Using up the garden: butternut squash, thyme and garlic

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I got two butternut squashes out of my garden this year. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but last year I had a big long vine with lots of flowers and no squash at all, so I was pretty thrilled with these two. Of course, they were ready to pick while my hand was broken, so I couldn’t really do anything with them—they are hard to cut! But, they also last a while, so it was not a problem.

I am feeling a lot better these days, and I have been having some success with chopping when I use my left hand to stabilize the knife and apply some of the cutting pressure. When I was trying to decide what to do with those beautiful butternuts, I was thinking about how much we have been enjoying risotto lately. The kids will eat a lot of things if they are in risotto, and I find it very relaxing to stand there with a glass of wine and stir for 25 minutes or so.

I based my recipe loosely on this one from Food Network, but only as a starting point. I didn’t get a picture, but it was very pretty. I made sure to show the kids the red saffron that would turn our risotto yellow. I love that kind of thing. It’s the chemistry of cooking! (That is why I used to be so obsessed with fudge, back when I wasn’t vegan. I need to find some good vegan fudge recipes. Not that this has anything to do with risotto.)

Saffron Butternut Squash Risotto

1 medium squash (maybe 1 ½ – 2 pounds)

Halve the squash and remove the seeds. Peel the squash and chop into small, bite-size chunks. I put them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, sprayed with a little cooking spray, and tossed with a little bit of Everyday Seasoning, which is a seasoned salt from Trader Joe’s. I put those in a 400 degree oven and got started on the rest.

6 cups veggie broth
4 sprigs fresh thyme, fresh from the garden

I put this in a pot on the back of the stove, and warmed it up, then turned the heat down to low.

1 medium onion, chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP olive oil
1TBSP Earth Balance

Melt the butter and olive oil together in a skillet, then sauté the onion and garlic until translucent. Add:

1 ½ cups Arborio rice

Stir to make sure that the rice is coated with the butter/olive oil mixture. Add:

½ cup dry white wine

Pour a glass of wine for the cook to sip while stirring. You have to open the bottle anyway! Stir the wine into the rice, and continue cooking until the wine is fully absorbed. Add two ladles full of the warmed broth, along with:

1 tsp saffron
Several twists of the Everyday seasoning

Then, it’s all about the stirring. Add more broth as the rice absorbs the broth already in the pan. During this time, make sure to keep an eye on the squash in the oven. When it is roasted to perfection (25 – 30 minutes), remove it from the oven and set aside while you finish the risotto. When about two thirds of the broth was incorporated into the rice, I started adding some baby spinach as well, a handful at a time. I don’t have a measurement on this one, I just kept adding spinach until there was lots of green in the dish. When all of the broth was incorporated, I turned off the heat and added:

¾ cup nutritional yeast

Wow, this made the risotto so creamy and rich tasting! The final step is to add the roasted squash.

Everyone loved this. My mom thought it was fantastic and even the kids ate the spinach without much complaining. I will probably do something different with the other squash from the garden, but we will definitely have this risotto again with store-bought squash.

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