Because of our trip, I got a little behind on planting. I didn’t want to start seeds before leaving because no one would be here to water them. And it took me about a week when we got home to get my bearings enough to plant. I was getting discouraged and thinking we’d just have to go without summer squash, winter squash, and green beans this year. Then I remembered that last year we didn’t even convert the backyard to a vegetable garden until Memorial Day weekend. That means I didn’t have anything in the ground until the beginning of June. And we got PLENTY of produce last year. In fact, I just checked my handy dandy spread sheet (more on that later) and I hit 184 lbs of produce from my garden last year. Not bad for a late start.
So on Wednesday, the stars aligned. Little man was at preschool and baby girl FINALLY took a good morning nap. This has been a rarity since returning from our vacation. I got a good chunk of time to work in the garden. Here are the seeds I planted:
I have grown Trombetta di Albenga (bottom left) for the past 3 years and they are AWESOME. The best zucchini out there. The flesh stays firm even when you sauté it. This squash lends itself well to being diced up and sauteed in butter, garlic and salt. It is seriously good. And very prolific too.
I’ve never grown Cocozelle squash but have bought them at the farmer’s market and really love the nuttiness of this zucchini. I hope it does well! I’ve never grown Dragon’s Tongue bush beans, either. I thought my little man might get a kick out of the beautiful beans and eat more of them. Turnips are one I’ve actually never grown, surprisingly enough. My friend over at East Sac Edible loves to grow them is always bragging about her awesome turnip tops that she uses in her miso soup. So this year I had to give them a try. You might be wondering what that ugly-looking squash is on the upper left. That Hubbard squash is quite the interesting winter squash. It’s not much to look at, but my aunt brought one over that she grew in her garden last Thanksgiving and it was SO yummy. She prepared it simply- steamed and then mushed up with butter. It was one of the best winter squashes I’d ever tried. And since I’ve never seen it at a farmer’s market, I decided to grow some myself!
I also planted 2 kabocha squash plants and 2 sugar pumpkin plants I bought at the farmer’s market. And, in the front yard raised beds I got some beets in the ground. Now if I can get out there to water often enough to get all these seeds to germinate I’ll be set. Fingers crossed.
Bourbon Butternut Squash Risotto, huh? Isn’t risotto Italian? Isn’t Bourbon…deep south? Well, yes on both counts. But that doesn’t mean they cannot be amazing together. I thought of this combination when I decided that we were going to have Butternut Squash Risotto the other night. That much was certain. We grew butternut squash last summer and have been getting them weekly in our CSA. I try to keep up, but I think we have about 10 butternut squash in our garage right now. They must be used up! We also had arborio rice in the pantry that was just waiting to be made into risotto. And being the beginning of the year, I’m newly motivated to clean out our pantry, use up stuff that has been in there too long, etc.
As I gathered my ingredients I realized that we didn’t have ANY white wine in the house (not even a bottle of 2 buck chuck chardonnay). It was cold, rainy, 5pm. All factors to make me not want to leave the house with my toddler to buy a $2 bottle of wine. I wondered if risotto could be made with any other kind of alcohol and immediately thought bourbon would be pretty tasty with butternut squash. I did a quick google search and found out that I wasn’t the first to think of this (dangit…you mean this isn’t an original idea?!). Then I texted my foodie friend to make sure I wasn’t crazy. He approved of the experiment and off I went a-cookin’.
The end result was delicious. Probably the best risotto I’ve ever made. I highly suggest you try it if you have some extra butternut squash laying around. And if you don’t want to use bourbon, I’m sure it would be very delicious regular butternut squash risotto without (or with the more traditional white wine)…this was just a very fun twist.
1 Butternut squash
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup bourbon (note: most risotto recipes call for 1 cup of white wine. I reduced it to 1/2 cup of bourbon…figured a cup of bourbon would be a bit much).
6 cups chicken broth (you might need more…keep an extra couple cups on hand)
Creme fraiche (about 1/4 cup…you can omit it, or substitute cream cheese. As much as it pains me to type that.)
A good handful of shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the butternut squash in half. Remove the seeds. Lightly coat a baking dish with olive oil and place the butternut squash face down on the baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes, until a sharp knife pierces and goes into the squash easily.
2. Heat a heavy-bottom pot over medium heat (I used my Le Creuset). Lightly coat bottom of pot with olive oil. Sautee onion until it begins to “melt.”
3. In a separate pot, pour all 6 cups of chicken broth. Heat broth until it begins to simmer. Then turn down so that it stays hot, but doesn’t boil.
4. Add butter to the onions and allow it to melt.
5. Add arborio rice and stir to coat the rice with butter. Stir continuously until the outside of rice grains start to become translucent. The inside will stay white.
6. Add bourbon. Stir until bourbon cooks down to about half. Start to slowly add hot broth, one ladle-full at a time. Make sure to stir fairly continuously, but especially right after each ladle of broth goes into the rice.
7. Continue until you have no more broth. If you’re not serving immediately, save one ladle of broth to add right at the end.
8. Scoop butternut squash out from skin and roughly chop. Mix into the risotto.
9. Mix in creme fraiche and parmesan cheese. If you’ve reserved a ladle-full of broth, add it now. Crush the dried thyme over the risotto with your fingers.
Serve and enjoy!