Well-seasoned cusine – Butternut squash

Arborio rice slowly soaks up liquid to make a creamy risotto dish topped with arugula.

Winter squash perfect for the season
Someday I will learn to actually read a recipe all the way
through and pay attention to the details. I wanted to cook
butternut squash recipes because it is perfect for wintertime
meals
– even though for about a week it didn’t really feel like winter
with the warm weather. I picked out a butternut squash risotto
recipe for the weekend, but I never got around to making it. Since
the recipe said it only took 30 minutes to make, I figured it would
be fine to prepare on a weeknight.
I knew the recipe called for a pressure cooker, but I figured I
could make it just as easily on the stovetop. The one detail I
failed to register is that a pressure cooker vastly decreases the
amount of time to cook Arborio rice.
Winter squash perfect for the season

Someday I will learn to actually read a recipe all the way through and pay attention to the details. I wanted to cook butternut squash recipes because it is perfect for wintertime meals – even though for about a week it didn’t really feel like winter with the warm weather. I picked out a butternut squash risotto recipe for the weekend, but I never got around to making it. Since the recipe said it only took 30 minutes to make, I figured it would be fine to prepare on a weeknight. I knew the recipe called for a pressure cooker, but I figured I could make it just as easily on the stovetop. The one detail I failed to register is that a pressure cooker vastly decreases the amount of time to cook Arborio rice.

So on a Thursday night when I got home at 7 p.m. that’s when I finally realized the half-hour meal would take a lot longer. My mom had already prepped the squash and onion, sauteing them for me before she had to run out to a meeting. So when I got home I just had to add the rice to the pan, and then slowly add in white wine and chicken broth. Without a pressure cooker, risotto takes some patience. To do it just right, add half a cup of liquid at a time, stirring until all the liquid is absorbed. Then add some more. Repeat as many times as it takes to get the rice al dente. The rice is a variety that slowly absorbs liquid and the key to giving a risotto the creamy texture it has with no actual cream in the mix. With my adaptation of the recipe on the stovetop, I did add about 5 cups of broth, as opposed to the 2 cups called for in the pressure cooker method.

It took almost 45 minutes for the rice to reach the right texture and I am not a fan of eating dinner at 8 p.m. But the butternut squash nearly melted into the mixture, with the rice soaking up all the white wine and chicken broth flavor. The addition of arugula added some color and a little bitterness to balance the sweetness of the mix. I have half a box of Arborio rice left so I will surely make this or another variety of risotto in the future – just not on a week night when I get home after 7 p.m.

The soup or pasta recipes below are also perfect now that the weather has cooled down again.

Butternut squash risotto

Recipe courtesy of Food Network Magazine

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 sprig fresh sage

2 c. chopped peeled butternut squash

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

3 large cloves garlic, smashed

Kosher salt

1 1/2 c. arborio rice

1/4 c. dry white wine

2 c. low-sodium chicken broth

1 2-to-3-inch parmesan cheese rind (optional)

1 c. coarsely chopped aged gouda cheese, plus shaved gouda for garnish

Freshly ground pepper

2 c. arugula

Heat the butter and sage in a 6-quart pressure cooker over medium-high heat until the butter begins to brown slightly, about 1 minute. Add the squash, onion, garlic and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the rice and stir until the grains are evenly coated. Stir in the wine, broth and 2 cups water. Add the parmesan rind, if desired. Lock the lid in place, increase the heat to high and bring the cooker to high pressure. Lower the heat to maintain high pressure and cook 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and use the quick-release valve to bring down the pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Carefully remove the pressure-cooker lid. Discard the parmesan rind, if using. Add the chopped gouda and stir until the cheese melts and the risotto thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the arugula. Garnish with shaved gouda.

Pasta with winter squash and tomatoes

Recipe courtesy of Mark Bittman

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 c. sliced shallots

1 tbsp. chopped garlic

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

2 c. chopped tomatoes

1 1/2 to 2 pounds peeled, cubed or shredded butternut or other winter squash, about 5 c.

8 oz. ziti or penne cut pasta

Freshly chopped parsley or Parmesan, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, and pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute; add tomatoes and squash, and cook with some salt and pepper.

When squash is tender, about 10 minutes for shreds, 15 or so for small cubes, cook the pasta until it is tender. Combine the sauce and pasta, and serve, garnished with parsley or Parmesan.

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