Oven Baked Risotto with Butternut Squash and Candied Rosemary Walnuts

I feel like celebrating. It’s been a year (give or take a day or so) since Let’s Stay In hit the bookstores and I’m feeling sentimental. This little book went out to the world with a bit of fanfare and then I just left it to do its thing. Hoping, praying and crossing my fingers that the recipes will find their way into your homes, around your table and perhaps even into the stories of your families. I’ve received so many incredible messages throughout the year that indicate that my prayers were answered.

Thank you for trusting me with your time, your resources and with those precious moments spent around the table. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude today as I reflect on the incredible gift it is to be able to share this work. Just like any job there are many moments where it feels just like work. That’s when I sit back, often head into the kitchen just to cook and revel in the goodness.

Words fail me so let’s just celebrate this little occasion with a warming, special yet delightfully simple dinner. It’s what I’ll be making tonight and I hope you join me. Connecting with you all over recipes really does bring an intimacy that is felt beyond the computer screen.

Thanks for all the support and for enjoying and sharing the work I do. It would not happen without you all.

Oven Baked Risotto with Butternut Squash and Candied Rosemary Walnuts

Yield 4-6 servings

As much as I love cooking the reality is most days don’t afford me the luxury of gingerly stirring a pot for an hour with a glass of Pinot in hand. But just because that’s my reality doesn’t mean I can’t have risotto on a regular basis. Enter oven-baked risotto. This no-stir method produces a creamy, satisfying result without all the stirring (don’t worry, you can still have the wine in hand while the oven does all the work). 

The process starts with a cold oven so that pesky preheating isn’t even an issue here. And if fall is a season or two away feel free to skip the squash and candied walnuts and go for say, roasted asparagus with peas. Or how about roasted corn and tomato laced with twangy goat cheese and a few wisps of basil? The adaptability here makes this dinner a perfect candidate for cleaning out your fridge.

Ingredients

4 tablespoons/ 60 g unsalted butter, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided

1 large onion, diced about 3 cups/ 450 g 

2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary leaves

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced, about 4 cups / 540 g 

1 1/4 cups/ 250 g arborio rice

4 cups/960 ml chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup/ 240 ml white wine, divided

1 cup/ 10 g finely grated Parmesan

1/2 cup/ 60 g crumbled gorgonzola (optional)

Instructions

Add 2 tablespoons butter to a large skillet. Stir in the onions and rosemary and sauté over medium heat until they just start to color, about 15 minutes. Add the butternut squash and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt then continue to cook for 5 minutes. In a 9x13 baking dish add the rice, stock, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and 1 teaspoon sea salt then stir in the butternut squash mixture. Place the dish in the middle rack of your oven. Turn the oven to 400°F. Bake the rice for 30 minutes stirring about halfway through. The rice should still be ever so chewy. Remove the rice from the oven then stir in the remaining 1/2 cup white wine and the parmesan. Serve with the candied walnuts and gorgonzola crumbles, if using. Serve while warm.

*Leftovers? Breaded in Panko crumbs leftover risotto fries up beautifully in a skillet with just a bit of oil. Add an egg if the risotto is not wanting to hold together. 

Candied Rosemary Walnuts

1 cup/ 120 g walnuts

1/4 cup/ 50 g sugar

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

Flake salt

Add the walnuts, sugar, and rosemary leaves to a dry skillet set over medium high heat. Stir occasionally as the sugar melts and caramelizes. Don’t leave the pan as the walnuts and sugar can easily burn. As the sugar starts to melt stir continuously until completely melted and the walnuts have shifted in color. The sugar will start to smoke but continue to cook until deeply caramelized. Carefully dump the caramelized walnuts onto a plate, sprinkle with flake salt then let cool. 

 

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Squash and Potato Focaccia with Bay and Pecorino

* This post was created in partnership with California Olive Ranch. We’ve been working together this year  to bring you some special recipes that highlight this beautiful olive oil. I’ve been using their olive oil for years now because they produce a high quality oil for an everyday price. They work with farmers in California and around the world to source their olive oil in order to create perfect blends.

As always the words, images and opinions are my own. A very hearty thank you to all of you who support the brands that believe in the work I do here.

As much as I love the abundance of produce in the summer it’s fall that I’d consider to be the season of cooking. There’s a chill in the air that settles me inside. I’m home, warm and content. As the rain patters against the window and the gray settles in I take it upon myself, a duty and an honor, to fill the air with scents of spice, roasts and freshly wakened yeast. Simple joys when slowly added together build a lifetime of loving memories.

Now that we’re settling back into a rhythm and routine of the fall and the sun softens its heat, the oven is back on, dinner is once again served round the table and I’m happy.

This focaccia recipe is from my latest book, Let’s Stay In. I loved it when I wrote it (which is why it’s in the book) but since publication this recipe has been fully lived in. The dough comes together quickly and while it can handle a slow rise it’s not required. I can throw the dough together between inbox sessions then about 30 minutes before we plan to eat I ravage the fridge and figure out what to throw on top. Served with a simple salad it makes a stunning meal that doesn’t feel as thrown together as it really is. 

 

As luck would have it on this particular day I had a delicata squash and a potato sitting next to one another in the vegetable bowl. While I’m the only one in the family who heralds squash season with fanfare this simple pizza of sorts got rave reviews from each seat at the table.

Bay leaves add a fragrant floral note but rosemary would also do nicely here, as would sage or thyme. I thought Parmesan would finish the focaccia but it turns out pecorino is what I had on hand. All of that to say, this is endlessly adaptable. 

Squash and Potato Focaccia with Bay and Pecorino

Ingredients

3 cups / 1 lb/ 455 g flour

1 tablespoon rapid -rise yeast

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/4 cup / 10 ounces/ 300 ml warm water

1/4 cup / 1 3/4 ounce / 60 ml California Olive Ranch Destination Series Mild & Buttery olive oil

1/2 delicata squash, deseeded

1/2 large yukon gold potato

5 fresh bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon chili flake

1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino

Instructions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (or in a large bowl using your hands as the dough hook) add the flour, yeast, sea salt, and sugar. Mix just a few seconds to combine. Stir in the warm water and olive oil then knead until a smooth, sticky dough forms. Let this rise until doubled, about an hour, or plop into a greased and lidded container in the fridge overnight.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

After the first rise add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a parchment lined sheet pan. Add the dough to the pan and coat the dough in the oil. Start to press the dough to cover the pan. It will resist at first but stretch it as far as it wants to go then let it rest a few minutes then stretch again. Continue until the dough reaches all four corners of the pan.

Using a mandolin (or a very sharp knife) slice the delicata squash very thin, about 1/8-inch. Cut the potato in half lengthwise and slice using the same thickness. They need to be sliced super thin in order to cook through in the oven.

Layer the squash and potato on the focaccia dough until covered then slip in the bay leaves. Sprinkled with chili flake, olive oil and flake salt. Let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the focaccia is golden brown around the edges and the squash a potato is cooked through.

Finish with the pecorino.

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