Monday, November 19, 2012

Acorn Squash and Kale Risotto

I have this friend, let’s call her Peg, who doesn’t really “do” vegetables. She doesn’t buy them, rarely eats them, and certainly doesn’t cook them. She actually doesn’t really cook anything, save for microwaving the occasional Lean Cuisine Meal.

You’d think that being the complete opposite of her, I’d be less than enthused to interact with Peg, but in fact, that is not at all the case. I feel the need to take care of her, to make sure she’s getting some kind of sustenance besides blueberry bagels smothered in cream cheese. The girl loves carbs.

At least once a week, Peg picks me up and we go to the grocery store (because her fridge contains only Diet Coke and cheese cubes) so I can make dinner. While she stocks up on bagels and freezer meals, I gather up fresh produce, eggs, butter, and whatever else I’ll need to make dinner and dessert.

Back at her apartment, I start puttering around in the kitchen while she does homework at the dining room table. I know trying to get her to eat a salad or steamed cauliflower is not going to happen, so I have to get sneaky with vegetables. She informs me her mother used to try and stick vegetables in pasta and Peg, stubborn even at age 4, would spit them out on the floor and only eat the noodles. This friendship is preparing me for motherhood.

Risotto, then, is an obvious choice for dinner because it will please the Carbohydrate Queen. Acorn Squash and Kale Risotto is an even better choice because it gets her to eat (and enjoy!) vegetables. And she can’t spit them out when they’re mixed up in this creamy, delicious dish.

Though risotto may seem like a difficult, time intensive dish, it is really incredibly simple. The only thing that is really required is the occasional stir to make sure the liquid is absorbing into the rice properly. Roast the squash while the risotto cooks and dinner can be on the table in under an hour.

Acorn Squash and Kale Risotto (makes 2 dinner sized portions or 4 – 6 side dish servings)

6 – 8 cups chicken stock

1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil

½ medium white onion, chopped

2 cups Arborio rice

1 small acorn squash

2 cups kale, chopped with stems and tough ribs removed

salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Put the chicken stock in a medium saucepan and put over medium-low heat. We want the stock warmed through when it is added to the rice.

Heat a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil. Add onion and cook until tender and translucent, about 5 – 6 minutes.

While the onion cooks, prepare the acorn squash and get it in the preheated oven. For a step-by-step instructional on roasting a squash, go here.

Add rice to onions and stir to coat with the oil. Toast for a minute or two. Add ½ - ¾ cup of warmed stock to the rice and stir. Cook until the stock is almost completely absorbed before adding another ½ - ¾ cup (I usually just ladle one scoop of stock at a time). Continue the process of scooping, stirring, and absorbing until the rice is tender, creamy, and cooked through (about 45 minutes). When the rice begins to break down and take a long time absorbing the liquid, no longer add stock and lower heat to low.

Add a good handful of salt to the pot of boiling water and toss in the kale. Cook for 2 minutes, or until kale is a vibrant shade of green. Drain kale and set aside.

When the squash has finished roasting, remove from oven and allow to rest until cool enough to handle. Scoop out the flesh of the squash and mash it slightly in a large serving bowl.

Pour rice over the squash and add reserved kale. Stir until combined. Serve immediately.

If Peg had seconds this is obviously delicious.

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