Risotto is a comfort food that creeps into my mind on cold windy days. It is a sort of an adult version of macaroni and cheese but with all the veggies, a splash of wine and a toasted seed accent. It always reminds me of my trip to Europe about three years ago. I hopped around to seventeen cities, within five countries using trains, buses, and mostly my feet...all in the matter of five weeks. Needless to say, I had to nourish myself with samplings of every type of cuisine.
My favorite two weeks were in Italy. I had grand plans to make it all the way down to Sicily. But after my first stop in Venice for two nights, I quickly realized that if I wanted to fully experience a city, I would have to stay at least two nights per city. And I already mapped out Florence, Rome, Sienna, Milan and Cinque Terre. The days and nights were adding up. So Rome would be the most southern city for that particular trip. Always a good reason to come back to do Southern Italy another time.
I really outdid myself by the end of the Rome trip. By foot, I covered all the major (and minor) landmarks, ate pasta, pizza, fresh mozzarella, chocolate croissants, many shots of espresso and glasses of wine. I walked at least ten miles a day. After going to Pisa and Cinque Terra, I stumbled into Milan for my last Italian stop. I had just been on the beach in Cinque Terre, to sadly be greeted with rainy Seattle weather while in Milan. So the only thing left to do was eat and shop. I got quite an bagful of great shoes and clothes. But my most memorable part of Milan was artichoke heart risotto.
I wasn't staying in the nicest area of town, so I went for a fairly early dinner of risotto and red wine. Upon arrival of my steamy plate, my eyes widen...my posture straightened. I think the lights may have even dimmed and turned a shade of red. I vowed to savor every single bite of this perfect dish. I could smell the wine wafting from the plump pieces of rice.
So when I got the invitation from Judith to attend a pressure cooking class at Allrecipes I jumped on the chance...hoping risotto would be on the menu. And sure enough it was. In addition to apple bread pudding, carrot orange ginger soup, and farfalle with sausage and peppers. It was quite amazing to see how much time is saved by cooking with a pressure cooker. After the squash and onions were cooked and the pressure was applied to to the pan, the risotto only needed about seven minutes to work it's magic. So I thought, 'Why don't I try a similar recipe at home, and see how much longer it will take in an old regular pan.' The difference was about twenty minutes. Quite a savings in time. I am convinced now of the time saving abilities in addition to the versatility of a pressure cooker. I mean...apple bread pudding in about twenty minutes? Not bad at all.
Butternut Squash and Kale Risotto
Inspired by Rachel Fredricks' cooking demo at Allrecipes kitchen
Risotto is one of those dishes just asking for variety. It is a chance for you to use extra vegetables in the fridge or freezer...such as frozen artichoke hearts, mushrooms or peas. Butternut squash and kale are really bright and flavorful so try those out too. Any sort of broth will do as well.
1 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into small 1/2-1'' cubes (fresh or frozen)
(Save the seeds to roast and top the risotto. Directions below)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice, dry
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth) + 2-3 cups water (as needed)
1/2 cup white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh kale, minced into tiny pieces
Butternut squash seeds
Salt and pepper
Pull out a medium to large saute pan because this is a pretty bulky dish. Turn the heat onto medium and warm up the olive oil. Pour in the squash and the onions. Saute until the onions get slightly translucent and the squash has softened a little bit. There is more cooking to do, so they don't need to be fully cooked yet.
At this point, preheat your oven to 425 degrees if you are going to roast the seeds. Clean the seeds in a strainer to get rid of any extra stringy squash insides. Dry by squeezing them in a towel. Transfer to a small bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour the seeds onto a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet. Roast for about 10 minutes. Check on them often to be sure they aren't burnt. You may need to keep in a little longer if they aren't quite crisp after 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, add the rice to the squash and onions. Stir for a few minutes so the rice gets a little toasted. Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper. This is when your workout starts. Pour in about a cup of the broth and continuously stir until all the liquid gets absorbed. Repeat the with rest of the broth, doing a cup at a time. Slowly but surely, the rice will begin to fluff up. Add in the wine next. I add this toward the end so you still get a hint of the wine flavor by the time you eat it. At this point, use additional water if it isn't cooked fully by the time you use up the broth and wine. This stirring process should take about 20 minutes...give or take 5 minutes.
Once the rice is cooked, stir in the butter so that every piece of rice gets a little coating. Sprinkle in the cheese and fully integrate it until all is melted. Add in the kale. You will have a nicely green flecked risotto. Adjust any salt and pepper needs.
Plate immediately. Drop a few roasted squash seeds on top of each serving. Serve alongside chicken and roasted vegetables like we did or whatever suits your fancy.