Thanksgiving is just one week away. One week! So shocking. I have a list of recipes queued up and ready for you all, all dishes that would accompany a roasted turkey beautifully. In order to get them out to you in time for your big trip to the grocery store, I am going to march them out day after day through Monday. 5 recipes in 5 days. I do believe that will be a new record here at Bella Eats!
I am starting with a Fall staple in our house. Butternut squash is the very first Autumn ingredient that I buy each September, always in anticipation of this recipe. If we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house again this year I would absolutely put this creamy dish on our menu, and can't quite figure out why it has never made it there before. I think it would make a great substitute for the sweet potato casserole that typically winds up on the table. Especially because I just discovered my favorite sweet potato dish ever, and its a dessert, and I don't think I could take two sweet potato courses in one meal. Don't worry, I'll be sharing that one too.
I tried something new this time, adding mushroom broth to the risotto instead of standard vegetable. We loved the earthy depth it added, and have permanently altered our recipe. If you don't have mushroom base, vegetable or chicken broth is good too.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Lay the halves cut-side up on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Place a thin sliver of butter inside the bowl of each half, and another on the flat part of the squash. Place a small sage leaf over top of each sliver of butter. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh pepper. Roast the squash for 20-30 minutes, until a fork can pierce the flesh with only a bit of resistance.
Remove the squash from the oven and set aside to cool until you can handle it comfortably. Use a small paring knife to peel the skin from the squash, and dice it into ½-inch chunks. Set aside.
Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and let sauté for about 3 minutes, until it is starting to soften. Add the garlic and the rest of the sage leaves and sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Add the arborio rice and stir to combine for 1 minute, until the rice starts to crackle. De-glaze the pan with the white wine, stirring to get any brown bits off of the bottom of the pan. Add the squash and stir so that it is evenly distributed with the rice.
Add broth one ladle at a time, stirring constantly so that the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan, and only adding the next ladle when the previous has been absorbed. Continue until all broth is gone and rice is creamy, about 25 minutes.
Add the remaining butter (about 1 tbsp) to the pan, along with the parmesan cheese, and stir until distributed evenly. Salt and pepper to taste.
Charlottesville and Richmond folks...Relay Foods beat me again! Richmond, your one-click recipe is here, and Charlottesville yours is here.
I do believe that beets are my very favorite spring vegetable. They are quickly overshadowed by tomatoes in Summer, but in May and June I could eat beets every other day. Typically I am a fan of simply roasting the globes and tossing them on a salad with chevre and a light vinaigrette. But every now and then, when I am feeling the need for something a bit more toothy and substantial I'll whip up a batch of risotto. I love the sweetness that roasted beets lend to the savory dish, and of course the vibrant hue that even a picky toddler wouldn't be able to resist.
I"ll admit...I've already written about red beet risotto here, years ago, when we were growing beets in our very own garden. The recipe has changed a bit, and the photographs have certainly improved, but I still love that first post because of its words about our little veggie patch. We're still growing beets this year, although out on Maple Hill Farm rather than just to the side of our house. And this recipe is still a favorite, one that I felt was appropriate to bring up again now that we're at the height of beet season here in Charlottesville. Plus, I just couldn't resist the urge to re-photograph the dish in all of its neon-pink glory, in proper lighting, with less distraction. It deserves to be the star of the show!
These days, I'm adding the beet greens directly to the risotto, rather than cooking them up on the side. They don't add much flavor to the dish, but I do like the additional texture and all of the nutrients packed into the deep green leaves. Thanks to the New York Times for that little suggestion.
1 bunch beet greens, stemmed and washed (from your beets, if fresh and unwilted. leave them out if they are past their prime)
6 to 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock, as needed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1-1/2 cups arborio rice
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup dry white wine
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
First, roast the beets. Preheat your oven to 400°. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the beets are easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool, then peel and dice the beets. The skin should slide off easily.
Slice the greens into 1-inch strips, set aside.
Place the stock in a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low.
In a large, wide, heavy-bottom saute pan, heat the oil over medium. Add the onion and stir while cooking until it starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and the garlic and stir while cooking until the rice is separate and starting to crackle, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the wine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the wine has just about evaporated, add in 1 ladleful of stock (about 1/2 cup) just to cover the rice. The stock should bubble slowly (adjust heat). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the stock is nearly absorbed, then add another ladleful. Continue to cook in this fashion, not too fast and not too slowly, stirring often and adding more stock when the rice is dry, for about 10 minutes.
Stir in the diced beets and sliced greens. Add more stock and continue cooking as before, for another 10-15 minutes, adding stock when the rice is dry. The rice should be tender but not mushy, with no hardness at the middle. When it has reached the correct consistency, season with salt + pepper. Add the parmesan cheese and the parsley, and stir to combine. The rice should be creamy, if it is not, add another 1/2 cup of stock.
