Monday, February 02, 2009

Comfort Food, Veggie Style

I'm tired tonight, still recovering from all of the bar food served at our Super Bowl soiree (chicken wings, sliders, guacamole, and white bean dip), and craving comfort food that's good for you. So, I stopped at the market on the way home, picked up some oranges and some asparagus and a butternut squash, and I'm cobbling together a vegetarian risotto with a fresh winter salad. Risotto is a simple and satisfying main dish; make sure to get real Parmesan, not the canned wood shavings that they sell in the grocery aisle. The peppery arugula salad is a nice counterpoint to the creamy, unctuous risotto. And the whole thing can be prepared and served in an hour.

Vegetarian Risotto with Butternut Squash and Asparagus

Peel a medium butternut squash and core out the seeds. Chop into 1/2 inch pieces; toss with a little olive oil and spread out on a sheet pan. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 425-degree oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, clean a bunch of asparagus and chop into bite-sized pieces. Toss with a little olive oil. Chop a large shallot and set aside. When the squash looks hot and is beginning to brown on the bottom, pull it from the oven and toss with a spatula. Add the asparagus to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes or so until the asparagus is tender.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat a little olive oil. Add the shallots and saute for a couple of minutes until tender. Add two cups of arborio rice and saute until the rice becomes translucent and shiny. Slowly add chicken stock, about a cup at a time, stirring with each addition and bringing the risotto to a low simmer. The rice will take 5-6 cups of stock. When it looks as though the rice may be done, start tasting; keep adding stock until the rice is cooked but al dente. With the last addition of stock, add the roasted vegetables, and stir and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add a couple handfuls of Parmesan; taste and season with salt and pepper.

Winter Arugula Salad

Supreme two oranges, squeezing the pulp to extract as much juice as possible. Separate the orange sections from the juice. Toss the sections with three generous handfuls of baby arugula and some thinly sliced purple onion. For the dressing, whisk together 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 3 tablespoons reserved orange juice, 1 minced clove garlic, 6 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. If the dressing is too sweet, add a dash of rice vinegar. Toss over the salad and serve.

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