Friday, February 22, 2008

Butternut Risotto

This recipe for risotto with butternut squash and sage is one of my favourite butternut squash recipes as well as one of my favourite risotto recipes. I adapted it from The One-dish Vegetarian and have been cooking it for years.

I'd like to say the recipe is easy, but like any risotto it's quite time consuming and demands a lot of attention. The creaminess in a risotto is created by slowly adding the liquid to the arborio rice over its cooking period and stirring the rice almost constantly. It's a labour intense process but well worth the effort.

For a whole grain version of this recipe, Lundberg short grain brown rice seems to work quite well in place of the arborio rice, although the result is somewhat less creamy and the overall cooking time is considerably longer.

Risotto With Butternut Squash and Sage
Lacto withVegan Option
Serves 4

1 medium butternut squash (1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
18 sage leaves, 12 whole, 6 shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
7 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, vegan margarine, or oil divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine or cider
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash into chunks and scrape out seeds and strings. Peel with a paring knife or vegetable peeler and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Toss squash cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and place in a baking pan with 12 whole sage leaves and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally with a spatula, until the squash is tender and starting to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and let cool, discarding any sage leaves that are burned.

While squash is roasting: In a saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Keep it barely simmering on medium-low heat while you make the risotto.

In a heavy 4-quart casserole or pot, heat 2 tablespoons butter/margarine and the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and the shredded sage and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add the rice and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes to coat rice with oil.

When grains become slightly translucent, add the wine/cider and cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed. Add 1 cup hot broth, stirring frequently until the liquid is almost absorbed, then continue adding broth, a little over 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until is almost completely absorbed. Adjust the heat so the risotto is always at a gentle simmer.

After 15 minutes, stir in the roasted squash and continue adding the broth and stirring for another 3 to 5 minutes, until the rice is still firm to the bite but creamy. Stir in the final 1/4 cup remaining broth and turn off the heat.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter or margarine and the Parmesan (optional) and stir to combine. Serve as soon as possible, with additional Parmesan at the table.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Low Fat Buckwheat Pancakes

These delicious pancakes are wheat and gluten free for those with food intolerances. I am not sure where I found this recipe but have been making them for years. Try making extras and keeping them wrapped in the refrigerator or freezer. Pop them in the toaster when you want a quick breakfast without the muss and fuss.

Low-Fat Buckwheat Pancakes

1 large ripe banana
4 egg whites or 2 whole organic eggs
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk, soy or rice milk
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup blueberries, optional
1/4 tsp sea salt, optional
1 Tbsp carob powder, optional
1 Tbsp dried coconut, optional

With a fork, mash the banana lightly. Add the eggs, flour, baking powder, milk, cinnamon and vanilla. Fold in the blueberries. Cook pancakes in a lightly oiled pan. Turn when edges become brown and the pancake is pock-marked. Serve with extra banana, blueberries, a light drizzle of maple syrup. Makes 4.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Garlicky Black Bean Soup

I don’t remember where I found this great soup recipe but surely somewhere on the internet. Quick and hearty, this a simple fix on a cold day. The original suggested garnishing each bowl with both cheddar cheese and sour cream but I omit both and find it very satisfying anyway. Feel free to go for it if you like.

Black Bean Soup

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 medium carrot, diced
5 cloves of garlic, crushed and divided in two portions
1 tsp cumin
black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp salt
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds scraped and set aside, flesh scraped of pith and diced
1 can black beans with liquid or two cups with ½ cup cooking liquid
3/4 cup orange juice
2 Italian tomatoes, diced

optional toppings:

grated cheddar cheese
red or green onion, diced, fine
chopped cilantro
sour cream

In a medium saucepan, sauté the onion, carrot and half the garlic in the olive oil over low heat until very tender; about 5-10 minutes. Add the diced jalapeño pepper and seeds with the rest of the garlic, cumin, pepper and salt and sauté another 2 minutes. Add the cooked beans and mix thoroughly.

Add in the orange juice and tomatoes. Pureé some or all of the soup in a food processor then return to the pot.

If you prefer a thinner soup, add a cup of water. Simmer over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes. Ladle into bowls, add selected toppings and serve.