Lemony Summer Squash Risotto

Aunt Suzy says . . .

There has been an abundance of beautiful summer squash at our farmer’s markets and produce stands lately, so when this recipe from the NY Times “recipes for health” showed up in my Facebook feed recently, I knew I had to make it. I’ve made quite a few of  Martha Shulman’s recipes from that column over the years and they are always reliable and delicious. (You’ll also see I made a couple of adaptations to the recipe cuz that’s how we roll here!)

If you know us at S&SK, you know how much we love lemon. You can see all kinds of “lemony” recipes, both sweet and savory, on our blog.  I predict this one will be a favorite up here in the Minnesota branch of our cooking team.  If you love risotto and love summery, lemony dishes, this one is a winner!

Ingredients

7 to 8 cups chicken (or vegetable stock for vegetarian)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup onion, diced

1 pound summer squash, diced

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

Zest of one small lemon

Juice of 1/2-1 lemon, to taste

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, preferably lemon thyme

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Heat the stock in a pan and keep just below a simmer for use in the risotto.

In a medium saute pan, heat the olive oil till it shimmers over medium heat and then add the onion and saute till translucent. Add the summer squash and a little salt. Turn up the heat and saute a further 5 min until the squash is just starting to get soft. Add in the rice and garlic and give a few stirs to coat with the olive oil and create the signature nuttiness of the rice in this dish. Add the wine and stir till absorbed.

Turn down the heat and add about 1/2 cup of the hot stock. Keep at a low simmer, and stir until the stock is absorbed by the rice. Repeat by adding 1/2 cup stock at a time, stirring till absorbed until the rice is just about cooked through, about 25 minutes total. Add some more stock, the lemon zest and juice, the thyme and the Parmesan. Stir to blend. The dish should be creamy, not too dry and not too wet and the rice should be al dente. Best served in bowls with a refreshing glass of lemony Pinot Grigio.

Notes on ingredients: Two medium squash added up to one pound for me with apologies for not measuring the amount of diced squash before adding it to the pan. I used one yellow squash and one striped zucchini. I used Pinot Grigio for the white wine, but a Sauvignon Blanc would work well too. Avoid anything with oak in it like a California Chardonnay. Use the best quality Parmesan that you can find for the flavor and creaminess that really makes this dish. We recommend grating it yourself vs. buying it already grated.

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Aunt Suzy says . . . 

This past week, the New York Times had a group of risottos in it’s “Recipes for Health” column that combined different grains or rices with the traditional risotto rice, Arborio.  They all caught my eye, but I started with this one because I have wanted to make something with farro for a while and have not.  This dish is a WOW!  The herbs and lemon add freshness to the taste and the farro creates a wonderful  chewy mouth appeal.  We served with an Italian Orvieto white wine and a green salad.  This falls into the “easy” category except for the need to stand at the stove and stir for about 40 minute.  Totally worth it!

NOTE:  I like this blog post from The Chef In You about farro and how to cook it.  I found “pearled” farro in bulk at our local coop.  It also comes in semi-pearled and non-pearled varieties, the latter of which needs to be pre-soaked. If you can’t find it locally, you can order from Amazon or here.

Makes 6 servings

6 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock (I used chicken)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed thoroughly of sand

Salt to taste

2 plump garlic cloves, minced

2/3 cup Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 cups cooked farro (1 cup uncooked)

2 cups chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, basil, chives, thyme (I used a cup of parsley, a cup of basil and 2 tablespoons lemon thyme)

Freshly ground pepper

2 ounces grated Parmesan (1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cook the farro according to directions and set aside.

Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan, then turn the heat to low.  Make sure this is on a burner handy to the main pan you will cook the risotto in.

Heat the oil a large saute pan or heavy saucepan on medium heat.  Add the leeks and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add a generous pinch of salt, the garlic and the rice. Cook, stirring, for about 3 more minutes.

Stir in the wine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until absorbed and almost evaporated. Next, stir in a ladleful or two of the simmering stock – enough to just cover the rice. The stock should bubble slowly (adjust heat accordingly). Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful or two of the stock and continue to cook in this fashion, not too fast and not too slowly, stirring often and adding more stock when the rice is almost dry, for 15 minutes.

Stir in the farro and more stock to cover and continue to cook, adding more stock as necessary and stirring often, for another 10 minutes or until the rice is cooked through but al dente.   If it is still hard in the middle, you need to continue adding stock and stirring for another 5 minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasonings.  NOTE:  Make sure you watch for dryness and stir often as the mixture tended to stick once the farro was added.

Stir in the herbs and fresh pepper (be generous), add another ladleful of stock and continue to cook, stirring, for a minute.  Finally, add the Parmesan and the lemon juice, stir together and remove from the heat. The risotto should be creamy; if it isn’t, add a little more stock.  Stir once, taste and adjust seasonings, and serve.  Prepare for your taste buds to be delighted!

Aunt Suzy says . . .

Recently we had an early September cold snap and I immediately thought “soup!”.  I had some Parmesan cheese rinds in my fridge and had just made some chicken stock, so I thought “minestrone!”.  Not sure I’ve ever made it before, but I love soup with lots of vegetables.  I have a 1973 paperback of Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cooking, so I started there.  I looked at many recipes for this classic Italian soup – as you might expect, there is no one set recipe.  Marcella’s included “meat” stock made from beef for which I substituted chicken stock.  It did not include meat as many recipes do.  I had some chicken sausages on hand and added those, although I think it would be delicious without.  I found her method of adding ingredients to the base one at a time interesting and unique to all the recipes I looked at.  (This is probably so you can chop the next ingredient while the previous is sauteing!)   This recipe made many meals, so I think it could easily be cut in half to serve 4 people with left-overs.  Enjoy with some crusty bread and a Chianti or Valpolicella!

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 yellow onions, sliced and cut in 1/4 rounds

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

3 cups diced unpeeled potatoes, red or yellow

2 cups fresh green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces

4 cups cabbage, preferably napa, cored, quartered and cut crosswise in 1/4-inch slices

2 flavored chicken sausages, sliced in 1/4-inch half moons (optional)

7-9 cups chicken stock

1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juices

1 teaspoon each dried oregano and dried basil, or to taste

1 teaspoon salt

black pepper to taste

2 15-ounce cans beans, cannellini or kidney or a mixture, drained and rinsed

1-2 parmesan cheese rinds (optional)

Cooked pasta, ditalini or small elbows (optional)

Grated parmesan cheese

Chopped Italian parsley

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or soup pot.  When it shimmers, add the butter and stir to melt thoroughly.  Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes until soft, but not browned.  Add each ingredient, garlic through sausages, one at a time and saute for about 2-3 minutes each, stirring constantly.  Next add the stock, the tomatoes and their juices, the herbs, salt and pepper, the cannelini and kidney beans and the parmesan rinds if you are using.  Adding more or less stock depends on whether you like your soup on the thick or the brothy side.  Stir to blend thoroughly.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about an hour.  The vegetables will be cooked through but not mushy.  When the soup is finished cooking, remove the parmesan rinds.

To serve, put a little cooked pasta (if you are using) in the bottom of a soup bowl.  Pour the soup over the pasta. Pass the grated parmesan and parsley.

NOTE:  As with many soups, this only gets better after a day or two.  If you want to make this to freeze for future use, omit the potatoes.  I’ve found that they turn to mush in the freezer.  Cooked cubes of potatoes can be added later.