There are a few moments in a relationship that we mark as significant. There’s the first kiss, the first “I love you,” and the first (gulp) meeting of the parents. But those hardly compare to the first meal one cooks for the other. Something so simple, yet it means so much. It’s more personal than other gifts, comes with a glass of wine and is just so … romantic. So, you can imagine my delight when a friend of mine called, asking for a cooking lesson. He stated that he was looking to impress a lady friend, but was not sure what, or how to make dinner. A simple, seasonal risotto came to mind, an Italian dish of creamy rice that is impossible not to love.
Just make sure your date is someone you really like, because this stuff is impressive.
Butternut Squash Risotto
One half butternut squash, peeled and cubed into bite sized pieces
5 cups of vegetable broth, or water
One small onion, diced
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
One half bunch fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
To begin, combine your squash and vegetable broth or water in pot, and bring to a simmer. Cook the squash in the liquid until tender. Remove the squash pieces, and set aside. Move your cooking liquid to a back burner and turn to low. This liquid will be what you use to cook your rice.
In a wide and shallow sauce pan, combine your olive oil and butter, and let melt. Add your diced onion, and sweat over medium low heat for eight to ten minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add your rice kernels, and stir to coat with the onion and oil mixture. Let the rice toast, stirring often, until the outer edges of the kernels start to go clear and the rice becomes fragrant, about five minutes.
Add your wine and stir the rice until all the wine has evaporated. Working with a medium ladle, add your reserved squash stock a little at a time, stirring all the while. Make sure the previous ladle has been fully absorbed before you add the next.
Over the next fifteen minutes, you will start to see a lot of change. The rice will swell, and will start to take on a creamy, almost melted cheese-like appearance. This is just what you want.
Once the rice has swelled up, and you’re almost through all your liquid, taste the risotto. It may need a few more ladles of liquid to be fully cooked. Once you have cooked your rice through, fold your reserved squash back into the rice and heat through. Next, add your cheese and chopped herbs. Taste again, and adjust seasoning with salt. It’s important not too add too much salt in the beginning, as your cheese will do most of the seasoning for you.
Serve immediately, and enjoy!