Roast Pork Loin and Beet Risotto


Two years ago tonight I wrote about the loss of a great love in my life named Rachael. Looking
back I’m reminded of likening her to a guru – I had at the time, like everyone else, been reading Eat, Pray, Love, and learned that the idea behind having a guru is that the merits of your guru will reveal to you your own hidden greatness. I’ve never heard a better definition of true friendship.

Of course I have other friends who could be described in much the same way, but I’ll always miss Rachael. Her laugh. Her feet. Her wonky hair, and the way she lost only half of it, on one side, including one eyebrow. Her touchy-hugginess. Her stunning voice (that girl could sing). And her absolutely genuine enthusiasm for every little thing she’d come across in a given day, from the leftovers she brought to work for lunch to her rainy bike ride home. She was so enamoured with food that one day in late November, in the palliative care ward, barely speaking and having not had much actual food to eat, another friend fed her a perfect strawberry and she leaned her head back on her pillow and said the F word. I remember her laugh with perfect clarity some days, but as soon as it comes I worry that it may fade, like a photocopy of a photocopy, each time I replay it in my memory; that it might be tarnished and twisted into something that’s not quite right anymore. And other days I think about beet risotto.

Rach told me about a beet risotto she made once soon after we met – raved about it, even. It was in a copy of Australian Women’s Weekly or some such; she could never quite find it, but it always brought it up, oohing over how fantastic it was, how brilliantly coloured and just so delicious. She never did find me the recipe, but still I think about it more often than not when I pick up a beet.

I half-heartedly flipped through a few websites this morning to see if I could find one, but none jumped out. I kept thinking about it, and her, and when it came to be dinnertime and the boys were at the dog park, I decided that if I was going to think about it, and her, I might as well be peeling and grating a beet while I’m at it.

And that’s how the risotto came to be. I had a little over an hour before having to leave for my Artemis meeting, so it’s not like the evening stretched out before me in which to revel in creative dinner preparation. But risotto is the sort of thing that’s perfect to do while cleaning up Play-Doh, unloading the dishwasher, running down to the laundry, and jumping over to your laptop. You can step away from it. Just don’t forget it entirely while you check your email.

I gave the (large!) grated beet a turn in the pot with some butter and oil, then added about a cup of short-grain (Arborio) rice, and added a 1L tetra pack of chicken stock in bits, stirring as often as was needed, until it turned into risotto. I finished it at the end with a little blob of butter and a whack of grated Parmesan for good measure. I had a pork roast in the oven that had spent some time in a plastic bag with some balsamic vinegar, olive oil and barbecue rub, and some mixed greens. Mike loved the risotto – very intense he said, very potent. I wasn’t enamoured at first, but it grew on me. When I got home from my meeting I managed to shovel a few cold mouthfuls in before bed, so I must have liked it. I’m not sure I’ve done Rachael’s recipe justice, but at least I finally made it. And had she not planted that seed, the combination would never have occurred to me. (I mean look at it – it resembles some sort of fluorescent red ground beef or sea coral or something.)

Thanks Rach.

One Year Ago: Olives, Goat Feta, Roasted Carrot Hummus, Spiced Pecans, and Bubble and Squeak


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24 comments on “Roast Pork Loin and Beet Risotto

  1. Christina
    December 1, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    Your memories of Rachael made me smile and even have a tear. Good work with the Risotto, I love the color! Beautiful!

  2. Irene
    December 2, 2009 at 12:55 am

    I’m so sorry you lost a friend, Julie. It’s so tough when someone you love just isn’t there anymore, like a silent empty place in your heart. I’m glad you can fill it with such wonderful memories.

  3. Bellini Valli
    December 2, 2009 at 4:49 am

    This dish is a fitting, colourful and tasty tribute to your friend.

  4. thepinkpeppercorn
    December 2, 2009 at 5:41 am

    I LOVE beet risotto! Although, I think I like plying it with butter more than anything else…

  5. Jan (Mixing Bowl Kids)
    December 2, 2009 at 6:12 am

    The risotto looks stunning and how wonderful to have experienced such a special friendship.

