Saturday, October 22, 2011

0 Recipe #295: Pumpkin Risotto

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This recipe uses both chunks of fresh pumpkin and puréed pumpkin, as well as both arborio rice and quinoa, which, in each respective pairing, creates a much more diverse texture and flavor than just using one or the other. The walnuts, fresh herbs, and mushrooms add additional interest and complement the texture and flavor of the other ingredients.

Pumpkin Risotto

6-8 c. water (for boiling the pumpkin)
2 1/2 c. fresh pumpkin, peeled, pulp scooped out, deseeded, and diced into 1" cubes*
1 c. walnuts, crushed
1 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. yellow onion, peeled and diced (about 1/4 large onion)
1/4 c. shallots, peeled and finely minced
1 Tbsp. garlic, peeled and finely minced (about 2 large cloves)
1 large fresh bay leaf
1 c. mushrooms, well-rinsed and thinly sliced (about 3 large or 4-5 medium mushrooms)
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 c. superfino arborio rice, uncooked
1/2 c. quinoa, uncooked
1/4 c. dry white wine
3-4 c. water (or low-sodium, organic vegetable broth)**
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced and densely packed
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh sage leaves, julienned and densely packed
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely minced and densely packed
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, (plus more for garnish), julienned and densely packed
1/2 (heaping) c. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded***
1 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/3 c. Silk coconut milk (or if unavailable, use plain, lite soy milk)

Directions: Bring water to a rolling boil (on high heat) in a large sauce pot, about 8-10 minutes. Then add diced pumpkin and boil until tender (but not mushy), about 15-20 minutes. Drain into a colander, allow to cool for about 10 minutes, and then take 1 c. of the diced pumpkin and transfer to a food processor. Pulse until smooth, then set aside.

While pumpkin is cooking, spread walnuts onto an aluminium foil-covered baking tray and toast in a 350°F preheated oven for 2-3 minutes, or until light golden brown. Let cool and set aside.

In a large (12-13") sauté pan, sauté onion, shallots, garlic, and bay leaf in extra virgin oil on low heat for 2-3 minutes, or until almost soft and translucent but not browned. Stir frequently. Next add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and gently stir to combine. Cook for another minute, then turn up heat to medium and mix in rice and quinoa. Stir continually for about 1-2 minutes, allowing both the quinoa and rice to crisp slightly but not brown. When adequately crispy, a translucent outline will appear around the outside border of both the rice and the quinoa. (This step is particularly important, as it cooks off the rice's starchy coating and prevents the grains from getting sticky and mushy when the liquid ingredients are added.) Watch pan carefully so the rice and quinoa don't brown or burn. Then quickly deglaze with white wine, stirring constantly, until liquid is fully absorbed, about 5 minutes.

Wait until pan only has a thin layer of liquid on the bottom, then use a liquid measuring cup to incorporate water or broth, adding only one cup at a time, stirring constantly. Allow each cup to be absorbed before adding the next. Each addition should be only just enough to cover the risotto. Cook until rice and quinoa are al dente, about 15-20 minutes. With about 5 minutes of cooking time left to go, stir in fresh rosemary and sage. During the final minute of cooking, taste for consistency; if the rice &/or quinoa is still a bit too hard and crunchy, then add more water as needed (i.e., a cup at a time, waiting until each cup has been absorbed before adding the next), and continue to cook until the grains soften a bit more to the desired consistency. Be careful not to overcook; the risotto should be creamy but still firm. Test to see if it's ready by pinching a rice grain; if only 2 or less beads remain, then the rice is done. When ready, remove from heat. Discard bay leaf with a slotted spoon, then add fresh parsley, basil, toasted walnuts, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and stir until just combined. Let cool for a few minutes, then add lemon juice and lite coconut milk (or plain, lite soy milk, if preferred), mixing thoroughly to evenly distribute ingredients. Gently fluff once, then let stand for 10-15 minutes. Divide into equal portions. Garnish each portion with additional basil, if desired. Serve immediately.

Yield: 6-8 servings as a main course, or 10-12 servings as a side dish.

Chef's Notes: Recommended Equipment: I like to use a nice deep sauté pan like the Calphalon One Nonstick 5-Quart Sauté Pan with Glass Lid. This pan works really nicely & is the perfect dimensions for risotto, i.e., nice & deep, but wide enough to accomodate all the ingredients, without them stacking on top of each other. It's particularly important in this dish that the ingredients have enough room to spread out in the pain; otherwise the ingredients will steam versus sauté.

*Instead of tossing out the pumpkin seeds with the pulp, use them for other recipes. Or, simply spread them out onto an aluminium foil-covered baking tray, season them with salt, and then toast them in an oven preheated to 350°F for about 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Watch them carefully so they don't burn, opening the oven and rattling the tray from time to time to loosen the seeds and ensure even cooking.

**You very well might not even need the last cup of water/vegetable broth, as there's already a lot of liquid from the puréed pumpkin, so adjust accordingly.

***To make these recipe vegan, just omit the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or replace with a non-dairy cheese substitute like shredded soy cheese, etc.

A snapshot of the pumpkin risotto before the walnuts were added.

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