Butternut Squash Risotto & Valentine Treats

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Audrey popped the corn, melted the chocolate; she mixed them together with M&Ms and crushed nuts and salt with her hands. She named this “Sloppy Popcorn.” We ate them fresh – sticky and crunchy and absolutely delicious.

Our flight to Boston got canceled today due to the blizzard.  Though it messed up our schedule, I was secretly happy to be at home for this special day.  Valentine’s Day is Audrey’s favorite and she made Valentine treats for everyone.  Her concoctions were not exactly healthy and Angela almost forbade me from posting them, but they looked so cheerful and tasted so delicious that I just had to share them here.

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Toasted Coconut Chips Chocolate Dipped Strawberries – Yum!

For lunch I made butternut squash risotto.  Since we love butternut squash, and we love risotto, I decided to put these two loves together on Valentine’s Day. 

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Butternut Squash Barley Risotto with Saffron

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 cups or more chicken stock, preferably homemade (vegetable broth for vegetarians)

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)

1 1/2 cups hulled barley (10 ounces)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon saffron threads

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

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Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the hulled barley in a rice cooker with 1 part barley 4 part chicken stock.  The hulled barley takes a long time to soften.  It took me almost 1 hour to cook the hulled barley to al dente.  Pearl barley will take about 25 minutes, but pearl barley is not a whole grain.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and sauté the shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the cooked barley and stir to coat the grains. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed. Add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and ladle to bowls; sprinkle with shaved parmesan, fresh pepper and parsley.  Serve immediately.

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Recipe inspired by http://www.foodnetwork.com

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