Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Butternut Squash Risotto

Here in Cleveland, we are still making our way slowly through our bushel of squash, purchased at the very end of October. We were making excellent progress, but after awhile, you just get sick of squash. All the time squash. So we took a squash break. Last week we brought the bags back out from the dark space beneath the cupboard. One thing we found out: acorn squash does not hold up as well as butternut. In the bag farthest back was a shriveled black mound that once was an acorn squash. I threw it and its three other bag companions in the trash. Four squash down by default. The rest, though, are holding their own, including a few acorns. But mostly, it's butternut.

And due to the find of the beyond-saving acorn husk, I got to thinking: perhaps it's time to use up all this squash.

Butternut Squash Risotto
-adapted from Simply Recipes-

What you need:
7 c. veggie broth
5 T butter
1 small onion
2 c. butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 c. long grain brown rice
1 c. diluted apple cider vinegar (1/2-3/4 vinegar and the rest water)
1/3 c. grated Parm
a sprinkle of Italian spices (parsley, rosemary, oregano, basil)

1. For broth, I always turn to my trusty jar of Better Than Bouillon. I particularly enjoy how its ingredients include nothing but a list of vegetables and how its taste reflects that list. I put 7 c. of water in a small saucepan and heated it to boil. Then, I added the necessary amount Better Than Bouillon paste. Voila: Veggie Broth.

2. Keep the broth on low so it stays heated. Melt 4 T of the butter in a large pan. Add onion and squash. Cook over med heat about 5 min.

3. Add rice to the veggies. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add the vinegar. Cook, stirring until it is absorbed in the rice. Add enough broth to just cover the rice. Cook at med heat until broth is absorbed. Add more broth and repeat the process for the next 20 minutes. At this point in the recipe I had, the risotto was supposed to be done. Of course, that recipe called for arborio rice and I had only brown. So it still looked like this:

Thus, at this point, I dumped the remaining broth in the pan and put the lid on it. Brown rice, unlike arborio, takes more like 40 minutes to cook. Sure enough, in another 20, the rice was ready to go.

4. During the last minutes of cooking, remove the lid. When the broth is all absorbed, add remaining T of butter and the grated Parm. Sprinkle Italian spices on the top. The rice should be a creamy consistency. Add salt to taste and serve more grated Parm.

I had never made risotto before and frankly, it was a pain in the butt. However, the taste of the completed dish is worth the effort. Because all that broth is slowly absorbed into the rice, it is extremely flavorful, almost decadent. And it looks quite pretty on a plate.

Pictured here with a dolphin-safe tuna melt on wheat.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One Mile to E at AWP

Now that things have settled a bit from driving to Michigan for the funeral and then, two days later, driving back to Cleveland so we could carpool to DC for the Association for Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference of 2011, it's time to get back to the blog. I took my camera with me, and while site seeing was more or less a bust:

(That's the reflecting pool).

I did remember to take pictures of several of my meals just for you, faithful reader. Pre-carpool, Art and I considered taking a cooler and a rice cooker, perhaps one of those griddles, to cheap out on the food while we AWPed, but going with other people, we didn't want to occupy too much room in the trunk of the car.

The carpool, oddly, ended up being the most excitement of the conference, when, on the way home, the first service plaza on the Ohio turnpike was permanently closed, leaving us with a low-gas light and miles to go before the next gas station. We did not run out of gas, thankfully, but as my office buddy Amanda coasted to a stop beside a gas pump, the car informed us that we were 1 mile away from an empty tank.

On a side note, service plazas leave much to be desired in the food department if you are a vegetarian. I'm not sure what the poor vegans do. The place we stopped for food had cheese pizza, fries, a salad with cheese on it, and coffee.

In DC, however, there were an abundance of vegetarian and vegan options. For example, at the Cleveland State Poetry Center reading in a lovely vegan biker bar called Asylum, I gorged myself on vegan wings, pita with hummus, and vegan mac n cheez. I ate them too fast to take pictures.

While perusing the Mall and all its construction, I even found a hot dog stand that sells veggie pitas. And this was no girlie pita either. It was stacked with 25 layers of spinach, four sliced of cheese, a mound of shredded carrot, all on half of a whole wheat pita the size of my head, served with a packet of Italian dressing. The stand also had hot tea, which was much appreciated. It was a chilly day. It the Midwest, it was the middle of snowpocalypse. In DC, it was a chilly day.

Half pita pictured here with tea and Kate Spade. I don't business trip without her.

We arrived in DC, driving through snowpocalypsed Ohio and Pennsylvania, at 11 p.m. on Wednesday the second of February. Thursday, was vegan wings night. Friday afternoon was the Mall. For friday night, already overwhelmed from our first AWP, Art and I opted for an evening for just us two. We dined at a Mediterranean place across the street from the hotel AWP was anchored in. What's always a nice surprise in a restaurant is when I take a really long time to order because there are several things on the menu I can eat. In such instances, I have to actually decide what I want, rather than settling for the one thing I can eat. I indulged in my only alcoholic beverage the entire weekend, what was called a Georgia Peach Martini. Quite tasty. For my main course, I opted for my first taste of moussaka, a dish of grilled eggplant, layered with zucchini and topped with a tomato sauce. The side listed for my meal was rice, but I switched that out for a taste at the roasted red pepper whipped potatoes, which are as delicious as they sound.

By noon on Saturday, we had already hit the road for the return trip back home, noticing, as we headed through the quaint streets of Maryland, Moby Dick's House of Kabobs to the right. Maybe next time, Meville. Maybe next time.