Category: Mozzarella


Acorn Squash Risotto

I’ve been cooking a lot lately and I have so many new posts to write!  But this one had to jump to the head of the line because, well, you need to make it.  It’s delicious.

I only recently learned how to make risotto, but it’s actually really easy to do, if a bit labor intensive.  And it’s definitely worth the work.

The first thing I did was roast the acorn squash in the oven.  It’s really unpredictable how long it takes for a squash to get soft–a tiny one the other day took over an hour.  This one was much bigger and was done in less than 45 minutes.  So put it in for half an hour, and then just make sure you check on it every 10 minutes or so thereafter (unless it’s still really hard after half an hour.  Then give it another 20 til you check it.)  Once it was done, I set it aside and got started on the risotto.  You can start your risotto while the squash is still in the oven if you’re pressed for time, but you might end up burning your fingers on the squash when you go to scoop it out!

Ready for roasting

For the risotto, I started with half an onion in a bit of butter and olive oil, and once that softened up I added the rice.  I had wanted to use 5oz of rice but our kitchen scale is, most inconveniently, out of batteries, so I had to guesstimate how much rice to use and how much broth to make.  After some quick googling and a bit of math, I decided to go with 3/4c of rice and 2c of broth.  It’s not actually a big deal if you run out of broth though…you can always use hot water towards the end.  Just make sure you taste things so they’re seasoned enough.

Another couple keys to tasty risotto which I’ve picked up from watching Jamie Oliver: use 1/2 cup of white wine in the beginning before you start adding the ladle-fulls of broth.  It makes the most amazing smell once that wine starts to cook into the rice!  Also, let the risotto rest for a while at the end before you eat it.  It makes it better!

Risotto in progress

When the risotto was almost done, I stirred in (most of) the squash and corn.  I added it a little at a time, tasting as I went, because I wasn’t sure how “squash-y” the flavor was going to be.  I ended up not using all of the squash, but I had a pretty big acorn squash that I was using.  If you have a smaller one, you might end up using all of it.

Squash and corn are added in!

And then the cheese.  You really need a good melting cheese–fresh mozzarella is good, but you can use something with a stronger flavor if you like.  And then you need freshly grated Parmesan.  I would really stay away from using the stuff in the green canister if at all possible–it’ll do in a pinch, but it’s so salty and the flavor is really quite different from Parmesan you buy in a block and grate yourself.  So get yourself a grater and a brick of Parmesan!  You’ll thank me!

Acorn Squash Risotto
(Serves 4)

  • 1 acorn squash
  • olive oil (a drizzle and a splash)
  • 1 pat of butter 
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 5oz or 3/4c Arborio rice
  • 1/2c white wine (I find dry works better)
  • 2c vegetable stock (I use Rapunzel cubes, but I halve what the box calls for)
  • 1/2c frozen corn, thawed
  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • oregano
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 leek
  • salt and pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3oz fresh mozzarella or other melting cheese
  • a good handful of freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat your oven to 400.  Cut your acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds, then place it face up on a baking sheet.  Drizzle it with a little olive oil and rub the oil in to the flesh.  Then cover it with aluminum foil and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.  Check it with a fork.  If it’s really hard still, set a timer for another 20 minutes.  If it’s getting soft, set the timer for another 10.  Check it again, and keep checking it at 10 minute intervals until a fork goes into it easily.  Then take it out of the oven and set it aside to cool.

Meanwhile, get out a small saucepan and pour the stock into it.  Keep it simmering on a back burner, and keep it covered so that it doesn’t boil off.  On another burner, get a medium-sized pan going on low heat (it was around 3 on my electric stove).  Add the pat of butter, a splash of olive oil, and the onion, along with a bit of salt and pepper, and a bit of thyme, finely chopped rosemary, and oregano.  I used dry herbs, but fresh herbs would make this even better.  Stir it around occasionally, and let it go for about five minutes until the onion starts to get soft.  While it’s cooking, scoop the flesh of the squash out of the skins and into a bowl.  Mix in the corn and then set it aside.

When the onions are ready, add the rice to the pan, and stir it around for about a minute or so until it’s well coated by the butter, oil and spices.

