Monday, February 7, 2011

Meatless Monday: Butternut Squash Risotto

Day 211

I have to admit that I was turned off from Rachael Ray for a long time after watching her earlier episodes of "30 Minute Meals." As she's gotten more well-known and used to the format, she's lost some of the shtick and I can actually pick up a lot of great tips and recipes from her without wanting to gag from cheesiness. And lately I've noticed she's been featuring a ton of vegetarian options, which I love.

According to Punxutawney Phil, spring is right around the corner and after a long winter of hibernating inside (and what a winter it's been here in New England!), it's time to get back to eating more healthy meals. Now, it does seem like in our house (probably much to Hubby's dismay) we eat more meatless meals than not. In fact, this dish has become a favorite any night of the week.

I was a little scared to make my first risotto. I don't know why. I guess it's because I've heard others talk about how hard it is to get the right consistency throughout the dish. Following this recipe, though, was a piece of cake. It's rich and creamy, warm and hearty, all the things you crave in a risotto.

Now that I'm cooking more often, I don't feel guilty about spending a little more money on fresh ingredients because I'm sure to use them up (they used to all go to waste!). In this dish, especially, the fresh ingredients add so many layers of great flavor. I love the nuttiness from the nutmeg balanced with the saltiness of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the earthiness of the sage. I'll even grate a little extra parm to sprinkle over the top. Anything to help prevent Hubby from whipping out his ol' standby green can of stinky cheese from the fridge.

Technically, the recipe calls for chicken stock, but I've been using veggie stock to make it a truly vegetarian meal and the flavor is still incredible. The other tip Rachael Ray offered was substituting the squash for a can of pure pumpkin. Haven't tried that yet, but will mostly likely give it a go soon. And now that I'm confident in developing the starches for a creamy dish sans cream, I'll probably start experimenting with this base by adding different vegetables and coming up with my own signature risotto.

My Grade: A
Hubby's Grade: A