Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Risotto with Roasted Kabocha Pumpkin or Butternut Squash and Bacon

I made this risotto recipe with a scrumptious Kabocha pumpkin tonight. It is a re- do of a recipe I posted years ago with a few changes in the recipe. 

I Love winter squash! I most often cook with butternut, pumpkin, spaghetti  or acorn squash.  Whenever kabocha is available I love to cook with it. I think it is particularly great in this risotto recipe!

Kabocha squash or Japanese pumpkin, is green speckled and pumpkin shaped.The kabocha has a nice flavor and isn't stringy or watery.  It is great roasted, braised with soy, ginger and garlic or cooked up in tempura. 
 Of course Butternut, would also be good in this risotto. Butternut can't be beat for great texture and color and a small seed cavity.

This risotto has an autumn flair with kabocha squash, butternut or pumpkin along with smoky bacon. The pumpkin and bacon are a wonderfully flavorful combination but it could be made vegetarian without bacon and still be quite tasty.

Risotto is a delicious rice dish that gets its creaminess from the way it is cooked rather than cream or loads of cheese. I made this particular recipe dairy free ( although I added cheese at the table for those who can have dairy )and it was quite creamy! Risotto is quite easy to make although it does take a bit of tending to as it is stirred throughout the cooking process. 

Risotto with Roasted  Kabocha Pumpkin 

or Butternut  Squash and Bacon 

1 small winter squash such as kobocha, pumpkin or butternut ( about 2 1/2  to 3 cups diced)
6 bacon strips, prefer uncured, no nitrates, applewood smoked

1 small Onion, diced
1/2  tsp coriander
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp garlic powder, optional
¼- ½ tsp. red pepper flakes, crushed, optional
½ tsp, smoked paprika or  paprika
Pinch of cinnamon

1 tsp garlic, minced, optional
1 tsp. ginger paste, optional
1-2 TBSP  olive oil or vegetable oil
1-2 TBSP butter 
2 Cups  Arborio Rice

  1  cup  White Wine  

 4 cups veggie or chicken Broth, 
2 cups water

  1/4 Cup  Freshly Grated Parmesiano Reggiano, optional

Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper To Taste

Extra parmesan for topping at table, along with shelled, roasted pepitas if desired
There are two ways you can cook the winter squash.  You may dice and cook it on the  stove,  which is my preferred method for Kabocha squash. You may also roast the squash first which I like to do when using butternut. I will describe the roasting method in the notes**

Begin with a large heavy pot or deep pan and cook the bacon until crispy. 

Pour all of the drippings from cooking bacon into a small bowl. 

Cut the kabocha, squash or pumpkin in  half. Scrape out seeds and if you would like, set aside to roast later and discard any stringy parts.

Cut the squash into slices and then carefully cut away the skin, If you are using kabocha, it'is okay to leave a bit of green skin on, it is edible and will soften up when cooked.

Dice up the squash into small pieces. 

Next heat the pan the bacon was cooked in and add about 2 TBSP of the bacon grease back into pan,  Or if you prefer you may use oil, or oil and butter.

Add the diced squash to pan and brown it.
 Try not to over stir. After a few minutes turn the pieces over and let it cook another couple minutes. 
If needed you may add more bacon grease or oil.
Add diced  onion.Add spices, garlic and ginger. Cook another 4 minutes until squash is nicely browned here and there around the edges and tender  with  some  crispy bits. 
Remove the kabocha or squash mixture to a bowl. 

In small sauce pan, heat up chicken broth or veggie broth and water. Keep on low simmer. Take about  a half cup or so of the squash mixture and add it to the pot of simmering broth , mashing it into the broth to be added as risotto cooks.
Back to the pan you used for the bacon and squash. Add 1 TBSP each of olive oil and butter. Add the two cups of Arborio rice. 
Add wine and continue stirring rice, a figure 8 pattern is recommended, while wine is absorbed. Make sure you stir all areas of the pot so rice will not get mushy. Once most of the wine is absorbed into the  rice add 1 cup or a couple of ladles of hot broth. Repeat this process as each cup of broth is absorbed. 
Continue to add broth until rice is al dente- tender but with a bit of texture to it. If you run low on broth, add water to broth pan to heat before you get to the bottom of broth. This process will take about 20  minutes.
As the last  cup of broth is almost absorbed,  add the rest of the squash mixture and gently blend. Also, crumble or chop bacon and add it as well.
Once rice is at desired consistency. You may add a bit of Parmesan cheese, about a 1/4 cup or so, but if you wish it to be dairy- free it is fine to skip. I also have some grated Parmesan at the table. 
Taste and add desired salt and pepper. I find this does not need a lot of salt due to the bacon.
Serve as soon as possible. If you like, top with cheese or roasted pumpkin seeds    ( I prefer shelled, natural seeds roasted for 10 minutes with olive oil and salt in 350 oven.)

