I wanted to become a good cook and therefore never became a vegetarian. It’s not that I couldn’t miss meat. No, at that time, I actually ate vegetarian meals more often than I ate a meat based meal. Actually, I would have loved this Roasted beet risotto with goat cheese and walnuts.
But I liked to cook.
And I wanted to become good at it.
I wanted to learn to make a mean vinaigrette to dress up my salads. Never to have my pie or quiche fail again. To make a pasta sauce with what I have in my fridge. Basically, to understand what’s going on in my pots and pans. And to me, that included figuring out how to cook meat, and never to overcook my chicken again.
Of course, I knew how to cook chicken breast.
I just cut it in chunks.
Cause that’s easier. And faster.
But how do you become a good cook?
One that knows how to cook a proper chicken breast?
I found the formula.
leave meat out of your meals
include more meat in your dishes
become a better cook
Think of it.
Vegetarian dishes makes me explore other styles of cooking, not having to fill up a blank space where the meat used to be. I learned how to make a proper risotto, continually expand my repertoire of sensational salads, even go vegan every now and then.
I basically approach my (vegetarian) dinner in another way now.
At the same time I cook not so much more (often) meat, but other meats. I hardly eat chicken breasts anymore. If I eat chicken nowadays, it’s usually ‘the other parts’; the legs or parts there-off. Sometimes the whole bird. And when I have minced meat in my freezer it usually disappears to the bottom of the drawer never to be used.
[I only need to blog a bit more about my meaty adventures, as I hardly found any recipes with pork (besides bacon, prosciutto and jamon serrano) or beef in my archive. 😉 ]
That’s how I became who I wanted to be.
Still not a vegetarian, but I am someone who knows how to make dinner. And can teach you to do the same!
With or without meat.
As I’m still a bit sad that I my Vegetarian Class didn’t attract enough students to be given these weeks, I indulge myself in one of my favorite vegetarian recipes that probably would have made it to the class: Roasted beet risotto with goat cheese and walnuts.
Roasted beet risotto with goat cheese and walnuts
There is some waiting involved in this dish. That’s why I usually roast more beets than I need, so I don’t have to wait the next time. Roasted beets stay good in a ziplock or airtight container in the fridge for a few days and are easy to freeze as well.
I used for 2:
3 red beets (size of an apple)
1 glove garlic
150 gr risotto
1/2 cup | 75 ml white wine
2 cups | 500 ml vegetable stock
5 branches of thyme
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup | 125 gr soft goat cheese
salt + pepper
Roast the beets. Wrap them in aluminum foil and cook in an oven of 400 F | 200 C degrees until done. When you can stick a knife in the beets without any resistance, they’re fine. Depending on their size that can take up to 2 hours. So plan ahead!
Tip: the total time you need to make risotto is about 40 minutes, starting with chopping the onion.
After one minute, pour in the rice. Give it a good stir and cook until translucent, 2 minutes.
Cook the risotto. Add the wine to the rice and stir. On moderate heat, let absorb/evaporate the rice. In the mean time, bring the stock to a boil. Add 1/4 of the stock to the rice, stir well, and let simmer. Once all stock is absorbed, stir rigorously again. Taste (see tip below). And add another batch of stock. Stir. Let simmer. Go prepare some of the other ingredients. Taste. Stir. Add stock. And so forth, until all stock is used and the risotto is done to your liking.
I like my risotto to be soft, but not mushy. That’s a bit farther cooked than what some people would describe as al dente. I don’t care, I think al dente is overrated.
Tip: When you don’t have that much experience in making risotto, train yourself to taste the rice just before you stir in a new batch of liquid. That way you learn to recognize how far the rice is while it’s cooking, which becomes handy to time scheduling your other ingredients.
Peel and chop the beets. Unwrap them, rub off the skin and cut the beets in tiny cubes of about 1/5 inch | 1/2 cm. Rip the thyme leaves of the stems.
Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet until fragrant and browned a bit. Chop into smaller pieces.
Mix the beets into the risotto, stir in the butter, thyme leaves and salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with the walnuts and chunks of goat cheese.
Tip: If you’d like to go meat-light, add some crunchy prosciutto chips by browning pieces in a dry skillet, just like I did with Jamon Serrano here. But this vegetarian version with walnuts is as good.