Sunday, October 11, 2009

Keeping warm with risotto

It took me over an hour to fix tonight's supper, most of that spent over a hot stove. So I have to say that making risotto must be one of the best ways to keep warm in winter.

Since I substituted barley for the arborio rice, I'm not sure I can call it risotto. I understand that the Italian word for barley is orzo, so perhaps orzotto would be better? But I'll call it risotto for convenience.

When I searched for a recipe to use buttercup squash, I came across a Delightful Delicacies blog post

I've never eaten let alone made risotto, but I gave it a try because the beautiful squash called for something special.

First, I cut the squash in half, removed the seeds, and placed it in a pan of water in a 350-degree oven for about an hour.

This squash has a tough skin when it's raw, but after cooking, it was quite thin and I had to keep picking out pieces of skin as I scooped the squash out.

I followed the recipe exactly, except I substituted pearl barley. My idea was to use something grown in Montana. Only what I had on hand already was in a package I'd bought months ago at IGA. If I had needed to buy barley, I would have gotten some from Western Trails (where I toured the factory recently).

At one point you add half a cup of white wine. Luckily, I had purchased a small bottle for another recipe I was going to make a few months ago (pickle soup . . . more on that another time, perhaps). In the closest town around here you buy wine at the IGA or, like I did, at a place on the edge of town that sells gas, groceries, hunting licenses, and guns. I don't drink much, but I don't think I would anyway if I had to pick out my supplies by standing next to a long row of rifles.

It takes about 45 minutes for barley to cook the ordinary way, by simmering it. So risotto doesn't take much longer, only it is much more labor intensive. You must stand near the stove the whole time and stir every few minutes. I found it rather soothing this evening. I usually rush through cooking, or I wear myself out doing a million things for a simple meal. Risotto is straightforward: stir, stir, stir! There is plenty of time for woolgathering.

I picked the thyme and parsley in the snow just before adding the herbs to the pot. This is something we do in Montana, especially when the cold weather sneaks up on you before you get a chance to harvest.

This is one of the best-tasting dishes I have eaten! The barley is chewy and the squash is creamy. The blend of flavors is superb. Yum!


Whenever you cook your own squash, you get free seeds. They start out rather messy.

Clean them off -- buttercup squash seeds are very slimy! -- then blot dry, toss with a bit of oil and salt, and spread them on a baking sheet. Today I roasted mine at 275 degrees for about 20 minutes. When I checked the first time, they were not quite done. A few minutes later, they were overdone! Still, I caught them before they were burnt, and they weren't bad.


  1. i'm so glad you liked it! those seeds look yummy.

  2. I love the season of roasted seeds. Thanks for the inspiration, Mary!

  3. The risotto looks and sounds delicious.

    I am also intrigued by the concept of pickle soup. I'll have to look that up.

  4. If you love pumpkin seeds, try growing "Lady Godiva" squash. You don't eat the flesh, just the seeds. Here's the good part....they have no shell! Just a wisp of something like rice paper. If you cook them a little hot they'll pop around like popcorn, and the flavor is somewhere between pumpkin and popcorn. I felt guilty about wasting the meat of the squash until I learned the deer loved it.