The month of October might as well be known as the month of the pumpkin. Entire festivals have been dedicated to growing the largest ones, and esteemed honors are handed down annually to mark the event. Folks have even resorted to smashing them, either with heads or hands; going so far as to strap them into medievel contraptions designed to hurl them great distances, just for sport.
As decor, they serve as the focal point in autumnal displays and align walkways; and who can resist a smile when confronted by the crooked grin of a pumpkin-headed scarecrow?
Yes, during the season of the harvest, they can surely be seen everywhere in New England.
When people think of pumpkins, they often think of jack-o-lanterns at Halloween, roasted pumpkin seeds and maybe even Charlie Brown. But few -- if any -- think about "pumpkin rice,” and certainly not pumpkin risotto.
I decided to tackle the challenge of a pumpkin risotto, a challenge because the directions on the package contain no measurements whatsoever! Such is the case, I presume, when using a product imported from Europe, where the closest guess-timate is the rule of the day.
Pumpkin is considered a winter squash and is so versatile, every part of the pumpkin can be used from the flowers to the flesh. According to wikipedia, the main nutrients are lutein and both alpha and beta carotene, which are also found in our favorite leafy green vegetables. Sweetened pumpkin is ideal in desserts and even specialty drinks. For New Englanders, the most common preparation for pumpkin is to roast it whole or boil on the stove-top to soften up the flesh; then puree in a food processor or blender for use in soups and chowders. But pumpkin can easily be cut into chunks for entrees, which works perfectly in a warm, cheesy risotto.
The trick was to infuse as much flavor as possible, and more liquid than one would think. Prep time was minimal, but be sure to leave enough time to babysit your risotto, continuous stirring assures it wont stick to the pan. My family thoroughly enjoyed this side dish. I opted to serve it alongside a healthy portion of broiled salmon bought fresh from a guaranteed treat, to be sure. Enjoy!
- 1 sugar pumpkin, sliced in half seeded (use only one half)
- 4 T. butter
- 1 package risotto
- 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1- 1 ½ c. romano or parmasan cheese
- ½ c. chopped parsley
- ½ c. white wine
- 1 box (32 oz.) vegetable broth
*cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste
*Begin by seeding the pumpkin, break up 2 T. of butter and place inside the halves, sprinkle with a little cinnamon, salt and pepper. Place the two halves on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for one hour. When browned and the flesh pierces easily with a fork, remove and set to cool. I used a knife to score a grid pattern on the inside of the pumpkin half, then scooped out the flesh for use in the risotto; (the other half will be pureed and frozen for future use).
Prepare risotto. According to the instructions on the package, the risotto goes into heated pan of olive oil on low, after the onions have "sweat," and here is my interpretation of the instructions:
The package does not include salt and pepper, but I highly recommend it. I added about 1 tsp of salt, and a little pepper to the onions, as I always do when cooking onions.
Once risotto is added to the oil, and coated, the instructions call for a “half a glass” of white wine-I used ½ c.
The directions call for 700 ml. of vegetable broth, I used nearly a full container of 32 oz. vegetable broth, just keep adding liquid, and tasting every 5 minutes to get the risotto al dente.
The risotto should take between 30-40 minutes on the stovetop with continuous stirring. When the risotto is al dente, add the 2 T. butter, 1 ½ c. grated romano or parmasan cheese, parsley and pumpkin chunks, folding to combine.