Monday, October 26, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto

So, it was nearly 80 degrees today in San Diego. In late October. Now, don't get me wrong: I love the warm sun on my face as much as the next gal. But I also derive a huge amount of pleasure from the passing of the seasons. I love each season and although I always make an effort to "live in the moment," I can't help but look forward, gleefully, to the next season's arrival. And when it is late October and 80 degrees, I must admit that I feel cheated. I want to wear my jeans and my rocking, new, purple scarf -- not my shorts and flip-flops. I want to eat steaming bowls of soup for lunch -- not another heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad. (No matter how glorious the tomatoes from Valdivia Farms continue to be!)

And so, despite the summer-like weather, I made Butternut Squash Risotto tonight. I love risotto. I make a risotto once a week or so. I love that it simultaneously tastes like high-end restaurant fare and homey comfort food. I also love winter squash. All kinds -- acorn, spaghetti, pumpkin, kabocha, and, of course, butternut. I picked up some squash at the pumpkin patch at Bates Nut Farm a few weekends ago and have been slowly going through it. Most of it has ended up roasted with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper, and thyme, but I used one lovely butternut squash for risotto tonight.

If you've never made risotto because you're intimidated by how much attention it allegedly needs, I am here to tell you: you don't need to baby it all that much. You need to hang out in the kitchen, for sure, but you don't need to constantly stir it and check on it. I have no problem getting a nice big salad together, filling the kids' milk cups, setting the table, etc., while the risotto is cooking. I just peek at the risotto in between each task I do. And once you learn the basic technique for risotto, there is entire world of wonderful risotto recipes out there to try!

This recipe is adapted, barely, from Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables. With the sage and squash, it tastes like fall and winter, to me. Now, if only San Diego would get its act together and give me a 60 degree day to go along with this risotto!

Butternut Squash Risotto

Source: Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters
Serves: 6-8
Time: about 10 mins. prep, 30 mins. cooking time
  • 7-8 c chicken stock or broth
  • 1 butternut squash
  • sage leaves, about 15-20
  • 1 onion
  • 3-5 TBSP butter
  • 2 c Arborio rice
  • 1/2 c dry white wine (I often use Champagne!)
  • Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan)
  1. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Peel the squash using a sharp vegetable peeler or a knife. Cut the squash into small dice.

  2. Put the squash into a heavy-bottomed pot with some sage leaves and about 1-2 c of the stock. Sprinkle in some salt. Cook until tender but not too soft, about 5 mins. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, chop up some sage leaves (about 5-8) and chop up the onion into small dice.

  3. In the same pot, melt 3 TBSP of butter and cook the sage for about a minute. Then add the onion and cook until translucent (about 5 mins.).

  4. Add the rice and a sprinkle of salt and cook over low heat for about 3 mins., stirring often. Meanwhile, fill up a 2-cup glass measuring cup with stock and heat it up in the microwave.

  5. Add the wine and turn up the heat. When the wine has been absorbed, add just enough hot stock to cover the rice, stir well, and reduce the heat. Keep the rice at a gnetle simmer and continue to add more hot stock, a little at a time, letting each addition be completely absorbed by the rice before adding more.

  6. After about 15-20 mins., the rice will be nearly cooked. Stir in the reserved squash and the Romano cheese. If desired, add another tablespoon or two of butter. Continue cooking for abother 5 mins. or so.

  7. Serve with extra cheese and chopped sage leaves.

Notes: I use the same pot to cook the squash and risotto, but you can streamline the time a bit by using two different pots and cooking them at the same time. (I'd rather have one pot to clean but spend a little longer in the kitchen!) Also, most risotto recipes tell you to heat the liquid at a simmer in a separate pot and then ladle it into the rice as needed. Again, I'd rather not use another pot. So I've been heating the liquid in the microwave and just pouring in a little at a time -- about a 1/2 c. Finally, for those who want extra credit: Alice Waters calls for sauteing some sage leaves in butter until crisp, as a garnish. I tried it and it was yummy, but I just don't usually have the time (or the inclination to use another pan . . . do you detect a pattern here?).

1 comment:

  1. mmm.... i so wish my fam liked risotto. I've made it just for myself and I do think the littles have eaten it, but the bigs and Vinny are not fans. pooh on them. They are so missing out.

    And I must say how extremely jealous I am that YOU are still eating tomatoes. I will not even look at them at the farmstands let alone the grocery store anymore. My turkey sandwich that I just ate felt naked without one.