Believe it or not, the last time I made risotto was to ring in the New Year in 2007. This is undoubtedly because it requires a very special ingredient: my twin sister Dimity. She has an intrinsic knack for conjuring a pot of risotto, which takes at minimum 45 minutes to patiently watch and stir the arborio rice over a piping hot stovetop. But all great company and occasions merit great dishes, and so, to celebrate the start of 2013 Dimity and I teamed up with our Ottawan hosts Emily and Paul to make this gorgeous, soft blend of fresh sage, carnival squash and toasted walnut risotto.

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Sage, Squash and Toasted Walnut Risotto

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 8-10 servings

We served the risotto alongside a beautiful southwestern-style pork roast that Paul braised for ten hours! It was absolutely fall-of-your-fork divine; tender with a spicy-sweet sauce enriched with adobo. To balance the decadence, we paired the risotto and roast with a simple shredded cabbage salad dressed with lime juice, agave nectar and crushed, dried mint.

Ingredients

  • Sage - 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
  • Extra virgin olive oil - 3 tablespoons
  • Squash - 5 cups 1/4-inch cubes of squash(We used a carnival squash, but any other squash such as delicata, butternut or acorn will be perfect.)
  • Extra virgin olive oil - 2 tablespoons
  • Red onion - 1.5 cups, diced
  • Garlic - 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Arborio rice - 2 cups
  • White wine - 1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • Chicken stock - About 5-6 cups of chicken stock, or substitute for vegetarian stock
  • Parmesan - 1.5 cups, grated
  • Unsalted butter - 1 teaspoon
  • Walnuts - 1/2 cup, coarsely chopped
  • Sea salt - 2 teaspoons
  • Garnish:
  • Black pepper - Freshly ground black pepper for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the sage, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and squash in a baking pan or baking sheet, spreading it in an even layer no higher than 1 inch. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the squash is fork-tender. When cooked, remove and and set aside in the pan.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  4. Add the onion and saute until it becomes translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 2 more minutes.
  5. Add the rice and stir for about 2 minutes, gently toasting the grains.
  6. Add the white wine and stir until the rice fully absorbs the liquid.
  7. Add 1 cup or ladle of chicken stock and stir again until the rice fully absorbs the liquid. Repeat this process with 4 more ladles of chicken stock; after each addition be sure the rice has fully absorbed the liquid (there should be no liquid sloshing around in the bottom of the pan). Taste the rice at this point to see if it is ever so slightly al dente, or to your desired consistency. If necessary, repeat with one more ladle of stock.
  8. Remove the rice from the stovetop and stir in the Parmesan, squash and sea salt. Transfer the risotto to a large serving bowl.
  9. In a small frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the walnuts. Toast the walnuts until they brown slightly and become aromatic. Sprinkle the walnuts over the surface of the risotto and garnish with freshly ground black pepper.
  10. Serve immediately while still warm. Optional serving technique: pack the risotto into a small cup orramekin and flip it over onto a plate. Tap the bottom of the cup gently with your palm until the risotto falls out in a cylindrical shape.

Notes

Allegens: dairy, tree nuts

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