2 days ago
Monday, December 21, 2009
I tried something new for the Winter Solstice, as this day symbolizes newness with the start of the sun's return journey through longer days. It symbolizes renewal in every religion of the world. People have been celebrating the Solstices ever since some genius figured out that it marks the largest variance between day and night, nearly 5,000 years ago. It seemed to me a Solstice meal had to have body, and, here in the frozen north, had to come from the larder, rather than fresh-picked (or modernly preserved).
So, for a blessed Solstice, with a little help (okay, pretty much the entire recipe) from my friends at Epicurious.com.
Winter squash risotto
large acorn squash (or other winter squash)
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (9 oz)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
5 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 oz) or other hard cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons white peppercorns, ground
2/3 cup walnut pieces, lightly crushed and toasted
4 oz arugula, swiss chard, or spinach (6 cups), or broccoli florets, chopped up.
Halve squash lengthwise and seed, roast slices, skin side down, in a shallow baking pan in middle of oven until tender and golden, about 50 minutes at 350F/175C. Remove from oven and cool until you can handle it, then peel and cut roughly into 1/2-inch pieces. (Peel can be reserved to make more broth).
Toast walnuts by placing on an ungreased baking sheet in the cooling oven. Do not turn the oven back on; the residual heat is plenty.
for the risotto:
Bring broth to a simmer and keep at a bare simmer, covered. Meanwhile, cook onion in butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring until softened. Add rice, garlic, and cumin and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup simmering broth and cook at a strong simmer, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy-looking but still al dente (it should be the consistency of thick soup), about 18 minutes total. (There will be leftover broth.)
NB: I was completely amazed at the accuracy of this description for adding the broth, by the way. Having never made risotto before, I was a little worried about how to get that wonderful texture.
Stir in squash pieces. These broke down, as the squash was quite soft, giving the mixture a lovely golden color, and distributing the sweet flavor of the squash through the whole thing. Stir in cheese, salt, pepper, walnuts and greens and simmer, stirring, 1 minute. (If necessary, thin risotto with some leftover broth.) You can also add other herbs. Epicurious suggested sage, but I'd go "to taste" here.
Serve risotto immediately. It also tasted great the next day, but had lost the nice texture.
Blessed be is a traditional Wiccan greeting (or as traditional as Wicca gets, anyway), and I just like it as an all-purpose holiday greeting, nice and ecumenical.