Sunday, October 11, 2009

Delicata Squash Risotto

I love risotto. Its one of the easiest, most fool-proof things to make, and I seem to always have the ingredients for some kind of risotto here on hand, so I find myself using it as a "go-to" for dinner when I haven't really planned anything. Its rich, hearty, satisfying, and inexpensive, all while being a great way to have a meat-free dinner. Tonight, I have a delicata squash from the farm share and some sage (that has been growing like a weed in the garden). I'll use some of my "surprise" fall onions as a garnish.
First, I peel and seed the squash. SQUASH GUTS! I read in Martha Stewart Living this month that like pumpkin seeds, the seeds from all squashes are edible, so if I had been feeling extra energetic, I could have cleaned and roasted the seeds. I was not feeling that way though, so I tossed em in the compost.

Then I cut the squash into tiny pieces, and dice an onion and about 5 cloves of garlic. I should probably tell you here, that my squash risotto is different that most in that I don't puree a roasted squash and mix it in at the end. Instead, I leave it in chunks, as I like the pieces in my finished risotto.

I diced up a little bit of habenero as we like heat, and its orange color goes with the orangeness of the rest of the dish.

Saute onions, garlic and sage with a little bit of olive oil in a large pot. When translucent, add squash and habenero.
Add ground black pepper and a little bit of salt. Cook for a minute or so and...

Add arborio rice.

Let me take a moment to mention, that if you don't have arborio rice, its okay to substitute nothing. Seriously, if you don't have arborio, you are not making risotto. Its a really starchy rice that, as it cooks, releases its starches, giving the risotto its creamy texture. Its widely available pretty much at all grocery stores, but if you are in the city, I recommend picking up a 2 lb bag at DiGregorios for cheap.

Cook a couple of minutes until rice is shiny.

Then add a cup or so of dry white wine. (Boxed Pinot Grigio is always good for cooking here. A little wine for the risotto, a little wine for the cook.)

To add a little more orange to the mix and a subtle flavor and scent, throw in some saffron. As much as your budget will allow.

I love the way that saffron not only comes in a tiny jar, but in a tiny bag inside the tiny jar.

When the wine has cooked off, add chicken stock, a half cup at a time, and stir until absoarbed. For about a cup of arborio, I use about 4 cups of stock. (Okay, I know I said "meat-free" earlier, but I don't count chicken stock as meat. Its more of a "what you do with stuff left over from meat" product.)

Add stock, stir. Add stock, stir. Add stock, stir. Add stock, stir. Add stock, stir. Add stock, stir. Add stock, stir. And, the rice should be plumped up and thick, and creamy looking. Taste to make sure the rice is tender and no longer crunchy. When the rice is done, the squash is done.

Turn off the heat. Add some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some fresh parsley. Taste again and adjust salt and pepper. At this point I threw in a little bit of my spring/fall onions, but just a tiny bit. This risotto has a delicate flavor and I didn't want to overwhelm it with a raw onion taste.

If you want to be fancy like us, garnish with a sprig of parsley.

Risotto is another one of those great dishes that lends itself to seasonality. This risotto, with the winter squash and sage, tastes like fall to me. Asparagus or pea risottos are great in the spring, and mushroom risottos are great all year round. (Cognac instead of wine is FANTASTIC in mushroom risotto.)


  1. Love the Blog. Say Hi to the Captain, tell him it's been way to long, and the Misses and I would love to have the two of you out sometime. He mentioned deer hunting so perhaps then. Can't wait to meet you. Once again, the blog ROCKS, thanks for your support.


  2. Oh wow! Scott, I love my CSA box. The featured squash in this recipe is one you might recognize. It was one that we got from you guys! I just finished a relatively short entry that features some of your beets, green beans, and sweet potatoes. The Captain says hi back, and we were both sad that we were out of town for the open house. Can't wait to meet you guys!

  3. Hey, by the way, how did you find out about this blog?

  4. I'm so gonna make this!

    So, umm, have you heard/read that it's bad to sautee in Olive Oil? It breaks down very, very easily. You should use something with a bit higher smoking point like grapeseed. EVOO should be used in raw applications pretty much exclusively. It has something to do with the release of free radicals in the cooking process.

  5. I have heard never to cook with extra virgin olive oil, cause it burns easily, but haven't heard anything about not cooking with olive oil. Might have to look that up. I've heard people reference using grapeseed oil when they are looking for a flavor neutral oil. Interesting that you bring this up, cause I was just looking at a wall of oils at DiGregorios the other day and feeling overwhelmed.

  6. Michelle,

    I have been reading your blog for some time, it wasn't until the EAB posting that I was sure it was you (funny that, huh?). I google the name of the CSA and the farm pretty often to keep up on any on-line chatter regarding the business etc... thats how I found it. If we only had more time to cook we would be using your recipies....this winter I hope.

    Your blog is great and the photos excellent, we are so glad the two of you are enjoying the share.

  7. Scott, Its funny that certain things seem to get this unreal lighting, as if all the angels and unicorns and sunshine and rainbows are smiling down upon them. Your CSA box just happens to get that every week. The Captain is meeting with ISA people in Chicago right now. I was gonna go with him, but the deciding factor was that we only have 2 weeks left of the farm share and I was not willing to give up the 2nd to last week. The cool thing is, The Captain understood. I think thats why we get along so well.