Do you ever fear that one day you will run out of creativity? That it will all just dry up in a panic and you'll be left with zero ideas. Sometimes I fear this will happen to me. Then I remember that there are restaurants and inspiration is literally everywhere. I swear one trip to Europe is enough to keep me inspired for years.
The best meal I've had in a long time was vegetable risotto at Farmstead in Napa. You know something is amazing when you can't stop eating the leftovers, cold, five days later. Yeah. So good. The restaurant is as farm to table as you can get. We literally witnessed the chef walk out back to the garden, pick some herbs and return to the kitchen. Everything about this place was lovely. Including, and especially their risotto. Re-creating is has been on my to-do list for a while. And with Valentine's Day less than a week away, I think the timing is just perfect.
After a couple tries it tastes spot on to the risotto I had on that cool afternoon back in October. Warning, risotto can be a bit involved, but in my opinion, it's got a worse reputation that it deserves. And should really only take about 20-25 minutes max of near constant stirring. You see, there are certain kitchen tasks that require near constant attention, like smitten's ethereally smooth hummus that requires you peel each single chickpea and homemade pasta that most normal people would totally roll their eyes at and say "you've got to be kidding me, not worth my time". Well, risotto sort of falls into that category. And you know, I think I've discovered the secret to these types of somewhat monotonous tasks. The answer is turn on a good pandora station, pouring yourself a generous glass of wine (hey, you've already opened the bottle of the risotto anyway!) and allow yourself to settle in and let it be a sensual meditative experience. It also helps if you have a partner, one person to manage the ingredients as they get added to the pot, and one to man the stirring. The result is well worth the wait.
I recently followed a butternut squash farro risotto recipe which was delicious and lovely, but it barely made 3 servings, which was seriously disappointing for the amount of time and effort. I knew I didn't want that so this recipe makes a whopping 6-8 servings, though I'd say closer to 8, and also happens to re-heat beautifully.
It's packed with tons of vegetables, from butternut squash to broccoli to everyone's favorite kale. And despite being a traditionally heavy winter dish, this risotto is surprisingly light and fresh with lemon zest, fresh basil, and tangy pomegranate arils. It almost feels spring-like which is sometimes refreshing in the dead of winter. Something about homemade risotto is just so special, comforting, and perfect for treating yourself or sharing with someone you love.
Farmstead Roasted Vegetable Risotto with Crispy Sweet Potato Chips & Pomegranate Rubies
For the Risotto:
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
6 shallots, sliced
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 small butternut squash
grapeseed oil for drizzling
6-7 cups low sodium vegetable stock
6 ounces baby broccoli, chopped
2 medium zucchini, diced
7 ounces shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 small bunch of kale, de-ribbed & chopped
2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
zest of 1 lemon
1 large pomegranate, de-seeded
1 large bunch of basil, thinly sliced
For the sweet potato chips:
1 large sweet potato
grapeseed oil (or coconut or canola oil)
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the butternut squash and scrap out the center (you can save the seeds for roasting if you'd like), and dice into small cubes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, toss squash with oil, salt and pepper. Cook for 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel the sweet potato and using a thinnest setting of a mandoline, slice into thin strips. Toss with oil, cumin, paprika, and salt. Line a baking sheet with parchment and place sweet potato slivers in a single layer, being mindful they don't touch, and cook at 400 degrees for about 7 minutes, watching carefully as not to let them burn. Note: both of these can be done ahead of time.
Make the risotto. Heat the vegetable stock in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté shallots in butter until soft, about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir. Add wine and continue stirring until the liquid reduces by half. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the warm stock into the rice, stirring until liquid is completely absorbed, then ladle another 1/2 cup of stock and continue to stir almost constantly. Repeat. Once about one quarter of the stock is incorporated, add in the broccoli, when about half the stock is incorporated add in the zucchini, when about three quarters of the stock is incorporated add the mushrooms. Just before risotto is finished stir in the kale. Continue with remaining stock until the risotto is creamy and al dente, I ended up using 6.5 cups total. Add roasted butternut squash, two tablespoons of butter, salt, lemon zest and parmesan and stir until warmed throughout.
Remove from heat, and serve, topping with sweet potato chips, basil, and pomegranate arils.
- I find the water method easiest and and the least messy method for removing pomegranate seeds. Here's a video.
- You can really do this with any vegetables you have on hand. Just add in the vegetables that take the longest to cook soonest.