  6. Lana
    December 2, 2009 at 6:34 am

    remembering the strawberry..
    On Monday I ate old cheddar, the kind I brought to her a couple of years ago, that she had swooned over.
    So many of my memories of Rach involve fabulous food.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  7. June
    December 2, 2009 at 8:11 am

    What a great tribute to your friend. She’s hasn’t left when she’s part of your memories – she’s just gone on ahead to prep the food and choose the wine.

  8. Kris
    December 2, 2009 at 8:26 am

    wow….this made me decide to start exploring risotto. i’ve never made one yet. this sounds yummy.

  9. LisaGee
    December 2, 2009 at 8:55 am

    This post is a beautiful tribute to Rachael. Hugs to you today.

  10. Cathy D
    December 2, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Julie – great to see you last night! What a wonderful tribute to Rachel, how very lucky she was to have you in her life.

    Brad is anti beet, but pro risotto! So I will be trying this out for sure!

  11. Erica B.
    December 2, 2009 at 9:14 am

    What a beautiful way to honour the memory of your dear friend.

    I like risotto, and first came across beet risotto in a Heartsmart cookbook… I have to admit the colour was a bit off-putting. Risotto is comfort food… comfort food isn’t supposed to look like play-doh. =)

  12. Sue (London, ON)
    December 2, 2009 at 10:08 am

    What a lovely way to remember your dear friend. I’m envious of you to have had this amazing friendship and sorry that it ended way too soon.
    I love beets – eating Beet Ginger Carrot soup right now – YUM. One of my favourite things about beet soup is the colour and the risotto is beautiful for the same reason. When I was pouring over my new Michael Smith book (thanks again!), one of the things I thought I’d try first is risotta. Never had it or made it before. Your recipe is further inspiration to give it a try! Thanks.

  13. Carolyn
    December 2, 2009 at 11:51 am

    What a tribute to your friend. I just made your browned butter and rosemary shortbread — after seeing your tweets, I had to make them. I agree the dough is addictive! The cookies are quite amazing, too!

  14. Vivian
    December 2, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Reading your elegant and heart-moving memories of your departed Rachael, I am doubly aware and so very thankful for just such a “guru” in my life…Ida. Sometimes we are blessed to find a “sister-mate” in this life. I am going to call her right now and set some time aside for us to just hang out in each others company and explore the day. Thanks for the reminder…and the recipe! She will relish it, I know, for Ida has such a sense of wonder and openness to the world, a profound and gentle spirit as well.

  15. Barb
    December 2, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Awe. Beautiful tribute. I know you were just as special to her as she was to you.

  16. pauline
    December 2, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful friend.

  17. sharon in oregon
    December 2, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I had a friend like that. She and I were just friends but we had a vibrant and total admiration for Neil Diamond, had gone to at least 12 of his concerts together and sent each other copies of any and everything we found about him. She was part of a group of friends that got together every so often – we all graduated from high school together. And I miss her terribly, more every year. Not for the food, but for the friendship we were establishing. Thank you for reminding me of Linda. Aren’t we lucky to have had our Rachaels and Lindas in our lives?

  18. Natalie (Georgia)
    December 2, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    What a sweet way to live out your memories of her….
    the red would be pretty for the holidays!

  19. Robyn in Mountain (Ontario that is)
    December 2, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Hey Julie! I can only imagine your tears as you wrote your blog about your friend. Much like I am doing now. The memories never fade. As long as there is one photo still around, everything about Rachael will always be there.

  20. lovetocook
    December 2, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    You have a way with words, Julie. Food does makes a connection between people and forms a thread in our lives. I think about my mother, aunts, neighbours, colleagues and friends (some of whom have gone ahead with Rachael) when I cook recipes they served and passed on to me. Now I’m passing them on…

  21. Reith
    December 3, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Thanks Julie-you are a great writer. Reading this made me feel a little closer to her somehow. You made me cry and you made me laugh – I’d forgotten about the strawberry. We were remembering tonight how she got a bee in her bonnet about celeriac one day and seriously would not shut up about it. Funny.
    Thanks for loving her so well. xo Reith

  22. Manon from Ontario
    December 3, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Wow, I’m touched.

    Julie you are an awesome writer, you have a gift.

    Thanks for sharing Julie.

    MFO 🙂

  23. Cheryl
    December 3, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    That’s a fantastic tribute.

  24. Veronica
    December 8, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    I think you should name this dish after the person that inpsired it, “Rach’s Risotto”. 🙂

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