Friday, December 28, 2012

A Hearty and Meatless #PROJECT RECIPE Dinner

I'm a huge fan of the Meatless Monday campaign. With the right recipe, eating meatless one day a week is a win-win... win, win.

It's cheaper. Going meatless one day a week stretches your grocery budget. Vegetables, especially humble seasonal vegetables like acorn squash, are always going to be cheaper than even the most economical cuts of meat.

It's healthy. Eating a vegetarian meal even one day a week has huge health benefits. Here's a link from the Mayo Clinic that points out that plant-based meals that emphasize vegetables, whole grains and legumes are higher in fiber, vitamins and nutrients. In the case of this meal, we got a good dose of beta carotene and fiber.

It's good for the planet. According to the U.N., the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all of the cars, trucks and motor vehicles in the world. Even switching out one meal a week makes a huge difference.

And with hearty dinners like this one of roasted acorn squash and sweet corn risotto, the meat on the plate isn't even missed.

The recipe for the roasted acorn squash is from the Food Gal Blog. What grabbed me about this recipe was that it is from Chris Cosentino's new cookbook, Chris Cosentino Beginnings: My Way to Start a Meal. Chris Cosentino is the chef at Incanto in San Francisco, and is probably most famous for bringing offal back to modern cuisine. It might be surprising to some that this recipe doesn't call for some sort of organ meat or charcuterie, but I think this is California Cuisine at it's best: fresh, seasonal, simple.

Changes I made to the recipe: I substituted goat cheese for the stracciatella. I couldn't find the specialty cheese, or even burrata, which was the suggested substitute.  I think you can't ever go wrong with goat cheese.

Here is the link to the original recipe and post by the Food Gal. Here's how I made it different:

Roasted Acorn Squash with Sage and Goat Cheese (Serves 2)

1 medium acorn squash
kosher salt and pepper
1 oz. fresh sage
extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 tb butter
a splash of white wine
2 oz. of goat cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds (save them to roast if you like). Pour a little olive oil on the inside of the squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put 1 cup of water and the bay leaf in a 9x13 casserole dish. Pick the sage leaves from the stems and reserve the leaves. Put the stems in the casserole, and then place the squash skin-side down in the casserole. Roast the squash until it's fork tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the casserole and let cool enough to handle. Cut each half in half lengthwise and peel. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat until it begins to foam a bit. Add the sage leaves and fry stirring frequently until fragrant and crispy, about 3 minutes. Keep heat on medium to medium high and be careful not to burn the butter. Remove the sage leaves and set aside. Brown the squash pieces in the butter until nice and seared and brown on all sides. Remove the squash from the skillet and place on plates. Add a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan, stirring up browned bits from the skillet. Top each piece of squash with crumbled goat cheese, then pour over wine mixture from skillet. Top with fried sage pieces.

Project Recipe verdict: I'd make it again. It's one of those seasonal dishes that you'd probably only have once or maybe twice a year, depending on availability of acorn squash and how well you like it. It's a nice and easy way to use a vegetable that I don't see too many recipes for.

For a side dish, I made sweet corn risotto, on a whim actually. I was thinking about what I could make with the squash at work, and came up with this idea for a sweet and salty risotto that might pair well with the squash. I figured the squash would be sweet like other winter squash, but this acorn squash wasn't really sweet at all--which was fine by me. The risotto turned out wonderful, nonetheless. I knew that I had some fresh corn frozen and some corn stock. The risotto came together easily.

Sweet Corn Risotto (Serves 4)

1 cup arborio rice
4 cups corn stock* (see below)
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tb butter
2 tb extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 tb minced garlic
2 cups corn
1 tb kosher salt (if you use store-bought stock that is not reduced sodium, omit the salt)
1/3 cup grated parmesean
more grated parmesean for topping

In medium sauce pan, heat the corn stock and vegetable stock. In a skillet, melt the butter and add the oil. Saute the onion until it begins to soften and becomes translucent. Add the garlic and saute another minute more.

Add the rice and stir until all the rice is coated in the oil and butter, and begins to get translucent on tips. Add 2 cups of stock and the corn, and bring to a simmer. Stir frequently to prevent the rice from sticking to the skillet.

Cook at a steady simmer, stirring frequently until the liquid is almost absorbed, and add another cup of stock at a time until each is absorbed and the rice is tender. You may not need all the stock and you may need to add some water to finish cooking the stock. Cook the rice to desired tenderness. Some like their risotto al dente. You'll need to taste it along the way (oh, darn...) As a rule, I stop cooking it when it feels like the middle of the grain of rice doesn't have anymore crunch. You can tell when it's done by the texture. Remove from heat and add 1/3 cup of parmeseam cheese.

You can also add another tablespoon of butter here if you like, but it's not necessary. Stir well until the cheese (and butter) melts. Serve immediately and top with more grated cheese.

Last summer, I made several batches of corn stock when I was making corn jelly. I only needed a couple cups of it for the corn jelly, but you might as well keep what's leftover rather than throw it out. I have used it in place of water for soups and this risotto, for some extra flavor.

Corn Stock (makes 2-3 quarts)

6 ears fresh corn
enough water to cover the corn if the corn was in the pot (3 ish quarts)
bay leaf
pinch of kosher salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the 6 ears of corn. Boil until about 5 to 8 minutes, so that it is just tender. (If you're going to eat the corn right away, I boil it slightly longer, maybe 10 minutes, until it is completely tender when pierced with a fork). Remove the ears from the water and let them cool until they can be handled. Stand the ears up on the stem end on a large cutting board or in a large bowl, and with a sharp knife, cut the corn off the cob by making one long cut along the cob down the lenght of the ear. Repeat this all the way around the ear. I freeze the corn in 2 cup containers for soups and casseroles. Place the corn cobs back in the pot. Add the pinch of salt and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer steadily 45 minutes to an hour. When you're finished, the liquid should be slightly more milky looking. Remove the cobs. You can strain the liquid at this point, but I don't. I like the little bits of corn left in the liquid. Freeze in one-quart containers for soups, etc. I have used corn stock mixed with another stock in clam chowder, vegetable soup, and corn chowder.

1 comment:

  1. Roasted acorn squash is so good--I've never added cheese to mine but the goat cheese sounds awesome with it! And love the corn risotto, definitely trying that out with some of my frozen corn from this summer!