Happy Friday, friends! What are you up to this weekend? We will be getting our hands dirty in our garden, prepping the beds for a sprinkling of lettuce seeds to hit the soil next week. So exciting! Nothing says "Spring!" like a Saturday spent in the yard. I've got my fingers crossed, hoping that the blue sky I see outside of my window sticks around!
Looking ahead at all of the fresh, green produce arriving in the next couple of months made me realize that I've been holding out on you. I really couldn't let Winter completely slip away without sharing this favorite recipe with you all. This hearty little risotto has made an appearance on our table multiple times these last few months and we just can't seem to get enough of it! In fact, there are leftovers in the refrigerator right now, and I am very much looking forward to lunch.
Mushrooms and I got along very well this Winter. That's a change for me, as I've never been a big fan of the stinky fungi. Not that I had anything against them, but I didn't actively seek them out for recipes. Something happened this year, though, and I found myself picking up a half-pound of fresh Cremini mushrooms nearly every week. Usually they were for this risotto, but also for empanadas, and veggie burgers, and a lasagna I haven't yet shared. What I love about the mushrooms in this recipe is that they really are the perfect mate for barley, which replaces the arborio rice typically found in risotto. Both lend an earthiness to the dish that you expect, but they also complement each other texturally. The barley remains a bit firm, providing the slightest resistance as you chew, while the mushrooms are silky and smooth and nearly melt on the tongue. The whole process is relatively quick and simple, not requiring the constant stirring like a traditional risotto, but also makes an impressive side dish for company.
Enjoy the weekend...get outside!
Mushroom Barley Risotto
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
8 ounces cleaned and sliced crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup dried shitake mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pearl barley
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Saute' onion until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add all mushrooms and saute' until golden brown, about 10 minutes, adding 1 to 3 tbsp water if they start to stick.
Stir in herbs and garlic, then add barley and stir for 1 minute. Add 4 cups of the broth and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid is absorbed. Remove lid and add more broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until each addition is absorbed, until barley is tender but still slightly firm. You may not use all of the broth, but you will use most of it. This whole process, from the time you add the first broth, should take 35-40 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and add butter and cheese, stirring until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Would you look at that? The garden has gone wild! To enter one must blindly reach through the blackberries to the latch on the gate and, once the latch is found and opened, duck underneath the new growth that won’t bear fruit until next summer. Tomatoes have broken free of their cages, the strawberries are taking over our pathway, herbs are spilling out of their raised bed and the blackberry bush has exploded with just-ripe fruit.
Once inside you embark on what feels like a treasure hunt, pecking through the ever-bearing strawberry patch for the tiny, sweet fruit and pulling blackberry branches aside to reveal purple berries as big as my thumb. The tomatoes are plump and just starting to ripen, moving from a deep apple green through shades of yellow, peach and pink before finally settling into deep rosy reds (romas and brandywine), golden yellows (hawaiian pineapple) or dusty purples (cherokee princess).
The cucumber vines have been prolific, providing us with more bounty than we’ve been able to handle, and the okra is just starting to bear its strangely-shaped pods. We’ve definitely moved from spring crops into summer, having already said our goodbyes to the sugarsnap peas and lettuces and stored away the last of the spring onions. The crop we've been enjoying most recently, the one that bridged the gap between spring and summer and would have provided a harvest for even longer if we'd just planted another succession, are the red beets.
Beets are a newly acquired vegetable on my list of top ten favorites. I was introduced to them just a year or two ago, in the roasted form and mixed with a medley of potatoes, carrots, pearl onions and brussels sprouts. Having only had experience with the canned and pickled varieties in the past, I was pleasantly surprised when I took my first bite of fresh roasted beet and discovered its delightfully sweet flavor and firm texture. Ever since, beets have made it into most of our roasted veggie dishes and made select appearances in salads containing goat cheese and toasted nuts.
Most recently I tried beets in a creamy risotto, and was extremely pleased with the final result. I based the recipe on a butternut squash risotto that I've been making for many years, thinking that the beets would make an easy substitute in level of sweetness and overall texture. The beets do take longer to tenderize than butternut squash, so my method resulted in a creamy risotto with bits of slightly firm beets. If you'd prefer your beets to be very soft, I suggest roasting them with a splash of olive oil for 10-20 minutes before adding them to the skillet.
Oh! And if you're lucky enough to purchase (or grow!) beets that still have their greens attached, and those greens are still crisp and brightly colored, cook them up like you would kale, swiss chard, or collard greens. They are delicious.
I think that barley would be a fantastic whole-grain substitute for the arborio rice in this recipe, we were just all out. Make sure to use pearl barley if you try it - quick-cooking barley doesn't allow for the slow release of the starches that provide the creaminess risotto is known for.