Pour in the wine, and stir it around more or less constantly until it gets absorbed by the rice.  Then you start adding your stock.  Add it one ladle at a time, stirring constantly, and wait until it’s fully absorbed before adding the next ladle.  By the time you’ve used most of your stock (maybe one or two ladle-fulls are left in the pan), your rice should be almost done.  Start adding your squash and corn to your risotto pan.  I added probably about 3/4 of the squash that I had, but if your squash was smaller, you might end up using all of it.  It all depends how “squash-y” you want the risotto to taste, so taste it periodically as you stir in more of the squash.  Then add in the leeks and garlic.

Mix it all together and let it continue to cook (while you continue to stir!)  The squash has a fair amount of liquid in it, so wait for it to thicken up a bit before continuing to add stock as before.  If you run out of stock and your rice still isn’t done, you can start adding hot water, but you probably won’t need much if any.

Once the rice is fully cooked, take your risotto off the heat.  Tear up the fresh mozzarella and toss that in, and grate in a generous amount of fresh Parmesan.  Add some crushed red pepper flakes (more or less, depending on how much of a kick you want to give it), and add salt and pepper to taste.  Then cover it up, and let it sit for several minutes to rest.

And that’s it!  Enjoy!

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After over a month-long cooking and blogging hiatus I am back and full of recipe ideas!  I also have a brand new camera, so you’ll finally be getting some higher-res pictures!  And maybe at some point I’ll work on my photography skills too…

Onwards to today’s post!

We hit up the farmer’s market on Saturday and got a whole bunch of delicious fall ingredients which will be turning up in my posts as the week goes on.  Acorn squash, turnips, leeks, serrano chilies, and some really fabulous looking oyster mushrooms, which are the subject of today’s recipe.

Cheesy mushroom and leek pasta

Never having cooked with oyster mushrooms before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect flavor-wise, so I decided to make a cheesy cream sauce with leeks and the mushrooms and serve it over pasta.  I started by sauteing (did I spell that right?  I never know…) the mushrooms and leeks in some butter with a bit of salt and pepper.  When the leeks started getting soft, I took the pan off the heat, dumped the leeks and mushrooms in a bowl, and then added another tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of flour to the same pan to start the base of the sauce.  (aka a roux.  I watch too many cooking shows.)  Once it was all melted and combined I added 3/4c of milk and started stirring to get all the lumps out.  Once it just started to bubble, I reduced the heat and simmered it, still stirring, until it thickened up.  Then I added the leeks and mushrooms back in, added some fresh mozzarella, some freshly grated parmesan, some more salt and pepper, and it was good to go!

mushrooms and leeks

sauce!

I have to say, it turned out well, but in retrospect oyster mushrooms were probably not the best choice for this dish.  Their flavor is so mild that they kind of get lost, even under the super mild flavors of leeks and cheese.  You’d probably be better off using mushrooms that are a big more…mushroom-y like criminis or even some bunapi shimeji.

But without further ado, the recipe:

Cheesy Pasta with Mushrooms and Leeks
(serves 2)

  • 2 handfuls of mushrooms; whatever kind you like best
  • 1 leek
  • 1.5 tbsp butter
  • 1tbsp flour
  • 3/4c milk
  • fresh mozzarella
  • freshly grated parmesan
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 110g pasta of your choice
Put a pot of salted water on to boil for your pasta.  Meanwhile, split the leek lengthwise and then wash it thoroughly to get all the grit out from between the layers.  Give your mushrooms a quick rinse too, and then dice them and the leek.  Heat up a medium pan on the stove and add 1/2 tbsp of butter.  When the pan is hot and the butter is melted, toss in the leeks and mushrooms, add a bit of salt and pepper, and saute over medium heat until the leeks just start to soften a bit.  Transfer the leeks and mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
In the same pan you’ve been using, add the remaining tablespoon of butter along with the tablespoon of flour.  Stir over medium heat until the butter and flour are fully incorporated, and then add the milk.  Stir the mixture as you bring it to a boil to get all the lumps out.  Once it starts to bubble, reduce the heat and simmer it til it thickens, still stirring so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.
Once the sauce is thickened, add the leeks and mushrooms back in, along with some fresh mozzarella (as much or as little as you want.  Also, make sure the mozzarella isn’t *too* fresh–you want it to have some flavor to it.), some freshly grated parmesan, and more salt and pepper.  Stir together over low heat until the mozzarella is melted and then toss it together with your pasta, serve, and enjoy!