January 26, 2007

Cumin, Sage and Windchill...

I'm in the mood for risotto.
Because it takes patience.
And because it's January.
And this is the month that tries the nerves.
Worse than that, it's a month that is merely a rehearsal for the interminable one that follows it.
These are the days when I sit staring at the weather network's website for Florida, California, the Caribbean...somewhere, anywhere I can fly direct (because I hate flying, so no extra, unnecessary, even-if-they're-scheduled, especially-if-they're-not, landings, thank you)...
Which leads me to expedia and all the seat sales and last minute deals...
But, no deal.

Steve does the baking - and has mastered the art of the gluten-free chocolate chip cookie - and while I indulge, I have been looking for comfort in savoury dishes. To paraphrase Ms. Reichl, comfort me with squash. I console myself that in payment for my tolerance, in transferring my tension to the kitchen, I am bestowed a steaming plate of this perfumey, lovely risotto.

I have this feeling, like a radar ping, that the food world is tired of risotto...that's it's so yesterday's butternut squashable, it's so pomegranate passe, so over-cilantro'd, but...I still admire its subtle texture and tastes. It's like a blanket. So there.

I searched around for risotto recipes and discovered this - Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto on the Gourmet site. It's from 2001. As you may know, I love b/sq...it's in the great vegetable pantheon (even if just the thought of it makes a dear friend heave) or actually vegetable-like fruit pantheon, one of the Three Sisters.

And in this recipe the squash ups its reputation with roasting and then gets a huge kick in the ass from that wonderful partner cumin and also fresh sage. And it's pretty.

I don't cook enough with cumin...

I made this last year for the first time (in fact the first time I had made risotto at all - at new year's, for 8 people, yikes...must have had lots of champagne by then, because risotto had intimidated the hell out of me). I think I was getting cocky because I'd made my own chicken stock and it was clear. Meaning I was fortified, unstoppable: with enough champagne in me and enough clear stock in the vat, I could accomplish anything.

Here's to making it through January and onward...

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

3 lb butternut squash
6 cups chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (9 oz)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
5 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 oz)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
4 oz arugula or baby spinach (6 cups), stems discarded and leaves very coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Halve squash lengthwise and seed, then cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch-wide slices and season with salt. Roast slices, skin side down, in a shallow baking pan in middle of oven until tender and golden, about 50 minutes.
Set aside 6 crescent-shaped squash slices for serving and keep warm. Cut flesh from remaining slices into 1/2-inch pieces, discarding skin.

Start risotto after squash has been roasting 40 minutes...

Bring broth to a simmer and keep at a bare simmer, covered.

Cook onion in butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add rice, garlic, and cumin and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.

Stir in 1/2 cup simmering broth and cook at a strong simmer, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy-looking but still al dente (it should be the consistency of thick soup), about 18 minutes total. (There will be leftover broth.)

Stir in squash pieces, then stir in cheese, salt, sage, and arugula and simmer, stirring, 1 minute. (If necessary, thin risotto with some leftover broth.)

Serve risotto immediately, spooned over reserved squash slices.


Julie said...

I like winter -- I love snow -- but by February I am ready for spring. Actually by January 15th I am ready for spring, so I sympathize. And of course, winter here is nothing like winter in Toronto.

I refuse to believe that risotto could ever be passe. It's timeless.

I also only just made it for the first time a few months ago. It came out well but I would never have had the nerve to make it for others the first time I did it. You're brave! And I'll bet this was wonderful.

Nicola said...

I think you're right Julie - risotto? classico!

I'm so glad you are a recent risotto virgin, like me...

Do give this one a try, it's absolutely lovely...