It really does pay to be a farmer. We’re at the end of January, and I still had one last butternut squash, a gift from my dad’s garden. It was picked waaay back in the early fall and here it is giving us love in the cold days of winter.
I wasn’t sure what to do with this final gift of the harvest, until I took a cooking class last week. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a Sur La Table cooking class, but the current schedule listed one that I had a feeling I would like. It was to cook and eat a menu from the current cook book from Giada De Laurentis called Happy Cooking: Make Every Meal Count… Without Stressing Out. Sounded like my kind of book, and it is.
We cooked four recipes that showcased Giada’s modern Italian cooking style including Shaved Vegetable Salad with Goat Cheese Vinaigrette and Walnuts; Fennel Snapper in Parchment; Spiced Kabocha Squash Risotto; and Superfood Fudge Torte. It was good to see that I’m not the only one who plays fast and loose with ingredients since there were substitutions based on market availability. For the kabocha squash they substituted butternut, which inspired me to use our last squash. For the snapper they substituted cod, not my favorite fish, although I did like the preparation they used in the parchment. We had a lesson in using a hand held mandoline for slicing the zucchini thin enough for the salad, and no fingers were lost in the process. The torte was very interesting. Although it wasn’t like a decadent chocolate torte you might expect in a restaurant, it was a very nice piece of cake that I think would go well for breakfast. It’s one of those recipes that allow you to sneak in the vegetables so that your kids don’t know any better, if you’re that kind of sneaky parent. Me, I’ve always been right up front about the vegetables I have forced upon my girls. Here is the spinach, now eat it. I was very often unsuccessful, but if my kids don’t know they can trust me from that experience, I’m not sure what else would give them that confidence.
Which brings us to last night’s dinner where I recreated the risotto. I knew that it would be an uphill battle, with me chasing Louisa up that hill holding out a fork with the risotto on it. Therefore, I roasted some Italian sausages that were in my freezer so there would be something for her to eat, but not because this dish wasn’t hearty enough to stand on its own. As her schedule developed, Louisa wasn’t even home for dinner last night. She popped in for ten minutes to drop off her backpack, swig some milk, eat a little fruit and off she ran to another rehearsal. When she finally returned for the day, she ate the sausages but rejected the risotto. After the kind of day she had I didn’t press the point. Toast and butter was a much better accompaniment for her meal.
If you like risotto, most likely you’ve only had it with savory flavors. This recipe is different because it has sweet flavors from vanilla bean and cinnamon. It was warm, comforting, and a delicious way to celebrate the final harvest of last summer.
- 4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth (they used vegetable in my class which made it even sweeter, although the chicken broth I used at home worked just fine.)
- 1 large vanilla bean
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 tbs unsalted butter
- ¾ c chopped onion.
- 1 c Arborio rice
- ¾ c dry white wine
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 3/5 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
- In a medium saucepan warm broth and 1 cup of water over medium high heat. Cut vanilla bean in half, scrape out seeds, and add seeds, bean pod, cinnamon and cayenne to saucepan. Add squash to pan. Lower heat and simmer approximately 5 minutes until squash is tender but not mushy. Remove squash with slotted spoon to a bowl and keep broth warm over low heat.
- In large heavy saucepan, melt 2 tbs butter over medium heat and add onion. Saute until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add wine and simmer until wine almost completely evaporates, about 3 minutes. Add 1 cup of broth and continue to simmer until broth is absorbed, stirring the whole time. Continue to add the broth, 1 cup at a time, constantly stirring, and allowing rice to absorb liquid. You've added enough of the broth when the rice is creamy but still has a little "bite" to it. This will take about 20 minutes.
- Discard the vanilla bean if it got into the rice and turn off heat. Gently mix in the reserved squash, the grated parmesan, and the salt. Sprinkle on the parsley and serve.