Question : I have an abundance of fresh vegetables from my garden and wonder if you have any ideas for how to use some of my fresh produce?
Answer : Harvest time is a gift as we live in abundance here in Northern California. As the harvest comes in, I started to think about unique ways to use our summer vegetables. One of the first things that came to mind for me was risotto. It is made with Arborio, which is a short-grain and high-starch rice.
I always think of risotto as a perfect venue to feature fresh produce or leftovers. It is often made with a saffron infused stock and wine. The trick with Arborio is to toast the rice and also use hot liquid. As the rice is toasted, the starch swells and is able to absorb the liquid quicker. Using hot liquid or stock is also important and allows the rice a quicker absorption.
I am enclosing a recipe for you to try. The beauty of this dish is you can add what you have on hand or dress it up for an elegant meal.
Pumpkin and Sage Risotto|
• 1 small (1 3/4 pounds) pumpkin , peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 6 cups chicken broth as needed
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/3 cup chopped shallots
• 1 clove garlic , finely chopped
• 2 cups Arborio rice
• 1 cup dry white wine , such as Pinot Grigio
• 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese , plus more for serving
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
Position a rack in the top third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Spread the pumpkin on a baking sheet and toss with one tablespoon of the oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake until tender, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Turn off the heat but leave the saucepan on the stove.
Melt the butter and the remaining tablespoon of oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or flameproof casserole. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until softened, about two minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring often, until it turns from translucent to opaque (do not brown), about two minutes. Add the wine and cook until almost evaporated, about two minutes.
Stir the hot broth into the rice one cup at a time. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the rice absorbs almost all of the broth, about 3 minutes.
Stir in another cup of broth and stir until it is almost absorbed. Repeat, keeping the risotto at a steady simmer and adding more broth as it is absorbed, until you use all the broth and the rice is barely tender, about 20 minutes total.
If you run out of broth and the rice isn’t tender, use hot water. Add the pumpkin and cook until heated through, about one minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
Serve immediately, spooned into bowls and sprinkled with the sage. Pass a bowl of Parmesan cheese on the side.
Roberta DesBouillons is the in-house chef at Tess’ Kitchen Store in Grass Valley. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and used to own/operate Apron Strings Cooking School in San Francisco. Email questions to email@example.com.