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Quick and Slow Winter Squash Risotto

Take that slow cooker and pressure cooker out for a spin.


Photo by Leah Lizarondo
 

For the past two weeks, my CSA has been transitioning into fall produce. On top of my counter now lies a basket-full of potatoes, and at this moment, I have four winter squashes.

I love winter squash! I love how versatile it is – you can make sweet and savory dishes that are satisfying and full of Vitamin A and fiber. Maybe that’s why my potatoes tend to get left behind. I often opt for a more vitamin-packed squash or sweet potato when I think of starchy vegetables. And with celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, and turnips around, my potatoes often get less attention. This is not due to preference (I would eat French fries, mashed potatoes and potato salad everyday if I could), but rather of efficiency.

Yes, efficiency! Due to the inevitable daily rush and the scarcity of time, I try to make meals equally yummy and healthy. Hence, the use of other starchy vegetables. Not to malign potatoes, but other veggies are just more nutrient- and fiber-dense. When I do have more time, when I want a “treat” or as part of a larger dish or meal, I use potatoes. But on weekdays, I shoot for the one-pot, one-bowl target.

Enter my slow cooker and my new toy, my pressure cooker. I do not prescribe an appliance-ridden kitchen. Personally, I don’t own a microwave oven or a toaster oven. But I do advocate having the right tools to be able to eat healthful meals with minimal effort, especially on the weekdays. This allows you to escape the need for ready-to-eat frozen meals that are mostly sodium and additive-laden and negate the excuse of “I just don’t have time.” Of course, we all have those days when take out and “breakfast for dinner” are the only sane options (and definitely welcome breaks during hectic weeks), but having the right kitchen equipment helps minimize that.

My slow cooker allows me to put ingredients in one pot in the morning and have it ready for dinner right when I get home. My pressure cooker allows me to cook a full meal in under 15 minutes. There is no beating having both options. I’ve been using my slow cooker for years, but I’ve always held off on a pressure cooker purchase since it was hard to shake childhood memories of my mom yelling “get out of the kitchen!” with the same urgency that comes with “take cover!”

Thankfully, I’ve been assured that technology has progressed and the allure of cooking meals in less than 10 minutes was just too much to resist.

And so, after I unpacked my shiny new toy, I tried out a winter squash risotto that I’ve always cooked in my slow cooker to test out the difference between a 6-hour slow dance and a 10-minute tango. I have to say, they are both good!

  Winter Squash Risotto


Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna Sass
Yield: This recipe serves 8 but can be halved

Ingredients

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 2 heaping tsp dried sage leaves
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (or half vegetable stock, half water)
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio or sushi rice
  • 1 ½ cups short grain brown rice
  • 2 lbs. winter squash, cut into 1 inch cubes (I do not peel kabocha, acorn or delicate squash as long as its organic)
  • Parsley for garnish

Pressure Cooker Method
1.  Saute onions in oil for about 1 minute. Add the herbs and rice and stir to coat the rice. Add the stock and squash and give it a good stir.

2.  Lock the lid and over high heat bring to high pressure. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 8-10 minutes. Follow your pressure cooker instructions for a quick release method for releasing pressure.

3.  Open the lid and stir the rice until it reaches desired creaminess (the rice will continue to absorb the liquid). Serve in shallow bowls and top with chopped parsley.

Slow Cooker Method
1.  As above but you have two options with Step 1: you can choose to sauté in a separate pot and transfer to the slow cooker or you can just put all the ingredients in the slow cooker which will yield a subtly different taste. I usually finish the dish with some olive oil in the end when I opt for the no sauté method.

2.  If putting on in the morning, set the cooker on low and leave for 7-8 hours. Before serving, give it a good stir or add more liquid if needed before serving.

Note:
When I have it on hand, I stir in some whole baby spinach (which wilts just right) and some cooked quinoa for a protein boost right before serving.
 

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