We are still drowning in a sea of vegetables, even after last night, when I halved an entire four-pound bag of tomatoes to freeze. Freezer full of tomatoes! Yeah! However, that doesn't do anything to empty the crisper drawers, which are still drowning in squash, dark greens, lots of different peppers, eggplant, cilantro, potatoes: it's a total harvest festival in there.
With that in mind, I set off to butcher a butternut squash.
At this point, we're at the full collision of summer and fall veg, so I decided to make a squash risotto with a tomato melted into it. While that seemed like a good idea, that combination ended up way too sweet. Just don't put a tomato in it and you'll end up with a thick, hot, squishy bowl of caramelized veg and grain sustenance.
Winter squash barley risotto
optional grating cheese/toasted nuts
For this one, start with the squash. We had butternut (and continue to have a couple more of those, plus two acorn, one spaghetti, and an endless mass of zucchini). You can use any reasonable hard-fleshed winter squash or pumpkin; it's fine.
Peel the squash, seed it, and dice it into 1-inchish cubes. Toss it with a little olive oil, spread it in one layer on a baking sheet, and roast it at about 375F until it's nice and soft and has beautiful caramelized golden brown edges. I think this took us about a half hour or 45 minutes. Give the squash at least fifteen or twenty minutes to cook before you start on the actual risotto; that way it will actually be done by the time you want to add it to the barley.
Ok! Risotto! Peel and dice a medium onion (pref yellow, but whatever). Warm some olive oil in a 3 quart pot, add the onion, and soften. While you're waiting, make some vegetable broth in a separate small pot: just add your onion trimmings, plus any other non-brassica vegetable scraps you have around, to a pot of water. Simmer it for at least ten minutes. You now have broth! Hooray! I really need to just write a page of the top ten cooking techniques I use for freaking everything, because "making broth" is definitely one of them.
When the onion has collapsed, add a cup or barley and another cup of dry vermouth or white wine to the pot. Cook on medium-high, stirring reasonably often, until the vermouth has been absorbed. Now just stick to the basic risotto method, adding a cup or so of hot broth at a time and cooking, stirring often, until the barley is cooked almost entirely through.
By this time your squash should be done roasting. Add it to the risotto pot, along with a last cup of broth, and cook as usual.
When the barley is cooked through, you're done. Take the pan off the heat and add a handful of chopped sage. (If you use dry sage, I'd add that near the end of cooking, so it can have a chance to rehydrate.) Salt and pepper. Add grated parmesan, romano or even gruyere or emmenthaler if you want cheese. You could also toast some walnuts or pecans in a little pan and break them up over the top of each serving.
Put it in a bowl, throw a little more sage over it, and eat it! This risotto really wants some serious winter greens on the side, and maybe a glass of lightish red wine like valpolicella. Thus concludes my knowledge of wine for the evening.
Leftovers: you cannot do better than fried risotto cakes for breakfast. Form them with wet hands so the risotto won't completely engooen you. If you feel fancy, you can put a little bit of cheese or maybe cooked greens in the middle of each cake. Then fry them in maybe a drop of oil, turning to brown each side. If you have cheese in the middle, make sure to let the cakes cook a while on low so said cheese melts.
Then you can eat them, with scrambled eggs and green onion optional. Voila! Breakfast is awesome!