Butternut Vegetable Risotto (and other news)
I don’t really have a kitchen right now.
Really, I mean that I have a kitchen but I don’t have a kitchen. It’s a half-finished kitchen with plywood counter tops, a retro Westinghouse stove and oven that tends to burn everything thus far, and boxes full of my spices, pantry items, pots, pans, tupperware–you name it. BUT I am so not complaining. Mostly because I now live somewhere with heat. And water. Running, clean water. And rent I can afford. I’m back in the city, away from the cabin, and loving life more than I thought I could!
This morning I read Ricki’s post about her battle with ACD, “Living with Candida, Twenty-Two Months Later.” In it, she quotes Nietzsche via Irvin Yalom: “When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.” Wow. I really can’t explain how much that quotation means to me right now–in terms of understanding my life since last May or so.
I didn’t give a 2010 recap–that, honestly, would have been too painful for me. 2010 was a tough, tough year. I made some horrible decisions in my personal life, turned down the University of Mississippi’s offer for a TAship in their creative writing MFA, started working for Big Pine as a chef, moved to the cabin, and, through it all, lost integral pieces of myself. I lost myself in 2010. Now, granted, good things happened too, especially Canada and realizing that G was in front of my face all along (I’ve known him since I moved to Roanoke), I met amazing friends, I’ve grown as a chef and a writer–there are a lot of positives. But I’ve reverted to bad habits because I’m tired, because I’m stretched too thin. After my monumental triathlon back in May, when I was in the best shape of my life, I began cheffing, working 10 hour days and eating whatever scraps I could find. I stopped exercising because I didn’t have the time anymore. I miss swimming. I miss cycling. I even miss running, which is rather oxymoronic. I miss cooking for myself. Boiling water for noodles is **not** cooking in my book. I miss loving food.
So where do I go with this, now that I know the losses? I’m not sure. I’ve removed myself from the cabin, which was one of the biggest stresses in my life, but this month I’m teaching a semesters worth of a class in one month on top of working on top of working on my thesis. Somehow I have to have my thesis done in April. What?! How?! No clue. I still have my job. I still have graduate school. I still have this teaching appointment this month. 2011–can we work on this, please? I’ve got an uphill battle to find my fitness, health, and joy, but I’m determined to make it work this year.
Personal quandaries aside, I *was* able to cook something at G’s last week, which I’ve subsequently been eating all week: Butternut Vegetable Risotto. It’s creamy, it’s hearty, it can be eaten in a bowl or fried in patties. And I can eat it for any meal of the day! With a schedule like mine, you’ve got to like it. While risottos are often associated with cream and cheese, the beauty of this one is that the roasted butternut squash puree does all the work. It adds such depth to the dish. And you can throw in whatever veggies you like. I picked up some organic baby portobello mushrooms on sale at the store, so I used those with onions, garlic, and spinach for some greenness. And then, this morning, for breakfast, I finished off the last of it by cooking up the last of my Trader Joe’s soyrizo and some local green kale. Super filling and super satisfying. Let’s hear it for easy, one pot dishes!
Butternut Vegetable Risotto
1 small butternut squash
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb arborio rice
32 oz vegetable broth
1/2-1 c white wine
4 c spinach
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peel the butternut squash and chop of the stem. Cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Rub 1 tbsp olive oil onto top and bottom of halves, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 30-45 minutes, until soft when poked.
While the squash is baking, in a large saute pan, warm 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, cook 1 more minute until fragrant. Add mushrooms and cook 5 minutes, until they begin to release water and become soft. Add herbs and salt and pepper to taste, mix to cover onion-mushroom mixture.
Add the arborio rice and cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring to combine everything. Add 1 c vegetable broth, stir. Continuing to stir the mixture every minute or so, when the broth is absorbed by the rice, add 1/4 c more broth. Repeat, stirring the rice until all broth is absorbed and the rice is almost all the way cooked. At this point, switch from broth to white wine, adding the wine in small amounts until the rice is fully cooked. The key is stir constantly. This process takes approx. 1 hour. (By the end of the cooking process, the rice will be thick, heavy, and creamy. It takes some muscle, but it’s worth it!)
When the butternut squash is roasted, puree in a food processor or mash with a fork. When the rice is fully cooked, add the butternut squash puree and the spinach. Cook and stir constantly for 5 more minutes, until the spinach is wilted.
Remove from heat and serve!
Makes 8 servings