Rise Up Risotto!

Rise Up Risotto!


I love creamy, cheesy, richly flavored risotto. I love everything about it. I also love tapioca pudding and rich, runny cream of wheat. It’s a thing……. But, my new favorite craving is cauliflower risotto. The dish gives you all the feel of those creamy dishes, and adds just a bit of “it’s good for you” by substituting starch with veg. I must admit, I make this dish about once a week., and in the coming weeks of Autumn am going to ramp things up by using a wide variety of squash at mealtime.

Now that Fall’s in the air, we can’t get away from it: pumpkins, delicatas, acorn squash, and of course, butternut. My favorite way to elevate a squash’s flavor, is to roast it with chili and cinnamon. Squash is simply the perfect canvas for these spices. Combining the two, cauliflower and roasted, spiced squash creates a company-worthy dish that you can make in minutes, and even freeze for later use.

Yes, you heard me right: FREEZE for later use. I never would have thought of this, but ran across a great article on GroomandStyle.com on 10 Awesome Recipes That Freeze Well.

One of the dishes they claim freezes well, is their bacon risotto. While it’s on my to-do list to try that particular recipe, Groom & Style’s freezing technique worked wonders for my healthy risotto recipe, given below. If you visit GroomandStyle, be sure to look at the recipe for Freezer-Friendly Bagel Bombs, too. I may have to get to that one immediately!

Cauliflower Risotto

With Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash

Serves 6

30 Minute Cuisine

Roasting butternut squash, with chili and cinnamon, flavors this entire risotto dish. The creamy texture of the cauliflower is developed by slowly simmering the ingredients in a rich chicken stock.  

For squash

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced into ½-inch squares (about 3 cups)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse ground pepper

For risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ yellow onion, peeled and chopped

1 head cauliflower, chopped into coarse crumbs, about 6 cups

3 cups homemade chicken stock or prepared low sodium broth

½ cup half and half

2 tablespoons butter

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about ½ cup

Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the butternut squash chunks onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chili powder, cinnamon, garlic and onion powders, and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to toss the squash with the seasonings to coat every piece. Bake until the squash is soft and golden brown, about 20 minutes. You can use a spatula to move the squash pieces around about halfway through baking.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring so that the cauliflower does not burn. Add one cup of chicken stock and stir. When the liquid is absorbed, add another cup. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the cauliflower for 5 minutes. Add the remaining cup of chicken stock, and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Scrape the squash into the cauliflower. Stir in the half and half, and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Swirl in the Parmesan cheese.

Cook’s Tip

You can purchase cauliflower that has already been chopped into rice-size pieces. Or, you can use a food processor to chop a whole head of cauliflower. Remove the leaves, stem and core. Cut into large chunks, and place into the bowl of your machine. Pulse until the pieces resemble crumbs.

After Market Leftovers

If you have leftovers (and I really doubt that you will), you can freeze cauliflower risotto. Bring to room temperature before you gently reheat.

Mmm…squash! I know just what to stuff it with!

Mmm…squash! I know just what to stuff it with!

They say variety is the spice of life, and I found someone who can offer it to me in spades! One of my favorite farmers here in the North Carolina Mountains is Lee Carlton of Goldenrod Gardens. She epitomizes the country lifestyle with her high spirits, bohemian style and earth-friendly ways. Her flowers are a hit at the market; there’s always a queue at her stall. This is what she looks like, with a link to her lovely farm:

http://www.goldenrodgardens.net/ http://www.goldenrodgardens.net/

Anywho….I’m lucky enough to have her hand-select a few special items for me each week. Recently it was a variety of interesting squash and eggplant.  There were patty pan squash and baseball-shaped cousa, which are pale, speckled green squash – a bit like zucchini but rounder, more tender, sweeter and thinner skinned. These are often used in Middle Eastern cuisine, and are excellent for stuffing. Lee also offered several varieties of eggplant. Narrow and long, Japanese and Chinese eggplant are white, green or purple in color. There were also Indian or baby eggplants. These had thin skin and less seeds, so chopping became a breeze! Here’s a shot of some of nature’s bounty from that day:

I laid out my gifts from Lee, and decided to create a stuffed cousa dish that contained all my favorite things; squash, eggplant, and onions of course; then I added chorizo sausage, white beans and a bit of grated cheddar cheese. Well, it was pretty yummy! Here’s my recipe for you to use as a guideline, the next time you happen upon some new varieties of squash or eggplant.

