Winter Squash Risotto
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes, largely unattended
Yield: 4-6 servings
Gluten-free, Dairy-free optional
3 1/2 cups homemade vegetable stock or broth from bouillon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or use half olive oil and half butter), plus 2 tablespoons for finishing
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) sweet brown rice* or short grain brown rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 pound winter squash--peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice (butternut works well here)
2 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese (about 1 cup, divided)
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (curly or flat leaf)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan and keep it warm over low heat. Heat a large, wide soup pot or enameled Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil and onion and cook, stirring often, until it softens and turns translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and rice and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated with the oil and begin to smell a little toasty, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated. Stir in the squash.
2. Add 3 cups of the hot stock, raise the temperature to medium high and bring to a low boil. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 35 minutes and then check the rice for tenderness. The risotto is done when it is firm but tender, without a chalky center. There will probably be liquid in the pot even if the rice is done - that’s ideal.
3. Add one last ladle full of the stock and stir it into the rice, along with 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. Season to taste with additional sea salt, if necessary, and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the additional olive oil, if desired. Spoon the risotto into warmed bowls or soup plates, garnish with parsley and serve at once. Pass the additional cheese at the table, if desired.
Quick vegetable stock: In a large soup pot combine chopped versions of: 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 1 large onion, greens of 1-2 leeks, 1 large potato, 1 bunch parsley, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 4 unpeeled garlic cloves, 8 peppercorns, 1 tablespoon sea salt, 1 branch rosemary and 1 bay leaf. Cover with water until the vegetables are just submerged. Bring to a boil, reduce to a lively simmer and cook for 35 minutes. Strain, compost the vegetables and adjust the salt in the broth to taste.
Kitchen Tip: *Sweet brown rice is a variety of rice that has a similar chew and consistency to a white sushi rice but with all of the health benefits of a whole grain including the bran and fiber. It has the most mild flavor of the brown rice varieties, is the fastest cooking (especially at high altitude) and is the best substitute I’ve found for the short grain rice typically used in risotto. Sweet brown rice can be a little hard to find, so ask around and request that your store carry it!
Preparation Tip: After all that work peeling and seeding your squash, put it to good use! Save it and add to your homemade vegetable stock to add sweetness and a naturally complimentary flavor to the squash in the risotto.