 cups light chicken broth, low sodium
grated zest from 2 lemons (reserve zested lemons for lemon juice)
2 tablespoons goat cheese

minced parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Rinse beets and remove the leaves and cut the tails. Place them on a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil, add orange zest and bay leaves; season with salt and pepper. Wrap tightly and roast until beets are tender – about 1 hour.

Let cool until you can handle them, then slip beets from skins, cut in half and put into the bowl of a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of the wine and purée; season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Place chicken broth in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Sauté shallot in oil until clear. Add the rice and stir to coat – continue to cook for several minutes until rice is opaque. Add the remaining cup of wine and cook, stirring, until mostly absorbed. Add the chicken stock one ladleful (1/2 cup) at a time, constantly stirring, and cook until each ladleful is is almost absorbed. (While you are stirring the risotto, it is a good time to reduce the shallots and citrus juices for the beurre blanc.) Continue adding broth until only 1 ladleful remains in the pot - about 20 minutes. Add beet purée and lemon zest and mix well. Add the goat cheese and stir until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.

At this point, take the risotto off the heat and finish the beurre blanc and sauté the tilapia. When the tilapia and beurre blanc are just about finished, bring the risotto back to a simmer and add the remaining broth. Divide among 4 shallow bowls and top with tilapia filets and spoon lemon beurre blanc over fish. Garnish with minced parsley.  Serves 4.

4 tilapia filets
1/2 cup flour
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Mix flour, salt and pepper on a dinner plate. Dredge filets in flour and sauté in butter until golden. Keep warm on a platter until ready to plate.

Citrus Beurre Blanc
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup mixture of strained lemon and orange juice (about 1 orange and 1 lemon)
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
salt & white pepper
4-6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled

Boil the wine, juice and shallots salt & pepper until reduced to 1 1/2 tablespoons. Strain reduction into a clean saucepan and put over medium heat. Whisk in 1 tablespoon chilled butter at a time over low heat until creamy and ivory-colored. Season again with salt and pepper.


  1. The color of that risotto is amazing. I can´t wait to try it! Horseradish goes very well with beets, and it definitely is not sweet. I´m posting a beet soup tomorrow...yeah, I know.

  2. How do we do it, Paula? I look forward to your beer soup tomorrow. I was just reading about the spiced eggplant when your comment chimed in! If you like beets, which I know you do, this is a great recipe. Hope you are feeling better!

  3. Wow, this looks incredible. I'm glad you didn't add pineapple or maple syrup to the beetroot, although it just may work as a tuber dessert! Or maybe not.

  4. Ah, John... Now there is a challenge. I suppose one could make a red velvet cake with beets for the coloring, and I can only imagine beets (with their natural sweetness) included in other desserts. I feel I am up to the challenge! Welcome to Cocoa & Lavender - and thanks for reading!

  5. I'm not a huge fan of Brussel sprouts, but I loooove beets. A classic Greek salad is simply boiled beets with red wine vinegar and olive oil. Your risotto looks scrumptious! I have to try it. Tilapia I eat a lot since I moved to Holland. Great combination!

  6. Well, maybe I need to share my Brussels sprouts recipe with you,, Magda. It won Mark over! I had some the other day in San Fracnsico that were BS leaves sautéed with anchovies, lemon and capers. Amazing. Beets prepared simply as you mentioned are a real favorite of mine.

  7. Perhaps you should write cookbook devoted to convincing people to eat beets! This recipe looks like it would also convince people to eat fish! As always, I look forward to trying it.

    Thinking back to an earlier recipe you posted, about another one of the foods Mark didn't like until he tried your versions, we made that sweet potato salad last night. It was as wonderful as it was lovely--a big hit (along with crab cakes my cousin in Maryland shipped to us in California!). I can see why
    Mark came on over to the other side!

    Great post!

  8. Susan - glad you enjoyed both the sweet potato salad AND the beet post! I still think there are a lot of beet haters (beet-ers?) out there, as I have had very little traffic on this post. So sad - they don't know what they are missing!

  9. David - I am really wowed by your photography and writing!! It is always a pleasure to read your posts even if I don't try to make what you are writing about. Bravo!!! - Kirsten

    PS Did you see my comments to Susan on The Modern Trobadors about the roasted beet mousse we had at the Auberge des Seguins? To die for!!

  10. Thanks, Kirsten - you are too kind! But I am really glad you enjoy it!

    No, I didn't see your comment (I think I was first to make a comment this morning) so I will head on over to check it out. And then I might just have to grill you on the mousse so that I can re-create it!

  11. What a pretty meal, David I love beets (or as we say here: beetroot!) but I am not a fan of the canned, pickled ones which is very popular on hamburgers here. I am also not a fan of brussels sprouts so if you have a good recipe - please send it my way! I am giving myself a goal (when they are in season here) to find a b-sprout recipe that I enjoy!

  12. Beets on hamburgers? Never heard of such a thing! Now I am wondering if I should try it... Okay, Anna, I will send you a Brussels sprouts recipe that we love - it is like candy!

  13. What a beautiful & unusual meal! I make risotto all the time but never thought of making it with beets - it creates such a stunning plating. Very nicely done!

  14. Susan - the beets really taste great and the color is amazing! Enjoy!

  15. i really want to try this recipe, thinking i may use an orange blossom goat cheese in the recipe instead of plain.

    1. Wow, Linda - orange blossom goat cheese sounds fantastic! I wish I could get that here!


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