pancetta is popular in traditional risottos. Nuts (chopped cashews or almonds, perhaps) could give it a California twist. Nettles in March, maybe? Even a different cheese…
Kabocha Leek Risotto
A Hearty Vegetarian Dish
Total Time: 30 Min Servings: 4
Posted by Patrick
Most of my Italian-American dining experiences didn’t induce much excitement for pizza and pasta’s ricey counterpart, but after crashing at my friend’s place in Tuscany for a couple of months I discovered Italian’s legit obsession with risotto. The natural creaminess of this short-grain rice sneaks up on you as your sweating over a pot of it, stirring madly. And it’s just as versatile as pasta, complimenting all sorts of different veggie combinations. In the colder months, a creamy, orange-y plate of kabocha risotto will seep into even the most hard-to-reach caverns of your belly and leave you feeling sat-is-fied. The truth is, most people in The States haven’t experienced home-made risotto so why not blow them away with a not-outta-the-box Arborio Kabocha union?
1 MEDIUM ORANGE KABOCHA SQUASH 1.5 LBS. | green kabocha is drier and more absorbent whereas the orange is moister and gives more flavor to the rice.
1 BUNDLE OF LEEKS – ROUGHLY 5 STALKS | 1 large cippolini onion if leeks aren’t available. note: the tender tops of the leek stalk act as a garnish in this recipe so if not using leeks, I would garnish with parsley.
1.5 CUPS OF ARBORIO RICE | boxed risotto rice is Arborio and totally fine for this recipe just don’t you dare throw in the seasoning packet – this ain’t no cup o’ noodles.
1 QUART VEGETABLE BROTH | 1 tsp of bouillon dissolved in 1 c of water is roughly equivalent to 1 c of broth, but fresh broth is always a better, less processed, option.
1 TSP SALT | to taste
2 TSP PEPPER | to taste
1.5-CUP HOT WATER
½ CUP DRY WHITE WINE
¼ C EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL | try un-filtered olive oil if you want to splurge
3 TBSP BUTTER | salted/ unsalted, it’s your call.
½ C OF GRATED PARMESAN
1. What’s the occasion?
First ask yourself: do you want to impress and serve your kabocha risotto in a real-life kabocha squash? If you answered yes—seriously it’s like 2 extra little steps—then crank your oven up to 375. Grab a big sharp knife and cut your squash along its equator (make slits with a smaller knife along your cutting line might make the slicing with the big knife a little easier). Scoop out seeds and throw the bottom half of the squash face down on a baking sheet with a thin layer of water into the pre-heated oven and bake for 25-35 minutes or until a fork can easily break through the flesh making sure the squash can retain its structure
While your ½ of kabocha is baking, bring your water and broth to a simmer and leave it on the flame for the duration of the cooking process (this detail is super important because as you mix the broth into the rice you don’t want to be cooling it by chucking on a cold cup of broth every few minutes and slowing the cooking process whilst not allowing the rice to get as creamy as can be).
3. Chop ‘n grate
Turn the other half of your kabocha squash into ¼-inch cubes with that sharp knife of yours. Don’t peel.
Cut the leeks into ¼-inch thick medallions (with onions you’ll want ‘em chunky ¼-inch cubes.) Separate the white/light green medallions from the flat dark green leek tops.
Grate ½-cup Parmesan cheese—larger size pieces will add texture to the dish, while more finely grated cheese will absorb into the rice more uniformly.
Risotto is a stir-intensive recipe. Your arm should get tired, but your first bite should offset the numbness in your biceps and triceps.
And don’t forget to check on that squash in the oven.
5. Stir and stir
To get things started add a ½-cup warm broth and the chopped kabocha squash to a medium sized pot on medium heat and stir. 2 minutes.
Add 1.5-cups Arborio rice and the white/light green leek medallions (about 1/3 of the leek stalk starting from the bottom) and ½-cup of wine and 2tsp pepper and 1tsp salt to pot and stir again. 1 minute. Then throw in another ½-cup hot broth and stir until the liquid is absorbed. About 2 minutes. Keep adding broth in ½-cup to ¾-cup increments; waiting for the previous one to fully absorb before adding the next, and stirring constantly. 17 minutes. Toss the leek tops into the mixture and keep stirring and adding broth like before until creamy and tender, yet al dente. 3-7 minutes.
Thin the risotto out with more broth if necessary (once served it should slide into the edges of the plate as opposed to holding it’s structure like normal rice).
Mix in your 3 tbsp butter, ½-cup Parmesan cheese and ¼-cup extra virgin olive oil.
Garnish with parsley. Grate some extra cheese on top or pour a little extra olive oil on. Serve Immediately. In the squash.
Escarole season is just around the corner, and these bold tasting heads should be popping up in our fields (and market-stands) in the upcoming weeks. Check out a great recipe for this unique green, and get ready for a winter-time treat!