Garden to Kitchen: Butternut & Sage Risotto w. Hazelnuts

This is one of our favorite recipes, starring one of our favorite veggies — butternut squash.  Now’s the season for the yummy autumn squashes, so enjoy!
 
[Originally posted 1.28.15]  
*****
 
There’s nothing better in the dead of winter than the warm gooeyness of risotto.  There are loads of ways to make risotto, but this is our all-time favorite.  The carmelized squash has a hint of sweetness, the Parmesan is savory and salty, and the toasted hazelnuts give it a great crunch.  Risotto is not exactly “quick and easy,” but what else are you gonna do when it’s dark and freezing at 5pm on a January Sunday?
 
The process of making risotto isn’t difficult, it just takes a lot of hands-on time.*  Here’s how it goes:
 
Start with basic, clean ingredients — veggies, nuts, cheese, broth, arborio rice and wine.
 
DSC_0662i

Then chop the hazelnuts and pop them into the oven for a few minutes.  While they’re toasting, dice the veggies.  Cutting onions and butternut squash can be precarious, so here’s how I do it — it works well, and keeps fingers safe.
 

DSC_0676i

First cut the onion in half and peel it.  Then lay one half with the flat side down and slice it lengthwise.

 

DSC_0683i

Then rotate the onion 90 degrees and slice it across the lengthwise cuts.  Voila, a diced onion, and all fingers intact.

 

DSC_0703i

To manage the butternut, first cut it in half so you have the long top half and the round bottom half as separate pieces.  Slice off the top stem and the base, so you have flat surfaces that will sit steadily without rolling.

 

DSC_0711i

Then use a slender & flexible knife (or a vegetable peeler) to slice the skin off.

 

DSC_0714i

Next, I slice the four sides off the bottom half, leaving the seed ball intact — this allows me to avoid dealing with the sliminess of the seeds.

 

DSC_0730i

The final step is to slice and dice.  I slice the top half into 1 inch slices, then dice it all into cubes.

 

Now toss the onions & squash into a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil, cover, and cook until they’re tender.

 

DSC_0740i

DSC_0754i

(If you’re like me, your huge skillet lid is buried in the back of your cabinet and you don’t feel like getting it out.  In this case, tinfoil gets the job done.  Life is hard, cooking shouldn’t be.  Simplify wherever you can.)

 
Final steps: add the rice, herbs and wine, then add the broth in 1/2 cup increments, stirring all the while. I recommend a good dry white wine because now is a good time to pour some of that wine into a glass and enjoy it while you’re stirring.
 
DSC_0765i

And voila, butternut squash risotto.  Buen provecho!

 

DSC_0799i

Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto with Toasted Hazelnuts

 

Ingredients:**

Butternut Squash

Vidalia Onion

Hazelnuts

Fresh Sage

1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice

3/4 cup Dry White Wine (e.g., Sauvignon Blanc)

4 1/2 cups Vegetable Broth

Parmesan Cheese

Salt & Pepper, to taste

 
Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, chop the hazelnuts and toast them on a sheet pan until they’re light brown (about 5 minutes).  Pour the broth into a small saucepan and let it warm over a low heat.  Dice the onions and squash and put them in a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil.  Cover and cook the veggies over medium heat until they’re tender (about 10 minutes).  Chop the sage and add it to the veggies, then add the rice to the skillet.  Toast the rice until it has a white dot in the center (about 2 minutes), then add the wine and stir until it’s absorbed.  Begin adding the broth to the risotto mixture in 1/2 cup increments, stirring until it’s absorbed each time.  Continue until all the broth has been added and absorbed, then stir in the cheese and add salt & pepper to taste.  Eat.  Love.

 
Buen provecho!***
 

A big thank you to Williams Sonoma for this delicious recipe!

*****
 
*  A friendly warning from someone who learned the hard way:  Do NOT attempt to make this when you’re entertaining — it can not be made ahead (unless you want to serve a gummy blob to your guests, which I did), and so you’re left stirring and stirring in the kitchen when you should be enjoying your guests.

** Buen Provecho: This is a beautiful saying we learned in Ecuador when we were adopting our son. There’s not a good literal translation from Spanish to English, because the loose translation — “Enjoy your meal” — doesn’t capture the full essence of the Spanish meaning. The verb “aprovechar” means to make the most of, or to receive the full benefit of something. Thus, when we say, “buen provecho,” it is offering our hope that the eater will receive the full benefits and advantages of the food we’ve prepared. And that’s my wish for my friends and family when I cook for them — that they will receive all the goodness the food offers.

*** You’ll see that I often don’t designate specific quantities and measurements in my recipes. I do this because you know better than I do how much food your family needs and what your tastes are. Cooking isn’t an exact science, anyway — it’s more of an art. (Baking is another story — it actually is science — so I include measurements for my baking recipes.) So use whatever quantity you’d like, make changes to suit your tastes, and substitute ingredients to reflect what’s fresh in the garden and what’s available in your kitchen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *