Friday, May 13, 2011

Kabocha Risotto with Fried Sage and Pine nuts

This is just an epic recipe and exemplifies what is best about understanding the science of food. It combines Italian and Japanese elements in a transparent way so that what you get is much much greater than the sum of its parts.

You can make the broth and the risotto with minimal effort. (You may skip the instructions for making the "broth" if you already have some but this recipe shows you how to get away with making it "on the fly".)

But first, you must be aware of this particular culinary trick.

Secondly, you can streamline the ingredients and the pots so that there is very little wastage of either time or effort.

The important thing to note about kabocha is that unlike butternut squash, it doesn't need to be peeled. The skin is thin and edible and delicious. What you need to do is scrape it with a peeler to get the hard bits off. The Japanese adore this particular technique because it renders the squash with alternate dark and light green colors which is visually quite appealing.

Follow the instructions closely, and be amazed at what you can achieve on a weekday when you are "exhausted".


1/2 kabocha
1 large red onion (diced very fine)
4 cloves garlic (diced very fine)
1 cup arborio rice
16-18 sage leaves
4 tbsp pine nuts

4 cups dashi

1 cup parmigiano-reggiano


First, soak the konbu in 5 cups of cold water. Let it sit for 30 minutes or so while you do some prep and/or enjoy a nice glass of wine.

The onion and garlic can be pulsed in a food processor. Just make sure that you don't purée them.

Heat the oven to 350°F and roast the pine nuts for 7 minutes. Set aside.

Cut up the kabocha into large pieces. Don't get too technical. Rough shapes are fine. Also, cut up a little bit of the kabocha into neat little diced pieces. Set aside.

Bring the water to a boil. Pull the konbu off just before it boils otherwise it will taste bitter. Toss the large kabocha pieces in. Let it simmer for 10-12 minutes at high heat to get the squash to soften. When done, blend the mixture in the pot, and keep at a very low simmer.

Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a pot. When hot but not smoking, toss in 6-8 of the largest sage leaves. Let them fry for about a minute and fish them out and set aside on some paper towels to absorb the oil.

In the same oil, toss in the onions and the garlic. Fry for 6 minutes or so until they are colored but not caramelized. Toss in the rice and fry for a bit. Add the salt and black pepper. Just before the broth, toss in the neatly diced kabocha pieces and fry for a bit.

Now comes the standardized risotto procedure. Toss in the blended kabocha broth and stir. Toss and stir, toss and stir, toss and stir.

Finally, the mantecura. Put in the parmigiano-reggiano and stir well.

When done, garnish the risotto with the fried sage leaves and the roasted pine nuts.

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