Stuffed Cousa Squash With Chorizo, White Beans and Cheddar

Serves 4

30 Minute Cuisine

4 cousa squash

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

½ medium eggplant, peeled and chopped, about 1 cup, (substitute with Japanese, Chinese, Indian or baby eggplants)

1 small white or purple spring onion, green top removed, diced, about 1 cup

1 small poblano pepper, veins and seeds removed, diced, about ½ cup

4 ounces fresh chorizo sausage

½ cup canned white beans, drained and rinsed

2 ounces grated cheddar cheese, about ½ cup

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut the tops off the squash. Use a spoon to remove the inside flesh. Dice the flesh into small pieces and set aside. Place the squash into a baking dish, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with some of the salt and pepper. Bake until the squash is just tender, about 10 minutes.

Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in to a skillet, over medium-high heat. Add the diced squash, eggplants, onion and pepper to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the veggies are tender and begin to turn brown, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the chorizo sausage to the veggies. Stir and cook until the chorizo is browned and crumbly, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the beans and cheese.

Spoon the filling into the cousa squash. If you have extra filling, just spoon it around the squash… it’s all good! Reduce the heat to 300°. Bake until the squash is completely tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Creole Shrimp Roasted Spaghetti Squash Boats

Creole Shrimp Roasted Spaghetti Squash Boats

Delicate strands of spaghetti squash soak up the spiced, lemony sauce in this dish. Scoop the squash onto a serving platter and ladle the shrimp and sauce over top… or take the squash boats to the table and invite everyone to dig in!

Serves 4
40 Minute Cuisine

Preheat the oven to 375°

For Squash:

  • 1 whole spaghetti squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

For Shrimp:

  • 1-pound jumbo (21 to 25 count) frozen shrimp, peeled, deveined with tail on, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
  • ½ cup butter, 4 tablespoons
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup chili sauce
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • Juice of 2 large lemons, about ¼ cup
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 2 tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano

Pierce the squash with the tines of a fork. Microwave the squash on high for 2 to 3 minutes to soften (this will make it easier to cut). Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds and pulp. Place onto a baking sheet, skin side down. Sprinkle the flesh of the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Flip the squash and bake flesh side down until soft, 30 to 40 minutes.

Toss the shrimp with Cajun seasoning and place in the refrigerator to chill for 20 to 30 minutes.

Melt the butter, olive oil, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and oregano in a pot over medium low heat. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper.

Remove the shrimp from the refrigerator and place into the butter sauce. Cook on medium heat until the shrimp are pink, about five minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and flip over, flesh side up. Use a fork to pull spaghetti strands from the squash. Divide the shrimp into the squash boat. Pour the sauce over the top. Garnish with additional fresh parsley.

Butternut Squash Fettuccine

Butternut Squash Fettuccine

Not for the faint of heart this rich, sweet, savory dish of velvety-ness accompanies pork cutlets and sautéed green beans for a stunning fall supper.

Serving Size: serves 4
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  • 1 cup roasted butternut puree, made from 1 small butternut squash
  • 8 ounces fettuccine pasta
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup homemade chicken stock
  • 2 large fresh sage leaves
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

To roast the butternut squash, preheat the oven to 375°. Slice the squash in half, from stem to bottom. Scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle a baking dish with olive oil and place the squash, cut side down into the dish. Roast until the flesh is fork tender, about 20 minutes. When the squash is cool enough to touch, remove the outer peel and place the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth.

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes for dry pasta.
While the pasta is cooking prepare the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the sherry until smooth. Add the heavy cream and chicken stock. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sage leaves, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to the lowest setting for several minutes so that the sage infuses the sauce.

Remove the sage leaves from the sauce. Stir in the butternut squash puree and Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper. At this point if the sauce is thicker than you like you can add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water.
Drain the pasta and toss in the sauce. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.