I love making risotto – it is one of my favorite wintertime comfort foods. Although, in all honesty it is so versatile with the range of ingredients that can be added in risotto can and should be cooked year round.
I however find that I do mostly make it in the winter months, it’s probably because I’ve slaving over a hot oven in the process and I don’t want to deal with sweating any more in my kitchen during the summer even with the a/c pumping full blast AND a fan blowing on me.
My kitchen is a hot box and there is no getting around that. I never understand why the pugling (a breed who does not like the heat) hangs out in there. Oh yeah, the food (a breed solely motivated by food.)
This version was all about using up some veggies hanging out in my fridge before they went past their prime. Risotto is great for that, roast or saute some squash, greens, or asparagus, add it to perfectly creamy risotto (that doesn’t require nor include cream I might add!) top it off with a little parmigiano cheese and you are set!
I like to mix up my textures with risotto, so some of my roasted squash gets smashed and mixed into the risotto – which really enhances the flavor of the entire dish. Then everything gets topped with some sweet and spicy candied walnuts, which I borrowed from Cooking Light’s version of Butternut Squash Risotto. I felt that their recipe was really lacking in the flavor department when I first made it (and now I never follow a risotto recipe, it’s all about ratio 4:1 – liquid:grain) the walnuts were excellent and I continue to top mine with it.
Recipe:1 cup unsalted walnut halves, toasted 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 tablespoons brown sugar 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice 1 bunch rainbow chard 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (you can substitute vegetable stock) 1 medium onion, finely diced 2 small cloves garlic, minced 1 cup arborio rice 1/2 dry white wine 3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated, plus extra to top salt and pepper olive oil
For the candied walnuts: In a small saute pan toast the walnuts and then melt the butter and brown sugar together over the walnuts until the sugar begins to caramelize. Stir in the cayenne pepper and salt and set aside in a bowl to cool.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F., on a baking sheet lay the diced butternut squash out in an even layer and coat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, flip and roast for an additional 15 minutes until brown and cooked through. Set half the squash aside and mash the remaining half to be mixed into the fully cook risotto.
While the squash is roasting, bring the stock to a simmer in a medium-sized stock pot and then reduce the heat so it stays warm during the risotto making process.
To prepare the rainbow chard, chop the stems into a 1/4 inch dice and then layer the leaves on top of each other and cut into a chiffonade. In a saute pan over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the chard stems for 10 minutes or until soft. Add the leaves, they will be piled high and a little bit of water and stir until they begin to wilt. Cover and steam for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and set aside.
You are welcome to cook the vegetable portion ahead of time and reheat right before adding it to the risotto, but most of it is hands off and can be cooked the same time as the actual risotto. There are many methods out there on the actual cooking process and I am not here to tell you which one is the best. For me, I stir a few times when I first add my liquid and then once again when my liquid is nearly absorbed, adding the liquid at 1/2 cups increments.
First, I build my risotto base, in a large pot or dutch oven on medium heat add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the diced onions until translucent, about 6-7 minutes and add the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Add the arborio rice and toast for 2 minutes, stir in the 1/2 cup of dry white wine. Once the rice has nearly absorbed the wine, begin to add the stock at 1/2 cup increments. When the liquid is nearly absorbed, add another 1/2 cup until you have used all your stock. Towards the end, I suggest tasting the risotto, depending on the humidity you may find that you do not need all the liquid.
Stir in the mashed squash, roasted squash, rainbow chard and Parmigiano cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Spoon into bowls and top with the candied walnuts. Serves 4 generous dinner portions or 6-8 side dishes.