I hope everyone is enjoying the beginning of October! The temperature is starting to drop, which makes me worry a little for my seedlings in the garden, but also makes me so happy because Autumn is my favorite season! I love the ability to layer clothes and dress in comfy sweaters. I love all those fall flavors and dishes: pumpkin and squash, apples, pears, brussels sprouts, spices, thick stews and gravies, and all of those stick-to-your-ribs and warm-your-bones types of food. I love that everything gets a little more cozy. Summer is for going everywhere, traveling, eating at restaurants, on patios, going out with friends, and all that. I think that Fall finds us at home more, but also in homes more, whether we are visiting friends or having them over at our place. And since I love feeding people and love staying home, this makes this season pretty ideal.
At the top of my cozy, crave-able dinners list is risotto. It’s always my back-up, since the base can be made with pantry staples, so it is great for days when I didn’t plan dinner or when my other plans are foiled for one reason or another. Then I can dig out some arborio rice, some broth, an onion, and a bit of cheese for a risotto base that can be doctored up in endless ways! Risotto also has the same sort of creamy, starchy goodness as say…macaroni and cheese, but it doesn’t leave me feeling quite as weighed down after eating it. Plus, I am pretty particular about my mac and cheese, so–even with the required stirring–risotto is way easier for me to get on the plate. And, as an added bonus: leftover risotto is perfect for making arancini! This is another favorite that I will have to post soon, but the leftover risotto is wrapped around cheese, then breaded and fried or baked to crispy, cheesy, dip-able perfection! Easily one of the best leftover dishes, ever.
This risotto, as I mentioned, comes from the same base as I’ve posted before. I’ve come a long way from my first frightened attempt at risotto. I am nearly on auto-pilot nowadays. When I got shiitake mushrooms in our Hungry Harvest Box (still totally in love, BTW), I knew I wanted to make them into a risotto. Since M isn’t too keen on mushrooms, he is usually a good sport when I ‘hide’ them in our dishes. But I wanted these to be the star of the dish. Luckily, he goes off with friends one night a week, which is quickly becoming my time to indulge in all dishes mushroom and/or shrimp. So this risotto was thrown together on a Tuesday, after my late shift at work. After 30 minutes stirring at a toasty stove, I had my reward! I decided to throw in these tomatoes at the last minute, when I realized that they needed to be used up, and I’m so glad that I did. The mild acidity of the roasted tomatoes is the perfect compliment to the creamy risotto. While it may not be much to look at, it was delicious! Enjoy!
Mushroom Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 30-40 minutes
- 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
- 3 small-medium shallots
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 c. arborio rice
- 1/4 c. white wine*
- 4 c. broth (chicken, beef, veggie)
- 8 oz mixed mushrooms**
- 8 fresh sage leaves
- 1 stalk fresh rosemary
- 10-12 stems of thyme
- 1/4 c. heavy cream or half & half
- 1/4 c. parmesan, grated
- 1 pint small tomatoes (cherry, grape, cabernet, etc)
*If you want to avoid alcohol entirely, you can replace the wine with an equal amount of broth + a splash of vinegar.
**I used equal parts button and shiitake mushrooms.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss the pint of tomatoes with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, until well coated. Pour the tomatoes onto the baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes. Once the time is up (sometime during your span of cooking the risotto), turn off the oven and leave the tomatoes inside to stay warm.
Set a pot on the stovetop over medium heat. Fill with the broth and add 2 sage leaves, a few stems of thyme, and one crushed garlic clove. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down low.
Prep the veggies: Finely dice the shallots. Mince the remaining garlic cloves. Dice the mushrooms.
In a large pan, over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and then add the chopped shallots. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the shallots are softened. Add the arborio rice and stir to coat in the butter. Cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the rice turns opaque and smells a little toasted. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, for one more minute. Add the white wine and continue stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the mushrooms. Add a ladle-full of hot broth and continue stirring. Just keep on stirring to release the starch of the rice, which makes risotto super creamy. The liquid will begin to be absorbed until when you pull your spoon across the pan, there will be a second or two where you can see the trail of the spoon before the rice mixture begins to pool back together. Then it is time to add another ladle of broth and stir some more. Always keep stirring and adding a ladle of broth once the previous is absorbed. When you are down to just one more ladle of broth, chop up and add the herbs. When all of the broth has been added to the pan and absorbed by the rice mixture, add the cream, parmesan, and the final tablespoon of butter. Stir until the cream is absorbed.
Top with the roasted tomatoes and serve immediately.
We had the first glimmers of autumn here in the past few day: a gentle crispness in the mornings when we take Punc out for her walk and cool breezes throughout the days. I, of course, pounced on this brief respite from the heat and took my cue to start thinking of all of the stereotypical fall plans. Pumpkin-everything, baking apples nine different ways, sweaters, and cool days and long, darkening evenings. Yes, I harbor a deep love for fall, for all of the stereotypical reasons. As mentioned, with my primary job working with children, our schedule revolves around theirs. We can segment the year into Fall, Spring, and Summer. Naturally, the oncoming of September each year has developed into a transition-type period in my life, and the hints of a season change only strengthens that feeling. After a long, hot summer, I am longing for the blustery, cool weather. This year especially, I find myself earnestly awaiting the season’s shift. Fall feels fresh; encouraging cozy clothes and the promise of fires in the hearth. As much as I have dreamy musings of wanderlust (long walks, new places, all colored with autumn leaves); I find myself craving stillness even more. I want stretches of quiet, allowing for reflection and reading. I want a quilt, a cup of tea, and a new book to keep me company as the day creeps from afternoon to night. I fully plan on getting what I want–I’m drafting up quite a list of books waiting to be read, and I’m compiling simple or long-and-slow cooked recipes for dinner, to simplify my evenings after work. Less stress, more rest–that is my plan for the coming few months.
