Last night’s dinner turned out pretty amazing for a clean-out-the-fridge dinner. We used some leftover butternut squash and mushrooms to make a delicious risotto, helping get our growing rice collection a little more under control. I’ve been a huge fan of raw kale salads lately, like this one from 101 Cookbooks, so I tossed some kale that I had with a sherry vinaigrette and thinly sliced shallots for a tasty side dish.

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto

Matt makes a lot of risotto and has gotten really good at it. He doesn’t use a recipe anymore, but he swears by the risotto techniques in Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating. The most important thing is the rice. We try to use Carnaroli rice when we can find it. It can absorb more liquid than other varieties but it also keeps its structure. The broth is also important. We try to make big batches of vegetable broth and keep it on hand, either in the refrigerator or freezer. The other thing that he does, that I didn’t use to do, is cook it in a very wide pot. This way, there’s room to move to move the rice around while its cooking.

2 Tbsp. butter, plus more to taste
1 ½ c. butternut squash, cut in ½ inch cubes
½ of a small onion, finely chopped
1 cup Italian short-grain rice (Carnaroli is ideal)
½ cup dry white wine
4-6 cups of vegetable broth (or chicken broth…either way, try to use homemade)
5 oz. cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, heat the broth in a large saucepan and maintain a medium simmer.

Add the squash to the butter.

When the squash begins to soften, add the onion.

Cook the onion briefly until it softens, and then add the rice. Saute for about two minutes, or until the rice is hot and shiny.

Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed by the rice. Then, add a half cup of the broth and stir until absorbed. Repeat this, adding the broth a half cup at a time. Stir very often.

About five minutes in, add the mushrooms.

Keep stirring and adding the broth as the previous half cup gets absorbed. Begin to test for doneness about 15 minutes after adding the rice. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente.

When the rice is al dente, add the parsley, a touch more butter (optional), and a final half cup of broth.

Add the cheese, stir, and remove from the heat. Let stand for one minute.

Top with extra cheese, freshly ground black pepper, and course salt (like Maldon). Dig in!

Kale and Shallot Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

I know raw kale doesn’t sound very appealing, but the leaves soften after sitting in the dressing for 15 minutes or so. The shallots are a nice tangy, crispy counterpart to the greens. The best part is that this salad keeps for days, and even gets better!

3 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
5 oz. kale, washed and cut
2 small shallots, very thinly sliced

Whisk together the vinegar, mustard and honey. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Season with the pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Toss with the kale and the shallots. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.

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