Friday, September 17, 2010

Heirloom Squash Risotto

Sorry about the lateness of this seasonal recipe, but summer squash is still coming in so it's versatile enough to make while the zucchini is cheap. I made this with a friend of mine using a few different varieties of squash, namely some heirloom patty pan varieties and good old zucchini. This is also a very easy recipe to keep vegan, just disregard the feta.

We used three heirlooms and a zucchini cubed into bite sized pieces, so the measurement on the squash is estimated. This isn't baking so it doesn't have to be exact. I estimate we had about four cups cubed, but it was also a large batch.

You will need:

4 cups cubed various squash
1 bowl cold salted water
3 quarts mock chicken broth (obviously you can use regular chicken broth, but this is what we used to keep it veg)
1/2 lb arborio rice
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1 tsp red chili flakes
1/3 cup chopped red basil
1 tsp lemon juice OR 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
salt to taste
1/2 to 1 lb sheep's feta (optional)

Begin by slicing the squash into bite sized cubes. Be careful and use a sharp knife, especially when working with larger squash. Put the cubes in the salt water and begin heating the stock in a large pot over medium-low.

Preheat another large pot to medium, ideally with the stock on the back burner and the new pot on the front to prevent mess. Throw in the olive oil and onions and stir frequently until they become translucent and floppy, for lack of a better word. Add the rice and continue to stir until the rice just barely begins to brown, then step back and add the wine. Often there will be a loud hiss or spatter when the wine hits the pot so you don't want to be facing down into it while you do this.

Stir quickly and as soon as most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, add about half a cup of broth and stir. Some people believe constant stirring is absolutely crucial, but I have not found that to be the case. However, you definitely want to give it a good stir every 30 to 60 seconds. Continue adding broth, stirring until thick and adding more until you're about halfway through the broth. Drain the squash and add to the risotto along with another half cup of broth and the red chili flakes. Now for this part you want to stir continuously. Continue adding broth slowly...surely the idea is beginning to sink in now.

When you're about three cups of broth from the finish line throw in the basil and lemon. Finish it off, and the only way to do this is by taste. Take a fork and lift a few grains -- they should be al dente. If it's crunchy, heat up more broth and keep adding gradually until it hits the point of al dente (you can also use salted water if you're out). If it's overcooked it's not the end of the world, but you want to strive for that point of firmness with the grain of the arborio.

Turn off the heat and cover the pot, allow to set for about five to ten minutes. Serve with crumbled sheep's feta on top. This recipe serves about 8 people.

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