When I get really really tired, meaning eyes are closing, feet are dragging, coffee isn’t working tired, I know my body is lacking a certain nutrient. Iron deficiency is the prime suspect behind my fatigue because I am on the verge of being anemic. On these occasions I find recipes that incorporate foods rich in iron content and within a day or so I begin to feel more peppy, shall we say. This recipe for butternut squash risotto is like a super hero- it’s a come-to-my rescue dish because it’s full of iron (thank you squash, lentils and spinach) and above all else it’s delicious. Risotto is comforting because its rich and creamy, like the mac and cheese of the rice world. Italian Arborio, the rice used to make risotto is a starchy medium-grain rice that looks a little plump (don’t tell them I said that).
Now I know what you are thinking if you have tried peeling and cutting butternut squash before- it is difficult and if you are tired to boot (as mentioned above) then it is uber difficult. Don’t fear- I have helpful tips! I recommend beginning by using a Y-peeler to remove the skin on the squash. It will start “sweating”- the butternut squash, hopefully not you- causing the squash to be really slippery but do your best (I know you can!). Cut the squash so it has a stable end, making it easier for you to make slices, and then dices. Crisis averted.
Many sources say risotto is basically high-maintenance, requiring constant attention. I beg to differ and can leave it absorbing hot stock cups at a time with a quick glance and stir here and there. Just make sure that there is always a teensy weensy bit of liquid left before you add another batch of stock, and the stock is hot because you want to ensure continuous cooking. Cool or room temp stock messes up the process. This recipe takes about 1 hour to fully make, and that is after you have roasted the squash but it’s well worth it for the flavors. It serves about 4, or more if this is a side-dish to say, a roast chicken breast or salmon fillet.
- ¼ cup French green lentils
- 2 cups diced (1/2 inch) peeled butternut squash (about a 1 lb. squash)
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock (this allows you to add salt to your taste later)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 strips bacon, or turkey bacon, minced
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- ½ medium onion, minced
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1 teaspoon dried sage (1 tablespoon chopped if using fresh sage)
- parmesan for serving
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place diced butternut squash in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon oil and several pinches of salt. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once oven is pre-heated, roast squash for about 40 minutes, or until tender. Place lentils in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook the lentils until tender, about 15 minutes; drain and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil and keep it simmering over low heat. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over moderate heat. Add the bacon, garlic and onion and cook until softened (about 3 minutes). Add the rice and stir to coat thoroughly. Make sure the rice is well coated and heated, as this will help to achieve the right texture. Add the wine and simmer until the liquid has almost disappeared, about 4 minutes. Stir in about one-third of the simmering stock and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the stock is almost entirely absorbed by the rice; repeat with the remaining stock. In a perfect world the risotto will be creamy with just-tender rice grains after 20 minutes.
Add the lentils, squash, spinach, and sage. Season with salt and pepper. When serving, top individual portions with parmesan.