I have been putting more effort into socializing as well. Living with my significant other and a roommate fulfills my basic need for conversation and camaraderie, but I do miss spending time with other girls, and the friends that have been close to me for years. It is so easy to get stuck in the rut of a daily routine: See roommates at home, see coworkers at work, come home, dinner, tv, bed, repeat. With my strange arts schedule keeping me working on weekends, meeting up with people with more “routine” schedules is all the more challenging. I am trying harder to keep connections as more friends are getting engaged, getting married, having babies, and moving across the country. Everyone is busy, but the initiative to see one another has to start somewhere. I am putting more effort into taking that initiative. (Plus, then I have an excuse to go to brunch/coffee/dinner–why didn’t I start reaching out earlier?)
I also feel like I haven’t really been listening lately. Not in a “can you repeat that” sense, but I have noticed myself interrupting more, and pushing to express my opinion. I am giving the people around me only half of my attention as I think about my own response–before they are even finished speaking. So there is another goal for this season: give all of my attention and listen fully to another’s story, anecdote, complaint, idea, sentence until it is complete.
This recipe for butternut squash gnocchi fits with all of my goals and with my seasonal obsessions: squash is one of my quintessential ‘fall flavors’ and these gnocchi make a filling, comforting dish. Plus, the preparation of the dough is a simple, meditative task that, while somewhat time consuming, allows for mindless relaxation or a long conversation with whomever you can lure into the kitchen. I’ll pour M a drink and force him to sit with me!
Gluten-Free Butternut Squash Gnocchi
Adapted from: Iowa Girl Eats
Serves: 6|Prep time: 60-90 minutes|Cook time: 5-10 minutes
- 2-2.5 lb butternut squash
- 1 c. brown rice flour (or white rice flour)*
- 3 Tbsp. buckwheat flour (or millet, oat, teff, or a heaping measure of quinoa flour)*
- 1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp tapioca starch*
- Up to 1/2 c. additional flour (2 Tbsp. tapioca starch + 6 Tbsp. brown rice flour or more of the mix)
- Additional flour for coating the rolling surface
- 1 egg
- 1/4 c. parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper, ground
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp sage, ground, optional
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional
*Or use 1 1/2 c. total of your preferred GF flour mix–a low starch mix is preferred–my combo here is around 20% starch.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line baking sheet with foil and coat lightly with oil. Pierce the squash several times with the tines of a fork or the point of a sharp knife. Split the squash in half. Remove the seeds and discard, or save for roasting. Roast the squash, cut side down, for one hour. Remove the squash from oven, let cool for 10 minutes, then scoop out the flesh. Mash well, then spread on a plate or cookie sheet to cool completely.
In a large bowl, mix the cooled, mashed squash with the egg and parmesan cheese. Whisk together all spices and flours in a small bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour mix to the wet mixture, stir and knead until a smooth, uniform dough forms. If too wet, add up to 1/4 c. additional flour, in small increments, kneading in between, until dough is smooth and slightly tacky to the touch. The dough should pull away from the bowl. Refrigerate dough for 10-15 minutes.
Flour your work surface and your hands well. Split cooled dough into large segments. Take each segment and roll into a long rope on a well-floured surface. The rope should be 1/2 inch- 1 inch in diameter. Cut rope into 1-inch segments, coat lightly in flour. You can either leave the segments unshaped and rustic, or roll them into the traditional gnocchi shape over a fork or gnocchi paddle.
To Serve Immediately: Boil a pot of salted water on the stove. Drop the gnocchi in one-by-one in small batches, stirring once after 30 seconds to prevent from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until gnocchi floats at the surface. Ladle out the pasta, into a saucepan with 1 Tbsp of butter+1/8 tsp. ground sage (per serving of gnocchi). Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring gently, until gnocchi is lightly browned. Serve with grated parmesan or crumbled goat’s cheese, or feta and balsamic vinegar. I’ve also made it with sliced sausage, onions, and wilted greens as ‘add-ins’ that can be added to the gnocchi in the saucepan. This gnocchi would be delicious with a variety of sauces.
To Freeze and Cook Later: Before placing kneaded dough in fridge, knead in an addition 2-4 Tbsp of flour mixture*. Place in fridge for 10-15 minutes. Flour your work surface and your hands well. Split cooled dough into large segments. Take each segment and roll into a long rope on a well-floured surface. The rope should be 1/2 inch- 1 inch in diameter. Cut rope into 1-inch segments, coat lightly in flour. You can either leave the segments unshaped and rustic, or roll them into the traditional gnocchi shape over a fork or gnocchi paddle. Place formed gnocchi on a cookie sheet and freeze flat overnight. In the morning, transfer to a freezer-proof bag. Cook from frozen–do not thaw.