Butternut Squash Risotto, with Bacon + Sage

A couple of Sundays ago the kids and I ran by Erin’s house to do a farmer’s market smoked salmon drop off. She ran out to the car and gave us a taste test of this delicious risotto. I had fully intended to eat the whole sample, but it was quickly confiscated by Jonah. He ate the whole cup. In seconds.

This is such an amazing seasonal dish. It has so much flavor and tons of depth to it. The fried sage, the bacon, the wintry butternut squash taste, and the cheesy risotto all meld together perfectly. I have always been intimidated by risotto, believing it to be too time-consuming for me to be able to tackle on a weeknight. I was pleasantly surprised by how non-challenging it was. It can also be done in steps ahead of time, too. For example, I do not peel and dice raw squash. It’s too much work and it does strange things to my fingers (does anyone else have this problem?!), so if a recipe calls for any kind of winter squash, I always roast it beforehand (I slice in half, remove the seeds and strings, drizzle it in olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper and place it cut side down in a parchment lined baking dish for 45 minutes or so in a 375 degree oven).  Also, the bacon and the sage can be cooked ahead of time (in my case, during the kid’s naps). So, go get your ingredients and make this for dinner. You won’t regret it. Husband and children approved!

INGREDIENTS:
  • 4 1/2 cups organic chicken broth; more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 large fresh sage leaves
  • 8 slices organic bacon, diced (We get ours at Skagit River Ranch)
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 2 cups (1/4-inch-diced) fresh butternut squash (mine was leftover and worked perfectly)
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (or a short grain brown rice, for the whole grain version)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Splash of white wine
 METHOD:
1. Put the chicken broth in a saucepan over low heat on a back-burner just to keep warm, this will be added to the rice when you’re ready for it.
2. In another medium to large saucepan, add your olive oil over medium heat and add the fresh sage leaves. Cook for about a minute and then flip each leaf over, be careful to not let them burn. Place them on a paper towel once they are done to save for later. While sage is cooking, fry your bacon – place bacon along with the sage on the paper towel for later.
 3. In the same saucepan you fried the sage, add some leftover bacon grease and saute the shallots for a couple of minutes. Add the squash and the rice to this pan and ladle in enough of the broth you’ve been warming to just cover the rice. The rice will absorb this broth and you will keep topping it off, while stirring continuously until the rice is soft, about 25 minutes. You may use all of your broth, feel free to add more. As far as heat goes, you don’t want the broth to ever be rapidly boiling, but more like softly bubbling.
4. Once your rice is nice and soft (I did lots of taste tests… once it felt right to me, I called it done), stir in your crumbled bacon, your crumbled sage leaves (set aside some bacon crumbles and your prettiest sage leaves for garnish), and your cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Serve nice and hot. Top your bowl off with some of the remaining crumbled bacon and pretty sage leaves.
6. Go eat! Don’t forget to let us know how you liked it!

 

*Use organic indredients whenever possible.
**Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.
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Winter Squash Soup

The winter squash at the farmer’s market have been luring me to their tables. I love their colors, their shapes, and end up bringing them home. This time I had a specific plan for them, sometimes I don’t. One butternut squash and one acorn squash. You could probably use any variety for this soup and it would still be amazing. My husband is not a picky eater. He very rarely says he does not like a certain food. But he does not like butternut squash soup. He says it’s too sweet, he can’t eat more than a cup of it – so I avoid making it. But this recipe gave me hope! Maybe it was the cumin, or the abundance of fresh sage and thyme (which I added way more than the recipe called for, by the way, because they just smelled so dang good) – I decided to make it. He came home from work and said, “The house smells great, what are you making?” I told him. He groaned. Like I was talking to my children, I said, “Just try it! You might like this one.” He tried it. And guess what? He enjoyed it! I hope you will, too.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 butternut squash, roasted and peeled
  • 1 acorn squash, roasted and peeled
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (I probably tripled this and the sage!)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
METHOD:
1. Roast both of the squashes on an oiled, parchment-lined cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven, until squash is soft and tender, about 30 minutes.
2. While squash is roasting, in a stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir often to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
3. Once onions and garlic are softened, add in the chicken broth, and the peeled and roasted squash and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat to low, add in the fresh thyme and sage, the cumin, ginger, salt and pepper. Simmer until squash is very tender, at least 20 minutes.  I let my soup simmer most of the afternoon just to meld all the ingredients together.
5. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender/food processor, or use an immersion blender. Return the soup to the same pot. Stir in the cream and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
Note:  This soup, like most, can be made a day ahead. Refrigerate and rewarm over medium heat. It would also be a great soup to freeze in batches to save for a rainy day. Literally.

 

*Use organic ingredients whenever possible.
**Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.