Recipe For a Cold Winter’s Night: Moosewood’s Squash and Kale Risotto  »

Risotto is so fucking great. It’s the best food. It’s hearty like a casserole, gluten-free, and you can throw basically anything into it and it tastes great. It’s my new favorite thing; I had such a great time making the pumpkin apple risotto from Bust magazine (recipe in the Oct./Nov. 2009 issue) for Laura’s thanksgiving potluck, that all I want to do now is throw everything in sight into a giant pot of olive oil, onions and arborio rice.

This recipe is perfect for mid-December, when the CSA box is full of squash, kale, lettuce, apples and citrus. I just happened to have everything on hand, which made it a lot easier. I highly recommend (1) making yourself a bourbon with bitters and a squeeze of lemon to start, and (2) throwing the latest Hood Internet mix #4 on the speakers because dang, THOSE ARE THE JAMS. You won’t even feel like risotto is labor-intensive or takes a long time.

You’ll need:

  • 5 cups of vegetable stock. I dissolved two Rapunzel Bouillon cubes in five cups of water. It worked great. Fancy european vegan veggie broth, FTW.
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about one big onion?)
  • Olive oil. As much as you want, baby. But probably like 3 tsp on average.
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice.
  • 1/2 cup white wine. Whatever’s rotting in your fridge. You’re cooking it anyway.
  • 2 cups cubed peeled winter squash. (For me, this was about one whole squash like the kind pictured here.) 
  • 3 cups (or about a big bunch) stemmed and chopped kale.
  • Shake of nutmeg (about 1/8 tsp)
  • A lemon (which you should already have, from the bourbon drink.)
  • Salt and pepper. Duh.

Moosewood's recipe calls for some shaved cheese, but it seriously does not taste any different without it, so don't worry about needing something to make up the flavor or texture. This risotto is totally off the hook with just what's listed above. The Moosewood recipe is also pretty loosey-goosey about the details (like stovetop temp, whether or not you should pre-cook the kale, etc.) so I’m just going to tell you what I did.

First, I roasted the squash yesterday. So, maybe you should have started this yesterday. But, preheat the oven to like 375 F, quarter the squash and rub it with Earth Balance and salt and pepper, and go do something else for a while. When you have soft cool squash later, chop it into cubes and peel off the outer skin, and that’s what you’ll use for the risotto.

To start, get your broth or bouillon water simmering. Mince the onion and chop the kale. In another big pot, heat up a couple tsps of olive oil, and throw in the minced onion. Enjoy that amazing fragrance. I like to throw a tiny pinch of sea salt in there too. Saute the onions for a few minutes.

Throw in the rice, and stir with a wooden spoon until the rice is all oily and mixed with the onions. Then, stir in the white wine and watch it absorb/evaporate. I enjoy watching this liquid absorption into arborio rice in a science class kind of way, which hopefully you do too, because you’ll spend the next half hour watching it.

Then, you start ladling in about a half cup of the veggie broth at a time, about once every two to four minutes. You wait for it to mostly absorb each time. You should be stirring constantly, although you can take breaks if you have a nonstick pot.

When you have about two cups of broth left in the other pot, stir in the cubed squash and the raw kale*. This seems kind of crazy be cause it adds a ton of bulk to the pot contents and makes it hard to stir, but it will cook down. Just keep ladling in broth periodically, and it’s good if you give it a few minutes with the lid on, too. Heat should be about medium to slightly high. Keep stirring and mushing together.

When you’re getting to the tail end of the broth and the dish looks pretty mushed/cooked together, season it with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and grate about a tsp of lemon zest into it, and stir. I also squeezed in the lemon juice liberally, which the recipe did not call for, but turned out to be a good decision.

Eat while it’s hot. Also, reheat it for lunch the next day, like I’ll be doing.

*The recipe did not say to pre-cook the kale at all. Just stir in the raw kale and let the broth and rice cook it for you. But, kale is kind of a beast, and the dude thought it was a little tough in the risotto. So next time, I might pre-cook it a bit, in a saucepan with a little water and oil?

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