Winter Risotto

As I may have mentioned, I definitely love a good dish with plenty of stuff in it – the big pot dishes. Of such big pot, dishes, I am constantly trying out different variations and today I decided to use the seasonal fall-winter vegetables in a ‘winter risotto’.

So, right -what vegetables to choose? And more importantly, how to put them together in a dish that has its own cohesive taste. I thought of a pea and wild mushroom risotto I had some time back – that felt good. What if I would add on to the sweetness that peas bring, and build on that? Soft, yet not mush pieces of butternut squash would go well in a risotto, I felt. If cooked suitably, butternut squash has a similar, soft, yet tangibly separate creamy texture, just like the arborio rice keeps in a good risotto. What else – I decided on complimenting the butternut squash’s sweetness further with another seasonal beauty: beets. And just because I am all whimsical, could I add more? Might the risotto need something else to ‘bring the edge’ – some turnip, perhaps? (And when I picked some of those up, I could not just resist picking it’s cousin – the rutabaga up. I may have also been influenced by a dish Sarandipitea’s mom made a few days ago – mashed, spiced rutabaga. Yum). I choose green onions to do their thing ) felt this sweet, wintry risotto needed it to make it a more rounded dish!

So here goes: the ingredients I used for a nice big pot, say 6 generous portions:

  • 2 cups, arborio rice
  • 1 pound chopped butternut squash
  • 3 small-medium golden beets (or red)
  • 2 medium turnips
  • 1 medium rutabaga
  • 2/3 lb peas
  • 3/4 cup (after chopping) green onions
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • White wine (I used a dry riesling, mostly because this was going to be a sweeter risotto than usual)
  • Spices: sage, thyme, basil, dill, oregano, freshly ground pepper, salt
  • Freshly ground parmesan cheese to put on top

What did I do?

I prepared the vegetables:

  1. The first thing I did was wash the beets gently, then chop off the greens and most of the stem (till say an inch off the top) off the beets and let them boil in a small pot for about 30-40 minutes.
  2. I washed the turnips, the rutabaga and peeled, diced and sauteed them in olive oil. Bear in mind that turnips and rutabaga basically suck up olive oil! So I made sure the olive oil was spread evenly on my pan and then I stir fried the diced turnip + rutabaga first. I stirred it in quite a bit, ensuring an even coating of olive oil and making sure nothing burns. Eventually, I added some water in the pan (leaving the heat on high) and covered the pan. This helped soften and steam cook them. When done, I put these aside.
  3. I similarly sauteed the butternut squash first in olive oil and then adding water, stirring and covering it – to help soften and cook it through.
  4. In a big pot – the one where I will eventually mix it all up, I sauteed the chopped green onions.
  5. In the same pot, I melted a tablespoon of butter, added 2 cups of arborio rice – coated it with the butter, all while on high heat for a few minutes, stirring continuously to ensure the rice does not burn.
  6. I added 1 cup of wine and 1 cup of water and let it cook on high for a few minutes
  7. By this time, the beets were done boiling. I removed them from the heat, ran cold water over them in a colander. Once cooled, I peeled them (this should be dead easy by now), chopped them into bite sized pieces.
  8. Then I added the cooked turnip, rutabaga, butternut squash, the beets and the peas along with half a cup of water and half a cup of wine. I also added 1.5 teaspoons of salt and the other spices (fresh ground pepper, sage, thyme, oregano, basil, all to taste, better to err on the higher side 🙂 ) and mixed it all up gently so as to not mush the vegetables.
  9. After a little while I lowered the heat, added another half cup water and half cup of wine and let the risotto cook on medium high, then medium, then finally low heat to let the rice cook through. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing’s burning at the bottom of the pot and things are all mixed up nicely!
  10. Serve warm, top with freshly ground parmesan cheese!
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