Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Butternut squash risotto with winter greens
My CSA box has taught me that summer brings heaps of corn and tomatoes and winter brings armloads of potatoes and winter squash. Descriptions like butternut squash ravioli with crisp fried sage in a brown butter sauce and butternut squash soup spiced with nutmeg appear on menus across town. Just one month into the season, I find myself tiring of the same preparations when we dine out.
In the Plate and Pour kitchen, there is no shortage of variety of winter squash, like delicata, butternut, kabocha, red kuri, spaghetti squash, and acorn. In my search for "novel" preparations of winter squash, the star has been my butternut squash galette with caramelized onions, goat cheese and sage. With my next delivery of butternut squash, I wanted to incorporate its luxoruius, creamy texture into a risotto.
I never thought to add greens to risotto, but I love adding all sorts of greens to pasta, like this orecchiette with broccoli rabe or this swiss chard ragu with penne or spaghetti with spinach and cannellini beans, so it seems natural that greens would taste just as wonderful in a risotto. Butternut squash adds a wonderful nutty, sweetness to the creamy, rich risotto and an incredible vibrant color. And the collard greens bring a lovely earthiness and chewy texture to the risotto.
Butternut squash, like other winter squash, is full of vitamin A, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, vitamin C, potassium, fiber, manganese, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6, and niacin. Needless to say it is packed with nutrients!
Roasting butternut squash lightly caramelizes it, making it even sweeter. I stirred in a third of the roasted butternut squash into the creamy risotto at the start of the cooking process, so that it falls apart and adds beautiful color and a luxurious texture, and then I add the rest of the butternut squash at the finish to enhance the flavor. As mentioned here collard greens are also highly rich in nutrients. I blanched the collard greens first and added them in the beginning of the cooking process so the greens become tender. The rich risotto is finished with fresh sage and parmesan.
A note about cooking with Dry White Wine vs. Dry Vermouth
Most recipes for risotto involve adding dry white wine to the rice while cooking. I like to use dry vermouth instead of dry white wine in risotto, mostly because I don't drink (or buy) white wine nearly as often as I drink red wine, so I would much rather use vermouth than open a bottle of white for a small amount! But does it really have the same effect?
Dry vermouth adds a bright, herbaceous flavor to the risotto and dry white adds a bright, clean flavor. It's not surprising because dry vermouth starts out as a dry white wine, and then it is flavored with botanicals to develop herbacious characteristics and fortified with alcohol. With that in mind, I recommend dry vermouth as a good substitute for dry white wine when the recipe calls for 1/2 cup or less and you are using a stock to balance the flavors. However, you probably want to avoid substituting in vermouth for white wine in a dessert dish!
Butternut squash risotto with greens
1 medium butternut squash, about 2 lb
1 bunch of collard greens (about 1 lb), washed and stemmed
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
8 sage leaves, chopped
a pinch of saffron
6 to 7 cups of vegetable broth
2 cups of Arborio rice
1/2 cup vermouth or dry white wine
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus extra for garnish
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
Preheat the oven to 425F. Cover a baking sheet with foil.
Peel the butternut squash, cut into half starting at the bulbous end of the squash and continue cutting up towards the neck. Cube the peeled fresh into 1/2" pieces and toss with 2 tbsp olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes until tender on a foil lined baking sheet, shaking the pan a few times. Remove from heat and set aside.
Bring 1/2 inch water to a boil in a large heavy bottomed saute pan. Add collard greens, tossing with tongs, about 4 minutes. Remove with a spider skimmer or slotted spoon, drain in colander and squeeze out excess water. Coarsely chop. Wipe saute pan dry.
Bring the vegetable stock to a low simmer in a saucepan.
In the same large heavy bottomed saute pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and saute onions until soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and salt, stir and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Increase heat to medium, add the rice, cook and stir until the grains are separate and the edges of rice begin to look translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in the vermouth or dry white wine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the wine is almost evaporated, stir in 1/2 to 3/4 cup of simmering stock, enough to just cover the rice. Add one third of the roasted squash, the collard greens, and a pinch of saffron. The stock should bubble, cook and stir until almost all broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth a ladle at a time, stirring until almost all broth is absorbed before adding more, until rice is tender but still firm to bite and risotto is creamy, about 25 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
Add remaining roasted squash and another 1/2 cup of stock to the rice. Stir in the parmesan and sage. Risotto should be creamy, add more stock if it is not. Immediately remove from the heat. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot and pass extra parmesan at the table.