Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Risotto

Every year, there are a few traditions we stick with: turkey at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, Jambalaya at our party in the spring and now it's pumpkin risotto around Halloween. We started doing this a couple of years ago when I was asked to make a risotto at a friends place for dinner. I know, I know, I said I only eat it a few times a year. But, I consider it a comfort food and eat it usually only when the weather is chilly.

I never knew you could eat pumpkin, the kind you carve up into a jack-o-lantern that is, outside of putting it in a pie. When we decided to use it in a risotto at Halloween, I think we left it too long and too late to buy one. We searched high and low but couldn't find a small pumpkin, so we always had to use a butternut squash. We started looking a little earlier and all we did this year was go to the farmers market instead of the grocery store and there they were. Seek and ye shall find!

Mrs. Urban Eater bought a few different squash members of the pumpkin family: Acorn, Orange Spaghetti, a small normal one (not sure what the name is) and what I believe is called a Sugar Pie. The normal one didn't have a lot of flavour when I made soup out of it, but the health benefits were still there (http://www.suite101.com/content/health-benefits-of-pumpkin-a153140). After we had the soup, the wife took the seeds and baked them. They will be used in salads or just simply to snack on. And don't even think about throwing the pumpkin seeds into the garbage. They are also quite good for you, as mentioned in the link above.


- 1 large finely chopped yellow onion. I actually had to use a Spanish onion this time as it was all I had on hand. 
- 1 clove chopped garlic
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- About 6 cups of hot chicken stock or vegetable stock
- 1 pumpkin, butternut squash or whatever pumpkin you can get your hands on, peeled, cut into small dice. I only cut a certain amount in to small dice to add near the end of the cooking process and the rest I leave a little larger, less work that way.

- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into small pieces. I like to use the unsalted butter if I have it. This way I can control the salt content a little better.
- 1 tablespoon White Truffle Oil


1. Bring stock to a boil. Add the smaller diced pumpkin and boil for about 3 minutes. Pull out when done and put off to the side for later. Add the larger chunks and boil until fairly soft. Throw the stock and pumpkin into a blender to puree or I use an immersion blender to puree it in the pot. If you are using a blender, make sure to put a towel over the lid and start it on low so you don't spray it all over the place. Seriously, hot liquid can do a lot of damage.
2. Put oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until it softens and becomes translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Do not let it brown. Add white wine, stir, and let liquid bubble away. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring occasionally, meaning every 10-15 seconds. Each time stock has just about evaporated or the rice quits falling back into the wake you leave when you pull the spoon through it, add more.
4. After about 15 minutes, add the diced pumpkin while continuing to add stock when necessary. In 5 minutes, begin tasting rice. You want it to be tender but with a bit of crunch (al dente); it could take as long as 30 minutes total to reach this stage. Remove skillet from heat and let sit for a minute, add remaining butter and stir. Add Parmesan and stir again, then taste and adjust seasoning. Drizzle truffle oil over top and stir again. Risotto should be slightly soupy. Serve immediately.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

When you are cooking with an almost flavourless ingredient like pumpkin (this type of pumpkin, not all of them are like this), make sure the stock is a little thicker after the pumpkin has been pureed. You could start with a little less stock when first heating it up and add more later if it is too thick. If it is too thin, the stock will have a lot less flavour. This is also why I added garlic to this risotto, to add a little more flavour. The next time, I will use a Sugar Pie pumpkin. They are supposed to be sweeter and have more flavour.

There are a few little tips I failed to mention on the last blog where I talked about risotto (Risotto 101).

First thing: I add the salt at the end so I never add to much. You have to remember everything gets reduced when you cook risotto. If you add salt at the beginning, you could overdo it because everything is very concentrated at the end of the cooking process. Salt really helps to bring out the flavour of all the ingredients when added just before serving.

Second thing: I let the person who is eating the risotto put pepper on it. I like to serve it with all the colours of the ingredients jumping out, not the black colour of the pepper. The one thing I like about risotto is the colour certain ingredients add to the dish. Feel free to add it before eating though. Pepper is very good for you (http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=74) and always adds a nice background flavour to any dish.

Third and final thing: Always, ALWAYS have everything prepared before you start cooking. If you aren't prepared and have to start cutting things up while you are supposed to be stirring, you stand a chance of letting the risotto burn or cook beyond al dente. A good risotto is the result of patience and your undivided attention.

Little O's Menu

For her breakfasts, she is still eating yogurt, fruit and cereal. We have added canned pears from her Grandmas kitchen which Mrs. Urban Eater helped out with. I just cut them up into small dice and add to the yogurt mixture along with a little cinnamon. We are also giving her diced bananas again as well. She likes these placed in front of her so she can eat on her own or likes them in the yogurt. We made more apple sauce last night as well. She will eat this a lot, but in a different capacity. I think we will use it more as a secondary ingredient now instead of a main, maybe to help thicken certain dishes. She is starting to eat bigger chunks of food now but still likes some of the mushy stuff as she now has two little choppers on her bottom gums to utilize. I would rather see her use them to chew food instead of my shoulder after I pick her up.

Another thing we have started her on his diluted black cherry juice. We figured it was good for us, why not her too. I know she doesn't have gout or anything like this, but a little couldn't hurt. We dilute the juice about 4 to 1 and she drinks it all.

Today I have to head downtown to give Mrs. Urban Eater her Blackberry as she forgot it at home today. This means I may have to stop by our little favorite haunt, The Chick Pea (http://maps.google.ca/maps/place?rls=com.microsoft:en-ca:IE-SearchBox&oe=UTF-8&rlz=1I7SUNC_en&redir_esc=&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=the+chickpea+calgary&fb=1&gl=ca&hq=the+chickpea&hnear=Calgary,+AB&cid=10762400345921496314). This is my version of fast food. Once in a blue moon, I'll slip and go for a burger, but this is way better. I always go with the Beef Donair and the wife goes with the Chicken Shawarma.

The last time I was in, I asked him about his where he gets his meat from. Their donair meat is made by a vendor as he no longer has the time to make it himself anymore. It was too much work, so he farmed it out to a company in Edmonton and they make it with his recipe. Everything else is done in-house.

The size of the wraps are a little big for my appetite, but the flavour is to die for. After you order, it's also quicker than any big franchise can dole out their "stuff" to you. We stand in line for about 5-8 minutes, eat and then leave in under 20 minutes. They have a quick turnover and you can always find a table. I highly suggest if you have a fast food craving, think again about going for a pre-formed burger full of all kinds of things you can't pronounce or a sandwich full of pre-packaged deli meat. Find a place like The Chick Pea, get to know the operators so you can feel them out and see if they are doing the right thing in regards to making everything in-house, and go there for your fix. Your body will be glad you took the high road.

Today's quote:

"I went into a McDonald's yesterday and said, 'I'd like some fries.' The girl at the counter said, 'Would you like some fries with that?' "

- Jay Leno (1950 - )

* I have been having some issues with this site I write this blog on lately. Some funny things have been happening, such as different coloured words or phrases, pictures which won't stay centered, things like this. I am trying to fix this as best I can. My apologies if it bothers you.

Until next time, good eating everyone.


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