BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO: Full Of Fall Flavor!

butternut risotto textWinter squash comes in many varieties and colors – very tempting to buy as a Fall decoration. Of course, cooking them may seem a bit daunting… what with the potential for slicing off a finger or two.

Never fear! A quick par-cook in the microwave to the rescue!!! It softens the squash just enough to ensure all body parts remain intact.

This risotto recipe cooks faster than the traditional method because it’s given a jump start of a large amount of liquid at the beginning.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO – makes about 4 cups

  • 1 lb butternut squash – whole, washed & dried
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2½ cups vegetable stock – purchased or homemade (VEGETABLE STOCK)
  • 2 T butter, divided
  • 3/4 cups onions, chopped finely
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup Arborio rice, unrinsed
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 oz (1/3 cup) Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 T fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 T lemon juice

Place whole squash in microwave without piercing or slicing it. (It won’t explode.) Zap for 3 minutes only. Turn it over and zap another 30 seconds. This softens the squash enough to slice through it.

Note: Save all the skin, fibers, and seeds to use in broth. 

Cut off top and bottom to give a firm foundation for peeling. With a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, remove the peel down to the deep orange part (just past the yellow part).butternut risotto3 Remove neck (yikes!), slice into rounds, then cut into 1/2″ cubes. Cut the body (this is getting creepy) in half and scrape out seeds and fibers. (Remember to save the seeds, fibers, and skin for the broth!) Slice into 1/2″ thick pieces, then cut those into 1/2″ cubes.butternut risotto10 Measure out 1¾ cup of cubes (put any remaining cubes with the skins and seeds for the broth.) Into a 12″ nonstick skillet heat the olive oil over medium/high until shimmering. Add the 1¾ cup of cubed squash, spreading out into a single layer. butternut risotto11Cook about 5 minutes without stirring, until bottoms are browned. Continue cooking another 4-5 minutes, stirring now and then, trying not to turn them over – you want only one side browned. Remove to a bowl and set aside. butternut risotto12Into the now empty skillet put the seeds and skins, cooking over medium heat about 4 minutes to brown. (Beware of popping seeds as they cook.)butternut risotto13Remove to a small saucepan. Add in the vegetable stock, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook 10-15 minutes.butternut risotto6 Into the empty skillet melt 1½ T butter. Add in the onions, salt, and black pepper. Sauté over medium heat until onions start to brown. butternut risotto7Add in nutmeg, cinnamon, and garlic. Cook another 30 seconds to bloom the spices. Pour the Arborio into the onions and sauté over medium until edges of rice become translucent. butternut risotto4Add the wine to the rice and cook uncovered over medium high until it evaporates.  butternut risotto8As the wine is cooking, strain the broth made with seeds. Discard strained solids and set broth aside.

When wine has evaporated, pour in 1½ cups of the broth and 1/2 of the reserved cooked squash cubes. Cook over medium heat uncovered until most of liquid has been absorbed, stirring now and then. In 1/2 cup increments, continue adding broth to the rice as it’s been absorbed. Add broth (you may need all of it) until the rice is softened. Total cooking time is about 12 minutes. butternut risotto2Stir in Parmesan, sage, remaining 1/2 T butter, and lemon juice. Adjust salt and lemon juice, if needed.

Advertisements

Squash Stew (or, How I Learned The Importance Of Carefully Reading A Recipe)

SQUASH SOUP

SQUASH STEW

You know the old saying –  ‘haste makes waste’?  Well, what with daylight saving time, I was hurrying to make dinner after I looked at the clock and realized it was already 6:00.  I’d planned on making Squash Stew in order to use up some leftover hominy I had from several days ago.  As you know, I hate waste (aka, CHEAP!) so I often plan meals around leftover bits and pieces.  Squash stew is not a complicated recipe and I had everything I needed.  But, as I said, I was in a hurry and when I read ‘sesame seeds’ in the recipe, I went to the fridge (that’s where I keep my nuts and seeds) and pulled out the sunflower seeds.  My brain then made the mental change that even though I knew I was holding sunflower seeds, that was what I needed.  My brain obviously needed rebooting.

