Yummy Fall Flavors: Team North columnist Erika Monroe-Williams serves up a tasty seasonal treat

Pumpkin risotto shutterstock_114473887Yummy Fall Flavors

Team North columnist Erika Monroe-Williams serves up a tasty seasonal treat––butternut squash risotto in a festive jack-o’-lantern. 

Oh, how I love the fall! There’s a feeling in the air here in Arizona that things are about to get really great. I have always noticed that right around Halloween, the weather becomes absolutely perfect and there’s no other place in the country I’d rather be. Pumpkin patches pop up, ghosts and goblins spring up on neighbors’ lawns, and we go crazy decorating our house and filling the kitchen with the yummy local fall flavors that Arizona has to offer. I start planning how many different ways I can cook different types of squash and what I could possibly serve inside a roasted pumpkin.

My butternut squash risotto is made with bacon, pine nuts, and brown-sage butter and is served in an adorable mini-jack-o’-lantern. What a fun way to celebrate fall!

Butternut Squash Risotto

(serves two)

2 mini pumpkins or small pumpkin-pie pumpkins (try to find one small enough to eat out of but large enough to make a jack-o’-lantern design on the face)

2 tsps. vegetable oil

4 strips bacon, chopped into small pieces

1/2 white onion, diced

1 cup butternut squash, cut into small cubes (you can buy this frozen, which saves a lot of time, or you can roast fresh cubes until tender in the oven)

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

3 cups very hot chicken stock

1 1/2 tsps. salt

1/2 tsps. white pepper

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

8 sage leaves

3 tbs. butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Draw and etch your favorite jack-o’-lantern design on the pumpkins. Do not cut the design through as you would a normal jack-o’-lantern. Cut the top off and scoop out the seeds. Clean out the center well, and dry off. Brush all open flesh parts with vegetable oil and place in oven on baking sheet. Roast 10 minutes or until carved area looks slightly toasty. Remove from oven and turn off. Do not overcook, or you will be eating out of a mushy pumpkin!

Heat oil over medium heat in a medium-size Dutch oven or saucepan. Add bacon and onions, and sauté until bacon looks almost cooked and onions are translucent. Add butternut squash and cook another few minutes until squash is tender. Add rice and stir with wooden spoon to coat. Add wine and cook about 2 minutes. Start to add hot stock 1 cup at a time along with salt and white pepper, and simmer. Stir every two minutes or so until stock is absorbed, for about 7–10 minutes. Add more stock and repeat until stock is gone and absorbed. Risotto should be cooked but still al dente. Add cheese and pine nuts. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired.

When the risotto is almost done cooking, melt the butter in a separate small pan and add sage. Cook, stirring until butter is brown and sage is crispy. Remove from heat, and pour over risotto. Stir it in gently.

Scoop the risotto into your jack-o’-lanterns and serve!

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