It snowed yesterday. Seriously? I’m just not ready for this. I haven’t even gotten around to buying a new winter coat, my old one bearing the burden of five New York winters that it’s just not capable of surviving another. But I’m stubborn, avoiding the fact that winter is quickly approaching by unreasonably walking around New York City in a light, fall jacket, while snowflakes clutter the sky and people race by, bundled in down jackets and wool scarves. Not to mention the fact that every store is now adorned in holiday decorations, blinding us with tinsel and plastic evergreens, an obvious sign that winter is coming.
Fine, I will finally accept the fact that it is cold outside and pretty soon I’m going to have to wrap myself in a warm, wool coat to face this city in winter. Even my dog, who has a naturally thick fur coat, won’t step a
foot paw outside unless he’s got a wool buffer to protect him from the sub-freezing temperatures. I swear, I’m not one of those people that willingly dress their dogs up in unnecessary clothing, he’s just a wimp, (as is his human companion) when it comes to the cold.
Though I both fear and dread the winters in New York, I will confess that I’m sort of excited for the first real snow fall, and will openly admit that I can’t wait for a season where it’s perfectly okay to live off of pies and cookies. But the only reason I’m accepting winter coming early this year is because I know with gray skies, cold temperatures and white precipitation, comes motivation to make delicious comfort food to eat curled up under a cozy blanket. A season where it’s totally reasonable to pour that extra glass of wine on a Tuesday night just to keep yourself warm. Maybe winter isn’t so bad after all.
One of my favorite comfort food recipes is risotto – it’s warm, inviting ingredients satisfy all the comfort food cravings, but it can be made into a relatively healthy meal if you go easy on the cheese and add nutritious ingredients like butternut squash. (Alright, I realize there’s quite a bit of cheese here, but remember I’m comforting myself!)
Risotto may seem intimidating to some, but it’s actually quite easy to make. The key here is, stir, stir, stir! Sometimes I’ll blast music and stir along with the beat to keep myself motivated. You can also grab a partner/friend/significant other and take turns on stirring if that helps, but just make sure that once you start, you don’t stop (until it’s done of course). The result will be a creamy, al dente risotto that will warm you up you might even forget how cold it is outside. Go ahead, pour yourself that extra glass of wine no matter what night of the week it is, you totally deserve it.
Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and ThymeServes 4 Note: I used vegetable stock to make this dish vegetarian, but if you prefer, sub in chicken stock (preferably home made!) for the vegetable stock. The general rule of thumb for cooking with wine is cook with wine you would drink. The flavor of the wine will be present in the food, so if you cook with something you don’t like, the recipe may turn out with a similar taste. So cook with what you like, and even better have a glass while you’re cooking.
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1 medium size butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 4-5 cups vegetable broth (or chicken stock if you prefer)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (see note)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, roughly chopped
- 2/3 cups Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the skin of the butternut squash and cut in half. Remove the seeds and cut the squash into 1 inch cubes.
Place the squash on a baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until just tender, but not mushy. Set aside.
While the squash is cooking, heat up the vegetable broth to almost a boil in a medium saucepan.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the remaining olive oil. Once the olive oil is hot, add the onions and sprinkle with salt, and cook until the onions are translucent. About 7-10 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the butter and once it’s melted, add the rice and chopped herbs. Stir the rice and let it toast for 3-4 minutes.
Pour the wine and let cook until the rice has absorbed all the moisture, stirring constantly. When the wine has been absorbed, add the broth or stock, 1 cup at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before each addition. Make sure to keep stirring, your arm will get a workout here! Continue this process until all of the broth has been added and the rice is cooked to al dente, about 20-30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the squash and grated cheese and additional salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the squash is heated and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately, topped with grated cheese and a sprig of sage and thyme.