Monday, October 8, 2012

Autumn Risotto with Kale and Acorn Squash

Autumn in Utah is too short.  The leaves start to change, the weather cools down, and before you know it there is snow on the ground, so I have to get to celebrating it as soon as I can tell the seasons are changing.  The farmers markets are going strong and are full of beautiful colors and a wide variety of late-summer veggies.  Kale and acorn squash are a great combination of colors and textures.  Autumn is the perfect time to eat them, when they are both fresh and locally available.  Everything tastes better straight from a farm!

Don't be intimidated by the fancy-sounding name of risotto, it's far easier than it sounds.  This recipe is adapted from one I found on   I used a dry sake for the white wine and the flavors combined beautifully.  I only used half of the squash since it I was rushing off to a potluck and forgot to allow it time to cool from the oven.  Half seemed good but one can always use more squash.  This is best fresh and hot and also made delicious leftovers. I paired it with an apple cobbler to continue the autumn fruit/veggies theme. 

The original recipe did not call for pre-cooking the squash but I don't think it would be fully cooked otherwise, although my biggest reason for making that change is that squash are hard to cut in half let alone into bite-sized pieces while raw.  Baking it first makes this far easier (in fact I did it using a spoon).  Swiss chard would be another great winter greens option. 

Later edit: Banana squash works very well in this dish too!  I have added the variation below.

Autumn Risotto with Kale and Acorn Squash
4-6 servings


1 acorn squash or about 1/4 lb banana squash
4 1/2-5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup minced onion
2 -3 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
3 cups stemmed and chopped kale, packed (about 1/2 pound before stemming)
1/8-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt & fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (for serving)

1. Heat the oven to 350.  Cut the acorn squash in half  (do NOT remove the seeds, they help retain moisture) and place cut-side-down on a foil-covered baking sheet.  Bake for 30 to 45 minutes until almost cooked.  Remove from oven, allow to cool, remove seeds/pulp, and cut the orange flesh into bite-sized pieces.  Note that this is needed part-way through the risotto cooking, so prepare the squash before starting the rice.
Variation:  For banana squash, cut it open and clean out the seeds.  Bake a nice big chunk with a tablespoon of butter at 375 degrees for 40-60 minutes, until soft.  Let cool and slice into butter-pat sized pieces.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil then reduce it to a simmer.
3. In a large wok or heavy saucepan, preferably nonstick, saute the onions in 2 tsp oil for about 5 minutes, until softened but not browned.  Add more oil if needed to prevent sticking. 
4. Add the rice in small portions, stirring until it is well coated with oil.  Add the wine and stir.  
5. When the wine is absorbed (it won't take long), ladle in 1/2 cup of the simmering stock at a time, stirring frequently for 2 to 3 minutes between each addition, until the rice has absorbed the liquid.  Do this until 2 1/2 cups of the stock have been absorbed.
6.  Add the cut squash and kale and stir. 
7. Continue adding 1/2 cup of broth every few minutes, stirring often, until all of the stock has been added and absorbed and the rice is tender but firm. 
8. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat, sprinkle with parmesan, and serve immediately.

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