Monday, October 21, 2013

Recipe 9: Butternut Farro Risotto with Beans, Spinach, and Mushroom

Butternut Farro Risotto with
Beans, Spinach and Mushrooms.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve been neglecting my blog of’s been a super busy overworked, overbooked, overtired kind fall until recently, and I’m not quite sure how that happened.  My goal was to do as much reading, cooking, and updating as possible, and I’ve met approximately zero of these goals.  The beginning of the school year always seems nuts, but this was like every kind of nut, crushed together, rolled in more nuts, roasted with more nuts, and served on top of nuts.  I also cleverly started upping my mileage for an upcoming half, and while my talents do include travel to South Beach occasionally, they do not include cooking and running, reading and running, copying and pasting links and running...running and running is about as much of a motor skill challenge as I can handle at a time.  

Some of the terrible sights to see
while running in my hometo
This has meant that I’ve also been fairly lazy in the kitchen, mostly doing quick sautes of veggies for dinner when I’m getting home late, along being a gym nerd and trying to up my protein intake.  I was feeling kind of bad about not cooking almost anything of substance in a while, and uninspired to boot, until my good friend Bean had me and some other lovely ladies over for dinner on Friday.  Bean is an awesome cook, and made a really fabulous recreation of a butternut farro salad from the Smitten Kitchen.  I have been intrigued by using alternative grains, because they have a lot more nutritional value than normal rice, grits, or pastas.  I’m especially excited about farro because it has a ton of fiber and protein (perhaps I should have thrown up a nutrition nerd alert?), and it actually tastes good - almost nutty.  I should also note that Bean is a former roomie from the Kilsyth days, and is responsible for bringing a delicious butternut risotto into our lives that became a frequent recipe request.  It was tweaked and recreated from and original recipe in the Vegetarian Food For Friends cookbookI was so inspired by both that I thought I’d try and see if I could turn out a similar risotto using farro, and perhaps adding some extra goodness to it to see if I could make it a meal in a bowl.  

A Cooking Light recipe for Farro Risotto with Mushrooms confirmed I could, so I added mushroom in its honor, spinach because we're questing for delicious here team, and then figured some beans would be a tasty source of protein - so I added the beans for Bean!  This turned out to be what I think might be one of my greatest ever creations.  It’s warm, warming, filling, and delicious.  It’s hard to put down your utensils.  Eat it all fall and winter, preferably with good friends and awesome wine (it seems to pair well with Chianti and Montepulciano)!  
Caps off to you if you make this delicious dinner!
Butternut Farro Risotto with Beans, Spinach, and Mushroom
Butternut Farro Risotto with Beans, Spinach, and Mushroom
Serves 4-6

½ oz dried porcini mushrooms
5 cups vegetable stock (NOT low sodium)
1 cup water
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed (approximately 2lbs)
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
3 shallots, halved and sliced
½ tsp dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh)
10 fresh sage leaves (at least!)
1 ½ cups uncooked farro
¾ cup white wine
1 can (15.5 oz) cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
6 oz baby spinach
1 tsp dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to garnish

1) Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let stand for approximately ½ hour, then drain, reserving 1-2 Tbsp of the water to add to the broth.  Coarsely chop.
2) Preheat the oven to 400.   Place the butternut cubes and ½ the sliced shallots on a large baking sheet, add just enough olive oil to prevent it sticking, season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat.  Bake for about 30 minutes until the butternut is tender and beginning to brown.
3) In a stockpot, warm broth, water, and water reserved from the mushrooms, but do not bring to a boil.  
4) IN a large Dutch Oven over medium heat, saute the minced garlic and remaining shallot for about 5 minutes.  Add the farro and saute for about 5 minutes.  
5) Add the thyme, sage, and mushrooms.  Stir to incorporate, and add the wine.
6) When the wine is mostly absorbed, add approximately ½ cup or 1-2 ladlefuls of warmed broth to the pot at a time, stir, and cook until mostly incorporated, repeating until you have approximately a cup to ½ a cup of broth left.  The process should take around 40 minutes.  
7)  Add the beans, spinach, squash, parsley, and remaining broth.  Stir occasionally and aggressively to get the beans and squash a little smooshed in, and cover to help the spinach wilt.  The process should take about five more minutes until the liquid is mostly incorporated.  
8) Taste, season to taste, and serve hot.  Garnish with shaved Parmesan...if you want.  It’s pretty great either way (I actually like it cheeseless better, which is shocking to both of us, because CHEESE).

There are too many pots of deliciousness to count and, if you
look closely, all the ingredients appear in this picture.
Except for the chef's glass of wine...

How your risotto should look right when you should
add another ladle or so of broth to the farro.


- Many recipes ask for a lot of olive oil and butter in risottos; I cut down considerably and found that it didn’t at all affect the taste.  
- I used a wicked old bottle of cheapo Pinot Grigio I have on hand in the fridge at all times to cook with.  If you want wine notes, there are some in that Cooking Light article, but I didn’t think it really mattered?
- This recipe as suggested, without the cheese, is totally vegan.  It’s also the really, really rare recipe I loved more without hot sauce or cheese, because they cloud the natural nutty, woodsy, earthy flavors of the mushrooms and farro.  It sounds weird to hear myself type this as an avowed never-vegan because I love it so: but I think this tastes way better without the other white meat.  Cheese.   
-  You will use pans.  You will use pots.  Note plural.  This is hard for us lazy one pot cookers.  Just commit to dishes.  It's worth it.   

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