Pumpkin, Sage + Rosemary Baked Risotto

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I’m taking a class right now called Redefining Nutrition. One of its texts is Marc David’s Nourishing Wisdom, and I recommend it to just about everyone. Essentially, it backs up a lot of what I already know about food and diets, that there is no one diet for everyone, that we are all especially unique when it comes to food and food preferences, and that our bodies are always changing, and our diets should naturally change with them to reflect the seasons and our changing needs.

 

I recently read too, Gena Hamshaw’s wonderful article, about tuning out the noise around new year’s diets, cleanses, and body-resolutions. It was written specifically for those in recovery from eating disorders and it resonated strongly with me as Gena brought to attention the extemely competitive nature of food and fitness-regimes. Essentially, Gena suggests the often difficult task of tuning out all the hype and just, “you do you.”

 

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Taking into consideration both readings, I sit ill with encouraging you to “go eat this recipe” that I share, because that’s not me. And perhaps it is not the recipe you need right now if you are doing you. I only share recipes here that are essentially what I am eating in this season, for me. William, who generally raves about my cooking, doesn’t always agree with me that he needs to eat another grain and bean bowl, and sometimes, he tells me, he just needs pizza instead of greens.

 

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Specifically, a little more about me: I am cold all winter. I cart my heating pad wherever I go and blast the car-heater for a whole hour on my drive home. I have to warm up my fingers and toes after only short snippets outside and I tell friends I no longer snowboard because it cost too much and is too long of a drive and I hurt my knee on ice that last time and never got over the fear of doing so again, but actually I don’t snowboard anymore because I spent half the day on the lift freezing and I’m actually more afraid of spending hours being cold. So when the new year rolls around, I don’t do smoothies or cold salads. I rarely drink a cold beverage between the months of October and April. I’m not into cleanse diets or “clean-eating”. Mostly, I want to eat comforting, nourishing, warming things that just happen to be good for me, in the way that good food or good company fills you up and doesn’t seem to have any caloric value or nutritional plan attached to it or necessary for its consumption.  This is me tuning out the noise and eating for me. I encourage you to get quiet enough to find out what you need and if you want to make a diet, exercise, or other wellness resolution this year, go for it. But make it one that is true to you.

 

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So as is my usual, I’m eating warm and wintery vegetables this January and this creamy, dreamy pumpkin risotto is one I know I’ll be making for years to come during the winter season. I first began making it way back in November and shared it at Thanksgiving with the fam. While I love all risotto, this one uses short grain brown rice, which gives it that creamy risotto texture which usually only comes with arborio or other traditional risotto rice varieties. It features caramelized onions, sage and rosemary, pumpkin puree, a hint of sweetness with a spoonful of maple syrup, and is rounded out with Progresso’s rich and savory vegetable stock. Now available in grocery stores nationwide in the soup aisle, Progresso has officially launched a new line of premium Cooking Stocks, made by simmering real bones, vegetables and herbs to create a flavor that’s close to homemade. I’ve made my own vegetable stock and I can honestly say Progresso’s tastes quite similar to my own version. Since this risotto itself is already more of a weekend endeavor, I like the shortcut of purchasing a nice cooking stock rather than making my own or using water only.

 

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Pumpkin, Sage + Rosemary Baked Risotto, serves 4

1/2 Tbs. coconut or olive oil

1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup short grain brown rice

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 Tbs. cashew cream (see note)

1 Tbs. maple syrup

3/4 tsp. salt

3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary, destemmed and leaves finely diced

1/2 Tbs. finely diced fresh sage

pinch of ground black pepper

3 cups Progresso Vegetable Stock

2 Tbs. toasted and chopped hazelnuts

  1. To caramelize the onion: warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, stirring to coat. Decrease the heat to low and let the onion cook until dark golden brown, about 25 minutes. Stir as little as possible, but enough to keep the onion from sticking to the pan or burning.
  2. While the onion is caramelizing, parboil the rice by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Stir in the rice, decrease the heat to medium, and cook until the rice is half tender and slightly enlarged, about 12-15 minutes. Drain it and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly oil a 9×9 inch baking dish or 2-quart dutch oven.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the pumpkin puree, cashew cream, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and herbs. Fold in the onions once they are caramelized and the rice. Scoop the mixture into the baking dish and spread it out so the top is nicely level.
  5. In a saucepan, over medium-high, bring the vegetable stock to just below boiling. Put the baking dish in the oven, and then slowly and carefully pour the hot vegetable broth over the top.
  6. Bake, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes. The risotto will still be a little loose and have a layer of liquid still on top. It will continue to soak up liquid as it cools.
  7. Remove from the oven and top with chopped hazelnuts. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

 

Note: To make cashew cream, soak 1/4 cup raw cashews in water for at least an hour. Drain and add to a high-speed blender or food processor. Add 2-4 Tbs. water and puree until completely smooth. You now have your cream for this recipe and a little extra for another time. The extra freezes well.

As part of The Recipe Redux Progresso Comfort Food Flavor Boost Challenge, I received free samples of Progresso Cooking Stock mentioned in this post at no cost. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Progresso Cooking Stock and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

 

Bacon-Balsamic Radicchio Risotto

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This post might be more appropriately titled, “Falling in Love over Risotto”, since in a way, I actually did.  Having not eaten risotto until grad school, I decided I was going to make it for W for Valentine’s day.  He ended up doing most of the work.  It was the best risotto we’ve had, likely in part because it took hours to make the broth, and because it was the first time we worked together to prepare an elaborate meal and bring it to the table.

Since then, we’ve shared countless risotto versions, from a truly romantic night out abroad to a frugal meal needing few ingredients, at home.  I’ve loved them all.  This version, I’ve been meaning to make for ages, as it showcases my new favorite winter green, radicchio.  Though radicchio is not actually green, it does fall under that category, as a member of the chicory family.  Radicchio is fairly bitter, and pairs very nicely with sweet balsamic vinegar and nearly-caramelized onions.  Add bacon to that trio and this risotto truly fits the winter-comfort food category.

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If you’ve been in need of comfort lately, as I have, consider spending some quality time making risotto this week.  For me, whiling away an hour or so in the kitchen brings real solace from the rest of the world’s wearies.  Enjoy.

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Bacon-Balsamic Radicchio Risotto, adapted from Dishing Up Oregon
3 strips thick-cut bacon, diced into 1/4-inch pieces 
1 head radicchio, diced
2 large shallots, diced
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 small handful raisins
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tbs. reserved bacon fat
1/4 cup finely diced fennel bulb
1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 cup Arborio rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat until crisp.  Take out of pan and drain off extra bacon fat.  Reserve for cooking risotto.  Add the bacon back to the skillet along with the radicchio and shallots and cook until the radicchio wilts, about 2 minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, the brown sugar, and the raisins.  Continue cooking, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the radicchio is tender and slightly jammy, about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile prepare broth by warming it over a medium saucepan.
  • Heat another large skillet over medium heat with 2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat.  Add onions and fennel bulb.  Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the rice and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the grains of rice are opaque, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup vinegar to the fennel mixture and cook a couple minutes until vinegar is absorbed.  Ladle 1 cup of the broth into the mixture and simmer, over medium-low heat, until all the broth is absorbed.  Continue to add the broth 1/2 cup at a time until the rice is creamy and tender, and all the additional broth is used up, about 25 minutes.  Stir in the radicchio mixture to the rice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve right away.