I'm always a little sad when fall weather rolls in; summers are never quite long enough for me. I do relish the crisp air and the hard blue of a fall sky, but almost always find myself wishing for just one more really warm day, one without socks or sweatshirts.
Still, I don't live in Hawaii and I don't miss the sticky summers back east, so I can't really complain. And fall foods are always a bonus.
Take this risotto, for example. I'd never have contemplated it in the heat of the summer - too much stirring over a steaming pot. Now, steaming pots are welcome. Plus, I didn't have kabocha squash in the summer - I was playing in Zucchiniland back then. And, Brussels sprouts seems so perfect for fall - mini cabbages.
The risotto came about when the steaks I had planned for dinner didn't thaw in time. Luckily, I had the makings for risotto in the fridge - a few small portobello mushrooms, two slices of cooked bacon left from breakfast, onion, shallot, white wine, parmesan cheese and some roasted kabocha squash already scooped out of its shell. All I needed to add was arborio rice, chicken broth and thyme.
I won't go into all the steps of prepping a risotto - they are out there on the web - but I'll give you the shorthand: In a heavy saucepan, soften the alliums of your choice in generous butter, then add the mushrooms, chopped bacon and thyme, and toss those in the butter. Add the rice next and toss it, too, until the grains are coated and cook it for a few minutes, stirring constantly. When the rice turns opaque, pour in a splash of white wine and stir to coat. When the wine has more or less absorbed, start adding the chicken broth a little at a time, stirring with each addition.
Around the midpoint of the rice, I added the kabocha squash. It wasn't a purée, just sort of roughly chunked so there were little pieces of squash discernible in the finished risotto.
While the rice cooks, grate a goodly hill of Parmesan cheese and add that just at the end, when all your broth has been absorbed. Stir in the cheese and plate the risotto in shallow bowls. I didn't add salt and pepper until it hit the table - with bacon and cheese in the risotto, there may be plenty of salt.
The Brussels sprouts were simply butter-steamed on very low heat, to bring out their sweet nuttiness rather than their strong cabbage-family side. The ticket with them is not to overcook - they should still be brightly green and firm when served. Even Brussels sprout haters respond well to this gentle treatment.
With dinner like this on the table, I say bring on the fall! Even if it means rainy days and chill, I can face it with a stomach full of gooey rice and sprouts.