No vegetable captures the imagination more than the humble pumpkin. In recent years, when fall comes, it appears as an ingredient in everything from coffee to muffins to pancakes to ale. Its bland flavor allows it entrance wherever it wants to go.
Risotto is the typical dish of Northern Italy. It refers to a method of cooking rice rather than a specific list of ingredients, which vary according to locality and season.
Carnaroli rice is used in Northern Italy. If you use another type of rice, you will have to adjust the amount of stock, ½ cup or so, more or less.
To prepare the pumpkin for cooking, peel off the skin, remove the seeds and cut what remains into small cubes.
Pumpkin seed oil (Kernöl or Kürbiskernöl in German) is a specialty item, a European Union Protected Designation of Origin product that comes from Austria and Slovenia. You can get it online or at finer gourmet and health food shops. It has a strong nutty flavor and a full array of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Combined with cider vinegar and some olive oil, it makes a tasty salad dressing. A little bit goes a long way. A finishing drizzle gives this risotto a distinctive flavor.
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups diced pumpkin flesh
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus extra, optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1½ cups Carnaroli rice ½ cup white wine 1 cup minced onion 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
pumpkin seed oil In a suitable pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add the salt. Drop in the cubed pumpkin. Cook
it over low heat, covered, until it is fully tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove using a skimmer or slotted spoon. Cover the stock and keep it warm.
In a separate pot, over medium heat, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the onion and saute until it has lost all its crunch, about 10 minutes.
Add the rice and raise the heat to high. Cook, stirring constantly, until the grains just start
to toast and give off a nutty aroma, about 2 minutes.
Turn up the heat on the stock, bringing it to a gentle boil.
Pour the wine on the rice and let the alcohol evaporate. Turn the heat under the rice down
a notch and start adding the stock, a ½ cup or so at a time. Stir continuously. When the rice absorbs the added stock, add some more. Continue to add more stock every time as the rice absorbs the last amount.
Halfway through cooking, when about 8 minutes have elapsed, add ¾ of the cooked pumpkin.
Total cooking time is usually around 16 minutes, but this depends on the rice type and brand, and how much stock it has absorbed. The best way to know when it is ready is to taste a grain. Properly cooked risotto is starchy (al dente) on the inside and creamy on the outside.
Add the grated Parmesan and, if you wish, more butter. Stir and cover. Let sit for 2 or 3 to soften a bit more. Then serve in bowls garnished with the remaining pumpkin cubes, a few grinds of black pepper and a healthy spritz of the pumpkin seed oil.
From SIGNS & SEASONS: An Astrology Cookbook, by Amy Zerner, Monte Farber and Chef John Okas.