Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Roasted Squash Risotto with Fresh Pesto and Roasted Mushrooms!

Two years ago, a group of students at my school started a garden project.  It took them a while to get off of the ground, but this summer they finally built raised beds, planted, and harvested their first crops.  Even though they've only grown for a couple of seasons, the garden has already provided significant amounts of food for local food assistance programs, has won awards for its quality, and is receiving some exciting larger scale recognition. (Unfortunately, in an attempt to somewhat protect my privacy, I can't really brag the way I want to about them!)  

Back on the day of the earthquake, I was in a meeting where the students presented to the school leadership on the progress of the garden.  The students and parents involved brought several vegetables for the teachers to taste, and some to take home.  In everyone's rush to leave after the earthquake, this guy was left behind:

So I decided to give him a good home.  He's a Guatemalan Blue Squash.  When you cut it open, it's got orange flesh--much like an acorn or butternut squash.

I wanted to share this special squash with some other friends at school, so I waited until a day when I had time to prepare it and bring it in to share at a meeting.

On Sunday night, I roasted the squash.  (Process: cut squash in half.  remove seeds.  Cut halves in half and bake on foil-lined cookie sheet for 45 minutes at 375 degrees F.  Allow to cool somewhat.  Slice lengthwise, then crosswise, then remove the cubes.  Use immediately, or store for later use.)  

Because I hold meetings with my team on Tuesdays, I decided to make a bunch of extra risotto when made dinner for Duff Man and I on Monday night so I could bring it to work today.

The cast of characters: 2 c. arborio rice, 1 large Guatemalan Blue Squash (in tupperware; 4 c.; acorn or butternut squash would be a good substitute here), baby portabello mushrooms (1-2 c.), onion (large, minced), white wine (1 1/2 c.), vegetable stock (6 c.), butter (2 tbsp), cream cheese (4 oz.), olive oil, garlic, basil, almonds, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.  Note: I used the olive oil, garlic, basil, and almonds to make pesto--but I'll talk about that process in a separate post.

Halve the mushrooms and coat them in olive oil.  Roast the mushrooms at 375 degrees F for about 20 minutes.  You could even do this the night before with the squash.  Just don't do what I did and leave them in the oven (turned off) once they're done, or they'll wither to near nothingness (although they'll have great, meaty texture!)

Heat oil in a large, deep pan or dutch oven and saute the minced onion over medium-high heat for a few minutes.  

Once the onions are soft, add the arborio rice and toast it in the pan for another minute or two.

Turn the flame off, add the wine (safety first!), then turn the heat back on to medium.  Give the rice a good stir and then let it sit and liquor up.

Once the rice has absorbed the wine, add about two cups of vegetable stock.  Give it a good stir, then leave it alone for about 5-7 minutes.  (Contrary to popular believe, you do NOT need to constantly stir risotto.  In fact, constant stirring can break up the grains too much.)  

Once the stock has absorbed, add some more stock, give it a stir, and let it sit.  Add some salt and pepper to taste.  (It's always important to season as you go.)

After the second addition, add the squash to the mix with the remaining stock.  Cook until the rice is al dente (still has a good "bite," without being crunchy in the center.)  The risotto should still be a little bit loose--so don't cook all of the liquid out of it!  

Once the rice is tender, add the cream cheese (or mascarpone if you're feeling fancy) and the butter and stir them into the mix.  Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.  Once the cheese and butter have melted in, add a heap of pesto and some fresh grated parmesan cheese and stir until combined.  

Serve a heap of risotto on the plate.  Top with roasted mushrooms and some more fresh grated parmesan.

So delicious that Duff Man the carnivore went back for a SECOND helping of this meatless meal!

I hope you enjoy this recipe (and that my co-workers enjoy it during our meeting as well!)  Happy eating!

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