Recipe: Squash and kale risotto

Tasty, almost-vegetarian dinner!
Tasty, almost-vegetarian dinner!

No preamble necessary; I saw this while I was flipping through one of my mother’s Moosewood cookbooks and thought, “That sounds so good!” That was a few weeks ago, but the farmer’s market had some good-looking butternut squash, and our kale is going strong (and much less buggy than it was last year), so I though I should give it a try while I’m still in Salt Lake City. Plus, as my mom pointed out, it will make great leftovers for tomorrow night, when we’ll be coming home late from master’s ski training and won’t have time to cook. As such, we increased the amount of almost everything slightly, to make sure we’d have enough for three people for two nights (the original recipe officially serves 4; I have a feeling it would have been adequate for two nights of meals for just my mom, my grandma, and me, but I don’t mind saving some more leftovers for when my brother Todd gets home on Wednesday). I also made it non-vegetarian by swapping chicken stock for vegetable stock, but feel free to swap back. We topped it off with some toasted pumpkin seeds, and if you wanted to kick it up another notch, I have a feeling that bacon and sage would be excellent additions as well.

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Squash and Kale Risotto

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites.

Yield: about 10 modest servings.

4 c (or about 2 cans) chicken stock, plus water to dilute
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 tsp – 1 Tbsp olive oil
2.5 c arborio rice
1/2 c dry white wine (optional)
3 c peeled and cubed winter squash (3/4- to 1-inch cubes)
4 c stemmed and chopped kale, packed
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp freshly grated lemon peel
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/3 c grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, plus more if desired
Pumpkin seeds, fresh sage, and/or bacon for topping

Bring the stock plus 1-2 c water to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer.

In a heavy saucepan, preferably nonstick, saute the onions in 3 tsp of the oil for about 5 minutes, until softened but not browned. Add more oil if necessary, to prevent sticking.

Now, get all ingredients besides the rice ready to go in. Microwave the cubed squash until it is easily pierced with a fork but not mushy, about 8 minutes covered (stirring once or twice). Set aside.

If using only pumpkin seeds to top: toast pumpkin seeds in toaster oven or normal oven at 300 degrees until browned, stirring frequently. Set aside.

If using bacon, sage, and pumpkin seeds to top: cook 6 strips of bacon in a frying pan until soft, then add chopped, fresh sage leaves and pumpkin seeds and cook until bacon is crispy and pumpkin seeds are slightly browned. Remove from heat, pour off the grease, and deposit topping on to a plate lined with several paper towels. Pat to remove additional grease and crumble or chop bacon into bite-sized or smaller pieces. Set aside.

Using a wooden spoon to avoid breaking the grains, add the rice and stir until it is well coated with oil. Toast the rice in the pan for 1-2 minutes, then add the wine (if using). When it is absorbed, ladle in 2.5 cups of the simmering stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes between each addition, until the rice has absorbed the liquid.

Continue adding 1/2 cup of broth every few minutes for about 10 minutes, stirring often. When the rice is chewable but still firmer than desired, add chopped kale along with a ladleful of stock. You may want to put a lid on the pan for a few minutes to ensure even cooking of the kale. Continue adding stock until the rice is tender but firm and a creamy base has been formed, then stir in squash, nutmeg, lemon peel, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the risotto from the heat, stir in the cheese, and serve immediately, topped with pumpkin seeds and/or bacon topping, and additional cheese if desired.

Serving suggestion: accompany with a light, tomato-based salad.

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