Butternut Squash Risotto

This dish wasn’t an official part of our cooking school, just me messing around in the kitchen, ad libbing.  It came out so well I’m posting it here.  It’s a really pretty golden color, but by the time I got my camera out every scrap was already consumed.  We had it as a main dish, but it would work well as a side dish in smaller servings.

Butternut Squash Risotto

A delicious and golden yellow risotto, great for a chilly day.  You could substitute pumpkin or other winter squash.  When I made it, I didn’t actually measure anything, so the amounts are approximate.  It’s a forgiving dish, so don’t worry too much about getting them exact.

1 butternut squash, medium sized, or 2 1/2 cups puree
1 1/2 cup arborio rice
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh sage, crushed
3/4 cup white wine
cayenne pepper to taste
black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup swiss cheese, cut into chunks
vegetable broth or water

1. Slice the butternut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the guts and seeds.  Brush cut surface with olive oil, then place face down on a baking sheet.  Bake in oven at 350 F until the inside is very tender and soft, about 30 minutes.  Let cool until easy to handle.

2. Scoop out insides of squash and puree in blender or food processor.  If it is too thick to easily puree, add a little water.  Set aside.

3. Heat 2 T olive oil in a large heavy skillet.  Add onion, cook until soft.

4. Add garlic, sage, salt and peppers.  Cook a couple of minutes.

5. Add the arborio rice, stir until well coated with the oil and onion mixture.

6. Add white wine, cook at medium heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid is gone,

7. Add the squash puree and 1/2 cup of water or broth.  Stir constantly and cook until liquid is gone.

8. Keep gradually adding liquid and stirring until it is absorbed or evaporates, about 1/2 cup at a time.  As the rice cooks it will swell and form a thick broth with the squash puree.  Do this until the rice is almost completely cooked, about 30 minutes.

9. When the rice is almost completely cooked, add the swiss cheese along with the last batch of liquid.  Stir until the cheese is melted and the rice cooked.  If you want a lot of broth, remove from heat while still liquidy.  If you want less broth, cook until liquid is almost completely absorbed.

10. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Let sit 5 – 10 minutes, then enjoy.

Servings: 6

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour

Make sure you use a big enough cooking pan – the rice will double in size.


Chocolate Mousse recipe

Adapted from James Peterson’s Cooking
This elegant dessert is surprisingly simple and easy.  The ingredients are key – real butter, fresh eggs, good chocolate.  It’s very rich, so serve small portions.

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 Tbsp butter,
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
2 Tbsp sugar

1. Combine the chocolate and butter in a double boiler at simmer.  Stir until melted and smooth, then immediately remove from heat.  Stir in the vanilla extract.  Let cool slightly.

2. Separate the eggs and set the whites aside.  In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks until blended.  Whisk the melted chocolate into the egg yolks, beating until smooth.

3. In another bowl, using a mixer or whisk, rapidly beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Add the sugar gradually and continue to beat until the sugar has dissolved and the whites are shiny.

4. Stir about one-fourth of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Then fold in the remaining whites just until no white streaks are visible.  Divide evenly among six 4 ounce ramekins and smooth off the tops.

5.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Servings: 6

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Author: James Peterson
Source: Cooking
Copyright: 2007

Chocolate Mousse Class

First you catch a moose.....

No, wait, different spelling. It’s actually:

Chocolate Mousse

Grade:  A, for recipe and cooks

Chocolate mousse has always scared me.  So French, so sophisticated.  But when we actually looked at the recipe in James Peterson’s Cooking, it  seemed quite simple.  Unfortunately,  he seemed to think that ramekins were vital, and we were stymied.  Our kitchen was ramekinless. However, we persevered and learned what they are.  Then one afternoon while wandering the mall waiting for a movie to start, I spotted some for a buck each!  The movie was terrible, but I was happy clutching my six ramekin beauties, despite having to watch Adam Sandler making fart jokes, in drag.

Once I convinced David that we didn’t need to hunt down a moose, we got to work.  This classic French pudding was actually remarkably easy to make – it took us about twenty minutes, then a half hour to chill.  It’s very simple, so use the best ingredients possible.  It’s also incredibly rich, so keep the serving sizes small and don’t give it to people who have already eaten a heavy meal.


Roast Beets

Adapted from James Peterson’s Cooking

This delicious and beautiful dish is easy to make, and I dare you not to like it.  Just remember – beet juice stains, so take off the white cashmere sweater before you start cooking.

  • 6 medium beets
  • 1/4 cup wine vinegar
  • 4 T butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 T finely chopped parsley

Cut off any greens at the root.  (Save them for a terrific stir fry – they taste great and turn tofu pink!)  Scrub the beets, then place on a baking pan in the oven. Set oven to 400 degrees F.  You don’t need to preheat.  Cook for about an hour (bigger beets take longer) or until a probe slides in easily.

While the beets are cooking, boil the vinegar down to about half, then whisk in the butter until melted and well mixed with the vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Hold the hot beets in an old kitchen towel and peel with a paring knife and your fingers.  Slice the beets into rounds about 1/4″ thick and place in a bowl.  Toss beets with the vinegar butter mixture.  Sprinkle the parsley over the top and serve warm.

The Search for Cornichons

September 4 – Cooking Class #1

We purchased a big elegant cookbook that promised to teach us everything we need to know- Cooking, by James Peterson.  We decided to make crab cakes with tartar sauce, roast beets, and peas.  We discovered that

a) this cookbook is only useful if you are already pretty experienced in the kitchen

b) Peterson assumes that your kitchen is extremely

David finding a recipe that did not require ramekins.

well equipped.  Our lack of ramekins, tart molds, popover molds, drum sieves, smokers, and food mills knocked a lot of the recipes out of the running.

c) This guy loves butter,  After following his recipes we too love butter.

d) It’s hard to follow a recipe if you have no idea what some of the ingredients are.  .

Twenty dollars of crab meat in 5 little cans.

Crab cakes – Grade:  B They were good, but too salty and fell apart a bit.

Janet’s comments:  Peterson wanted us to use fresh lump crab meat.  We couldn’t find any, and had to choose between canned and fake.  We went with canned and 5 cans cost us $20.    They came out too salty.

David’s comments:  The canned meat was really wet, and we had to squish out the liquid with our hands.  That may be why they didn’t form good cakes.  They kept falling apart as I fried them.

Crab cakes cooking

Tartar Sauce Grade: A  Sweet and tangy, and the shallots gave it an interesting flavor.

Janet – This was fun to make, as long as you aren’t worried about salmonella from the raw eggs.  But it called for minced cornichons.  WHAT is a cornichon?

David-According to the internet, cornichons are dill gherkins.  But we could only find sweet gherkins at the store, so we wound up buying a jar of dill relish, which worked fine and didn’t require any mincing.

The hunt for cornichons ended here.

Peas Grade: A  We liked Peterson’s simple instructions for cooking frozen peas, and they were delicious with lots of butter and some minced scallions and parsley.

Janet:  Mmmm.  Butter

David:  I didn’t know scallions and green onions were the same thing.  It was kind of confusing

Peas with butter and herbs. Mmmm, butter...

Roast Beets with butter and vinegar Grade A+  These were amazingly good and they looked spectacular.

Janet:  I would buy this cookbook again just because it taught me how to make these.  They were the star of the meal.  Just watch out for the juice, or you will soon own a beet colored shirt.

David:  They had a nice texture, much better than boiled beets.

Roast beets with butter and vinegar. Delicious.