Squashapalooza 2.0: Squash and Beet Risotto

Eight. Again.

Thanks to the swap box, a few forfeited shares, and my own carryovers from the past couple weeks, I now have eight squash clogging my kitchen counter.

It’s Squashapalooza 2.0: Winter Edition.

Winter squash
Counter balance: two acorns, two butternuts, a delicata, a kobocha, and a Long Island cheese pumpkin.

 

But at least these cool-weather varieties don’t demand immediate consumption (or preservation) like my week-long zucchini fest this past July. So even though I signed up for the extended fall CSA season, I don’t feel pressure to use these up before my next sharebox arrives. I can take my time. Which is good, because spare time (read: cooking time) has been dear recently.

I did find a couple hours the other day, though, to experiment with roasted squash and beet risotto. Good stuff.

DSC_0074

Roasted squash and beet risotto

You could use just about any winter squash here. I chose Delicata simply because it had the shortest shelf life of any I had on hand (and because its delicate skin doesn’t require peeling). Kabocha or peeled butternut or acorn squash would also be terrific. Yield: 4-5 side servings or 3 entrée portions.

  • 1 medium Delicata squash (about 10 oz)
  • 1 large beet, with greens if possible
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 5-6 leaves of fresh sage, slivered
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400º.

Wash the beet. Trim the greens from the root, leaving an inch or so of the stem in place. Leave the root end attached, too, to avoid leaching a bloody mess everywhere when you roast. Pick through the leaves, discarding any that are brown or wilted. Wash and dry the rest, cut them into ribbons, and set them aside for later. Put the root on a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.

Moons
Delicata’s skin is, well, delicate. There’s no need to peel it.

Wash the squash. Cut it in half lengthwise, and use a sturdy spoon to scrape out the seeds. Slice each piece into half moons, and then cut each slice into like-sized pieces. Put the squash chunks into a roasting pan (I used a Pyrex loaf pan). Drizzle in some olive oil, then toss with a sprinkling of salt and the slivered sage.

Delicata
And Delicata’s silky-sweet flesh is perfect for creamy risotto.

Put both pans in the oven. Roast for about a half hour, until the vegetables are tender but not mushy. Use a potato masher to purée half the squash; set the cubes aside. When the beet’s cool enough to handle, use a paper towel to rub the outer skin off, then dice the beet at roughly the same size as the cubed squash.

Squashed
You’ll use half the squash as a purée, and half as cubes.

Bring the stock and water to a simmer together in a small saucepan.

In a larger pot, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and onion, and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the rice all at once, and stir to coat. Let the rice toast for a couple minutes more, until you see a tiny white spot at the center of the grains.

Toasting
Toast the rice, stirring constantly, until you see little white dots at the centers of the grains.

Add the wine and stir until nearly all the liquid has absorbed or evaporated.

Add one ladleful of the hot stock. Stir frequently. When nearly all the liquid has been incorporated, add another ladleful. Repeat, until all you’ve used all the stock (this should take about 20-25 minutes). The rice should be just tender (but still a little firm), and the mixture loose and creamy. If you need to add a bit more water or stock to achieve that state, do so. Remove from heat.

Add the cheese and the squash purée. Stir to combine thoroughly. Add the squash and beet cubes, reserving a few for garnish. Stir carefully, just to heat through. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Spoon into shallow bowls or atop a warmed platter. Top with the beet greens and reserved beets. It’s best when enjoyed immediately, but the leftovers weren’t too shabby for lunch the next day.

What to drink?

Wine
I was in a red mood, but a white from the Veneto would work, too.

Wines from northeast Italy—specifically the Veneto (the area spanning roughly from Verona east to Venice—are my go-tos with squash dishes. Adding in the beets tipped the white-red balance over to the red side for me, but a Soave or other Garganega-based white would be a great option, too. Corvina-driven Valpolicella and Bardolino (both of which are also traditionally blended with Rondinella and Molinara) are generally medium-bodied at most and have very little tannin. Soft, fragrant, and supple, they’ll let the sweet, earthy, nuttiness of the roasted vegetables shine through.

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