When Ben and I started dating he was living in Brooklyn. As well as racking up lots of air miles we also spent a lot of time on the phone. In lieu of a real date, we'd often cook together/apart on the phone. Risotto was and still is one of his favourite things to make so we'd often both be making it on these phone dates. Which makes sense since risotto making is a nice slow process — you couldn't be making risotto on one end of the line and a stir fry on the other. It's nice to have company when making this dish, whether your pal is on the phone or in your kitchen. Contrary to popular belief you don't need to stir risottos constantly but you do have to be nearby to give them a stir every few minutes. Ben was working late last night but I did have a little friend with me.
I wanted to create a double duty dinner last night and remembered I had a butternut squash in the fridge. I decided to make a risotto and a batch of baby food while I was at it. Once I had the oven heated up I realized there was also a sweet potato in the fridge and wrapped in foil to bake for baby food, too. Risotto is a nice change from pasta, which Esme would eat every day of her life given the chance. And like pasta, risotto has endless variations. Once you get the basic technique down you can take it anywhere. This is a nice, healthy vegetarian version.
Butternut Squash Risotto
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 cup arborio rice
1 small-ish zucchini, cut in half length-wise and then slice into half moons
1 butternut squash
5 cups vegetable stock (could be chicken if you aren't looking to create a vegetarian dish)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 or 4 sage leaves chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat over to 450 degrees
Cut your butternut squash in half and scoop out the guts. Slice the squash into slices about 1 or 2 inches thick. Place on a baking tray or pan and put in the oven for about 45 to 50 minutes. Check it with a fork to see if it's soft.
Run a knife just above the skin so you have one big piece of squash flesh. I chopped up 2 of the slices into cubes and put them aside for the end of the recipe. Puree the rest of the squash. You may need to add a little water to thin it out as it can be very thick. I used about one cup of puree for the risotto and put aside for baby food. And gave a little bit to Julian as I was cooking. He gets very cross when he can see food and isn't offered any. Who doesn't?
Bring your stock to simmer in one pot. Do this as you're getting your other vegetables ready. You only want to add hot stock to a risotto.
Sautee onion, garlic and zucchini in a good glug of olive oil until they smell great and start to soften a bit. You want enough oil that when you add the rice in a minute it gets a light coat of oil so don't skimp too much.
Add the rice and stir around to coat it in the oil. Stir for a minute or so but when it starts to stick it's time to move on to the stock.
Add the stock to the rice about one cup at a time. And stir. Allow each new amount to be absorbed by the rice before adding the next. It will take about twenty minutes or so. Have a glass of wine. Flirt with your boyfriend. Give your baby some pureed squash. It can't be rushed. Keep stirring every few minutes
Once you've got the fourth cup of stock incorporated start tasting the rice. It should be al dente, which means that you don't want completely mushy rice. There should be a bit of "tooth" to the rice. You might not need all of the last cup of stock. Add the cup of pureed squash, the sage and the nutmeg. Then throw in the parmesan and the cubed squash. Taste again before adding salt and pepper. Most stocks are very salty so you may only need pepper.