Red Beet Risottoserves 4 as a main course
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice (or enough tiny onions to equal about 1 cup diced)
3 medium-sized beets, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 2 cups)
2 cups arborio rice (or 1 cup pearl barley)
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock, heated over medium heat
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted, for sprinkling on top
In a large skillet with tall sides, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and beets and cook until the onions ahve softened and translucent, about 8 minutes.
Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until toasted and opaque, 3-4 minutes.
Add the wine to the toasting rice and then add a 1/2 cup of stock. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding stock by 1/2 a cup at at time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Cook until the rice is tender and creamy, yet still a little al dente, about 20 minutes.
Stir in the butter and cheese until well mixed.
Serve immediately with toasted walnuts crumbled on top.
Its been awhile since I've had abellaterra post and I am WAY overdue. Things are actually happening out there in our 20' x 20' patch of veggie heaven and its not just about herbs anymore. But, because I'm behind and because spring herbs should be prolific pretty much everywhere right now, I'm going to give you another herb post. But don't worry, not only did we plant tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers today, we also harvested our first spinach and bibb lettuce as well so you should be seeing some diversity around here very soon.
The chives are in full bloom...aren't they lovely? I clip them to put in vases around our house, not only because I love their color but also because if the flowers are left to reach full maturity in the garden we will have chives popping up in every nook and cranny next year. They are incredibly hardy and reproduce like crazy - we divide them to give to friends each year just to keep things under control. Luckily, we are big fans of cooking with chives in our household so those we keep rarely waste away in the garden.
We've also recently discovered that thyme is a very useful herb in a variety of dishes. Keep it whole in soups or as a bed for baked white fish or salmon (it will infuse the fish with a delightful flavor and scent). Or, gently pluck the leaves from the stem and stir them into a buttery barley risotto, our newest discovery and one that fast-tracked its way to the top of our favorites list.
This meal is one that I concocted while sitting at my desk in the office, waiting for the last 30 minutes of the work day to tick by. My mind tends to wander towards food often, especially when dinner is eminent. On this particular day I realized that things were getting a little sparse in our refrigerator, other than a little baggie of brussels sprouts I'd picked up at Whole Foods the weekend before that needed to be cooked as soon as possible. We always keep a variety of grains in our pantry and luckily so because on this day, thoughts of risotto topped with golden brussels sprouts danced into my head and refused to be silenced.
I wanted a risotto heartier than the typical white rice variety so chose to use barley instead. If you've never tried using barley in risotto I insist that you do, as soon as possible. Barley adds an earthy depth to the dish that is especially good with herbs, spinach or mushrooms. It may take a bit longer to cook than the traditional rice dish but it is more flavorful and filling*.
Brian and I ate in complete silence this night, save the occasional "this is SO good" or "I could eat this EVERY night" comments. The thyme complements the barley and the brussels sprouts beautifully, and the high-quality butter was worth the extra splurge. I used Heidi's recipe for the brussels sprouts, which never disappoints. They were perfect.
I'd like to say something about risotto. Not only is it delicious, its relatively simple. I think it gets a bad rap because of the rather lengthy period of stirring that it takes to reach perfect creaminess, but if you've got someone to hand the spatula over to every now and then and a glass of white wine to sip when its your turn, the task really isn't that daunting. And it is completely worth the effort.
Buttery Barley and Herb Risotto with Golden-Crusted Brussels Sproutsserves 3-4
24 brussels sprouts - rinsed, stems removed, chopped in half
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for rubbing
salt + pepper
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Heat the broth in a small saucepan over medium heat and keep at a low simmer.
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large, heavy-bottom saute' pan. Add the onion and garlic and saute' over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until translucent. Add the barley and stir to coat with the butter, about 1 minute.
Add the white wine to the pan and stir briskly to deglaze. When the wine has evaporated add 1/2 cup of broth to the pan. Stir until the liquid has been absorbed and repeat. Stir often, adding broth 1/2 cup at a time and letting it absorb before adding another. You may not use all of the broth, but you'll know the risotto is done when the barley is tender but not mushy. The risotto should be creamy and hold together without any liquid around the edges.
Stir in the remaining 2 tbsp butter, parmesan cheese and herbs. Salt and pepper to taste.
While risotto is cooking, prepare the brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts should be rubbed in olive oil before being added to the pan. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in large non-stick pan. Place brussels sprouts, flat-side down, in pan and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes.
Remove a sprout from the pan after 5 minutes and test for tenderness. If tender, remove cover from pan and toss sprouts to quickly brown on round side, about 2 minutes.
Dish risotto immediately onto plates. Top with brussels sprouts and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper.
*Don't get me wrong, I love a good arborio rice risotto as well, but I typically reserve it for when the risotto is a side rather than the centerpiece. Arborio rice has a milder flavor and is tasty with butternut squash or other sweeter vegetables like beets.