What I needed to do with the sesame seeds (in this case ‘sunflower’ seeds) was to toast them with some slivered almonds, and then grind them in the food processor.  As they were toasting,  I was chopping and stirring and blending and trying to get 10 things done at once.  When I went to throw the seeds and almonds in the food processor I realized my error.  BUT, my husband was waiting for dinner.  I was starving.  Time was a-wastin’!  Then I thought of another old saying –  ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’.   So I carried on with the sunflower seeds thinking how bad could the switch be?  Oh! –  it be bad!  Not SO bad that it was inedible, but – let me put it this way:  I won’t be making that mistake again.  Yeah – nothing was gained from THAT venture.  Besides the taste being a little off, there was an unappealing smell to it.  Which brings me to the last old saying of the day –  ‘live and learn’.

What follows is the actual recipe, which is fabulous!  By the way, if you’re unfamiliar with hominy (I was), it comes in a can and is in the hispanic foods section of my market.  And, remember:  sesame seeds, sesame seeds, SESAME seeds!!!

SQUASH STEW – serves about 4 people, depending on how hungry everyone is

  • 1 ½ cups cubes butternut squash
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • ¾ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 4 mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups liquid (water, vegetable stock, or tomato juice from the canned tomatoes)
  • 1 ½ T sesame seeds
  • 1 ½ T slivered or sliced almonds
  • 1 lb canned tomatoes, chopped (I buy the 1lb 12 oz can and save the unused tomatoes for future use)
  • 1 ½ cups cauliflower, cut into ¾” pieces
  • 1 cup hominy
  • ½ cup peas
  • optional:  drained yogurt to dollop on top (Line a sieve with a coffee filter and pour in the yogurt. Let drain ½ hour)

First thing to do is peel the squash.  The easiest way to do this and keep your fingers intact,  is to wash and dry the squash (so it’s clean when you slice it), then microwave it for a total of 3 minutes – you don’t have to pierce the skin.  Half way through the 3 minutes, stop the microwave and turn the squash over so it cooks evenly.  Now it will be really easy to peel.  Slice the neck from the bulb.  The neck is the sweeter part, so just use that for this recipe.  (Butternut squashes are big, so if you want to use the whole thing, double the recipe. )  Slice the skin off with a knife, cut them into ¾” circles, then cut the circles up into ¾” cubes.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  When slicing the squash, cut don’t stack the circles – cut one layer at a time.  The squash is still hard and when you start slicing, the top layer can slip which can cause a nasty cut.  I had read this tip, but forgot about it.  And, indeed, the top layer slipped and I cut into my fingernail.  Fortunately, no blood was drawn – but it could have been bad.  In this case, don’t live and learn.  Learn from me, instead.

In your toaster oven, on the little cookie sheet, toast the sesame seeds and almonds until they’re golden brown.  Keep an eye on them – they brown up suddenly.  Unfortunately, they blacken up soon thereafter. Fair warning!  If you don’t have a toaster oven (which you really should), you can toast them on a skillet (stirring often) or use your regular oven.  Set them aside to cool.

Heat the oil in a very large saucepan or dutch oven,  and sauté onions for a few minutes.  Add in the garlic, cumin, oregano,  and chili powder.  Sauté another couple of minutes.  Add in the squash, mushrooms, salt, and the liquid.  Bring to a boil, lower heat,  cover, and simmer until the squash is softened (about 15-20 minutes).

Grind the toasted sesame seeds and almonds to a powder in your food processor.  (If you don’t have one, start saving up to buy one – they are indispensable!)  You’ll have to chop them as best you can, if you don’t have one.  Add the powder to the saucepan along with the cauliflower, hominy, and tomatoes.  Continue cooking another 10 minutes.  Add in peas and cook until the cauliflower is tender.  Add extra seasoning (salt, chili powder, whatever), if desired.

I like to add a dollop of drained yogurt to each bowlful – not only is it pretty, the yogurt adds a nice tang.