J.T. and I try to go to a Pilates class on Sundays and, afterwards, head to the Hillcrest farmers' market to pick up produce and the occasional loaf of bread. On a recent visit, I found a stand that was selling small butternut squashes. They were small, but they were tender and flavorful. I had a craving for risotto and found this recipe on Epicurious. The blue cheese was intriguing and I discovered that it added a lot to the dish and paired well with the sweetness of the squash.
However, I omitted the whipping cream in favor of vigorous stirring of the risotto. Go ahead, beat the crap out of it. Lots of agitation ensures maximum starch release into the dish, resulting in a creaminess that doesn't need any cream. Also, I halved most of the ingredients, added 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic, exchanged the rosemary for thyme (which is what I had on hand), and almost bought a bunch of dandelion greens to replace the spinach. Unfortunately, D. doesn't like "weedy" greens, so I kept the spinach. Party pooper.
Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese Risotto
(adapted from Epicurious.com, featured Bon Appetit, February 2005)
4-5 cups organic free-range chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 1-pound butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch dice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 cups arborio rice (about 13 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup (be generous and add a splash more) dry white wine
2 cups baby spinach leaves, packed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, for taste
crumbled blue cheese, for garnish (don't use too much or it will overpower the dish)
Bring broth to boil in large saucepan. Cover and reduce heat to low.
Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender. Add squash and thyme; sauté to coat with butter. Add rice and stir until grains are slightly translucent. Add wine and simmer until evaporated, about 1 minute. Add broth one cup at a time, stirring vigorously until the broth is absorbed. Continue until rice is just tender and risotto is creamy and slightly soupy. Stir in spinach and Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer risotto to large bowl. Sprinkle with blue cheese and serve.