**Roasted pumpkin/squash version - 
After prepping squash, removing seeds and strings and cutting in half,  place cut side down on an oiled baking sheet . You may line pan with foil for ease of cleaning. 
 Place in middle of the oven and bake just until tender and soft. It takes around 30 minutes give or take, but start checking at 20 and keep testing if it is getting softer every 5 minutes, Do not overcook- especially the kobucha or it will get mealy and dry. Butternut may take a bit longer to get tender. 
Remove squash from oven and turn halves over to cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove skin, being carefully to leave most of it large dice sized pieces. You can either slice the squash then carefully cut away skin Or using a large spoon, remove the  the squash out of the shell.   Cut into large chunks, no need to be completely uniform, as some will break up.  I like to use about 2 1/2 -3 cups of squash in this rice.
Dice about half of the roasted squash and brown in the bacon grease for a couple minutes before adding the onion, spices, etc as described above. Take the rest of the squash and add it to the pot of simmering broth , mashing it into the broth to be added as risotto cooks.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Moroccan Chicken Meatballs with Apricot Chutney

Here is a simple chicken meatball recipe with a Moroccan flair. The apricot chutney that accompanies these little tender bites really adds a nice multi-layered flavor. The Apricot Chutney can be used with other recipes. It is also delicious with cream cheese or goat cheese on crackers. 

These can be cooked on in a pan stove top or baked in the oven.  You may choose to cook them in the apricot chutney or to cook separately and use chutney as a dipping sauce if desired. Or you may try a different sauce such as a tomato based sauce with Moroccan spices.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Meatballs

Sauté in olive oil over medium-low heat for 4- 5 minutes and cool--

1/3 - ½ cup minced onion
2 tsp garlic paste or crushed garlic
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp, salt, coriander, ginger, optional
½ -1 tsp cumin, black pepper, smoked paprika, optional
¼ tsp cayenne, optional
Other optional seasoning: 1 tsp za’atar or greek seasoning mix or mint or thyme,  

Mix in a large bowl:

1 ¾ lb. or so ground chicken (or may use beef or turkey or a combination)
1 cup bread crumbs, (or cracker or panko crumbs)
2 eggs

Add cooled onion, seasoning mixture and thoroughly combine.

Using small scoop or teaspoons scoop out uniform sized meatballs; rolling each for a smooth exterior.  You may make the meatballs smaller for appetizers and larger if served over rice or couscous.

Stove top cooking method: Heat a bit of oil in a large shallow pan and add meatballs, not too close together.  Brown them over medium heat, turning gently after 5 minutes.  Brown the other side for about 5 minutes. If you are going to cook in the apricot chutney, take meatballs from pan to a plate and remove excess oil from pan. Add prepared apricot chutney and meatballs to the pan and simmer on medium low 10-15 minutes.
If you are not cooking in the apricot sauce, then continue cooking them a couple minutes longer until completely done before serving.

Oven baking method:  Preheat oven to 400 and put meatballs on cookie sheet prepped with a bit of oil. Place in center of oven and bake for 6 minutes then turn them over to cook other side. Continue baking another 5 minutes or until just barely cooked through. Remove from baking dish and place them into pan filled with apricot chutney.  Simmer for 10 minutes. OR you may cook them completely and serve with sauce to dip.

Garnish meatballs with fresh chopped parsley, and or cilantro and toasted almond slices.
Serve with couscous, quinoa or rice.

Moroccan Apricot Chutney

   About ¾ cup dried apricots, chopped 

  1/3 cup orange juice

  ¼ to 1/2 of small preserved lemon, rinsed, seeded, finely chopped*

4-5  TBSP apricot jam

4     tbsp. white wine vinegar

   1 TBSP orange blossom water, optional

   Pinch of cayenne, cinnamon, salt, and/or sumac

Put the apricots, preserved lemon, jam, orange blossom, vinegar and seasoning in a small, saucepan. Cook over medium –low for about 8 minutes until soft and bubbly. It is ready to add to meatballs for simmering.
If you are going to cook chutney as a dipping Sauce, simmer for about 12 minutes more on low.

    *If you don’t have preserved lemons, and cannot buy them, then you may             substitute 2 tsp. lemon juice and grated zest and a ½ tsp salt. 
    Taste and add more of whatever is needed. This will not be quite the same but       will help. Preserved lemons really are a unique flavor addition and they
    keep in your fridge for quite some time!