The meal below was the ideal finish to one of our first few beautiful fall days so far here in Raleigh. I think winter squashes must be the vegetable that most signifies cool-weather cooking to me. Add to that hints of sage and thyme and a creamy comfort food consistency, and you have what may end up being one of my favorite go-to meals over the next few months. I used a sweet dumpling squash in the recipe below. Sweet dumplings are similar to acorn squash but speckled beautifully in greens, yellows, and orange, and about the size of one and a half acorn squashes. The texture is similar, but the flavor may be even a little more mild than an acorn squash. This dish would be just as delicious with any winter squash, taking on a slightly different hue and flavor personality with each adaptation. I can't wait to try them all!
-1/2 large onion, diced
-1 Anaheim pepper, chopped (optional)
-1 sweet dumpling squash, peeled, seeded and diced
-1 Tbsp fresh, minced thyme (1.5 tsp dried)
-2 Tbsp fresh, minced sage (1 Tbsp dried)
-1 1/2 c Arborio rice
-salt and pepper
-4-6 c broth
-3 oz plain goat cheese
-2 good handfuls of grated Parmesan (about 1/3 c)
-fresh heirloom slaw and toasted seeds for topping (see below)
-> Heat broth in a medium sauce pan until simmering and keep hot throughout the Risottto process.
Meanwhile, saute onion in oil in a large pot over medium heat until translucent. Add pepper and stir until combined. Add squash and about half of the fresh herbs and mix. I like to do this as I chop, adding each ingredient to the saute pot as I finish up chopping.
Add rice and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Now, begin to add your hot broth to the rice and vegetable mixture about 2 ladles full at a time, stirring the the rice mixture constantly. Bring to a low simmer and reduce to medium-low heat. Once each round of additional broth is absorbed, add two more. Continue in this manner until the mixture becomes creamy, and the rice is al dente. Don't let it stick! Then, remove from heat.
Add goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, and the remaining fresh herbs. At this point the mixture will become unbelievably creamy and rich. Check your seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Plate and top with heirloom slaw and toasted seeds (below), and enjoy.
-1 heirloom tomato, chopped
-fresh basil (sweet or other variety, such as lemon or Thai), minced
-fresh lemon verbena (optional), minced
-> Combine all ingredients and serve a large spoonful over a bowl of the above Risotto for a contrasting fresh flavor and juicy texture.
-seeds from above squash
-salt and pepper
-cayenne powder (optional)
-> Remove seeds from pulp and rinse vigorously. Drain and dry seeds by rubbing in a dishtowel. Toss with oil, salt, pepper and cayenne. Spread evenly on a toaster oven tray (or regular cookie sheet if you want to do this in a regular oven) and bake at 450 degrees, stirring occasionally, until they are crispy and golden and begin to pop.
Eat as is for a crunchy, salty snack and/or serve sprinkled over the above Risotto and slaw for a crunchy pop!
~*TIP: To make it easier to peel ribbed squashes like the sweet dumpling above and acorn squashes, I like to follow the following method. Cut squash in half and remove the seeds with a spoon. Turn squash so that the skin side faces up. Cut squash in "smiley face" shapes but slicing down the concave valley between each rib. At this point, the individual slices will be easier to peel than trying to peel between the ridges when whole. From here, chop up your squash "smileys" and proceed with your recipe. *~