Squash Risotto with Roasted Kale
This recipe is featured in Headacre Farm
On an –11ºC (12ºF) day last winter, I met with our farmer, Anne Perkins, to plan the next season’s plantings. I got thinking about how these kinds of meetings have been happening at the farm for so many generations. The Benner family owned the place from the ’40s through the ’90s, and after I moved in, their friend Ben, my 85-year-old neighbor, continued to store his carrots, squash, onions and potatoes in the basement next to the cistern. We’re now planning to grow more storage crops, which we’ll be storing in the same place.
Talking about all those hardy vegetables gave me a hankering for this squash risotto, which is a perfect comforting, hearty, vegetarian meal for a cold winter’s day. I think plain risotto should usually be served as an appetizer or side, as after a few bites the uniform texture and gentle flavor lose their appeal. Adding squash and kale, however, creates a variety of tastes and textures that stays delicious to the bottom of the bowl.
- Servings Serves 1
- 137 grams (1 cup) winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes
- 66 grams (½ cup) onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- 255 grams (1½ cups) par-cooked risotto (see Note)
- 60 grams (2 cups) kale or hearty greens, stemmed, tossed in olive oil
- 2 sprigs thyme
Note: To make par-cooked risotto, melt 43 grams (3 tablespoons) butter and stir in 2000 grams (1 cup) Arborio rice. Stir slowly over low heat; do not brown. Add just enough water to cover and stir until it is absorbed. Repeat until 237 ml (1 cup) of water has been used. The par-cooked risotto may be spread on a baking sheet, cooled, and refrigerated until needed.
1. Preheat your oven to 232ºC (450ºF). Put the rack in the middle. Spread the kale on a cookie sheet.
2. In a 4 to 5 liter (4 to 5 quart) heavy-bottomed pot, place the squash, onion, garlic and bay leaf. Cover with water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until the squash is fork-tender, 10 minutes or so. Strain, reserving 475 ml (2 cups) of liquid. The rest of the water is a good start for a vegetable stock.
3. In the same pot, add the rice to the squash mixture, with enough of the reserved liquid to just cover. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir constantly, but gently so that you don’t destroy the chunks of squash entirely. Some will deteriorate, which will flavor the rice.
4. As the water disappears, keep adding more, just to cover. Keep stirring to develop that risotto creaminess.
5. When you’ve used up half of the water, pop the greens into the oven. Cook them until light brown on the edges and the color has brightened up, about 8 minutes.
6. Add the thyme to the rice at this point. When you have run out of water, the rice should be tender, creaminess all around. If not, keep adding liquid, and stir, stir, stir. In the end it should be firm enough that the rice will pile rather than pour.
7. Pile it onto a warm platter with the kale around the edges. With the woodstove a-crankin, and the best company, it will be delightful.