'Tis the season, everyone. Yes, it was 97 degrees last weekend, but it's fall, finally, and you know what that means. Time to start putting pumpkin in everything! There's been a little disagreement at the office lately... but despite what certain other food writers here at KCET might have you think, pumpkin is delicious, and it happens to be in season right now, so no, we can't stop putting pumpkin in everything, pumpkin flavored things are the best. We've all heard diehard Starbucks fanatics contemplating out loud the right day for their first pumpkin spice latte ("I want it as soon as possible, but, like, not when it's too hot, you have to time it perfectly!"), but true fans of fall, and of pumpkin, know that that's not all this season is really about.
What is it about? It's about pumpkin beers, spicy and sweet and tasting like pie; or tangy, hoppy and tasting like honest to god pumpkin. It's about squash ravioli on the menu at your favorite Italian place and decorating your fruit bowl with miniature festive seasonal gourds. It's kind of about feeling nostalgic about carving pumpkins for Halloween, but so much more about taking the seeds and baking them with a little cinnamon sugar (or totally plain, for pumpkin loyalists) or sautéing them in olive oil with paprika, cumin, and whatever other spices you have on hand. It's about pumpkin curry, pumpkin soup with a dollop of sour cream, and gosh, if it's not about pumpkin pie, I don't know what it's about.
One of my favorite easy pumpkin dishes is this pumpkin risotto, which is totally reliant on the season in that it requires your local grocery store to be stocking canned pumpkin, which they mostly do in the fall. If you're feeling like a culinary artist or happen to have a big ol' pumpkin on hand, feel free to substitute the real deal. You can serve this with the wine you use to cook the risotto, but if you're feeling especially in-season (I know I am), pairing this dish with a pumpkin beer is the way to go.
The Most Casual Pumpkin Risotto Recipe Ever
1 can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1.5 cups arborio rice
1 large white onion, chopped
A whole lot of chicken stock (a whole bunch, if it's homemade, or enough to fill 4-6 cups, if you're buying it at the store)
A bottle of wine (you only need a cup, but hopefully you know what to do with the rest)
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced or chopped to whatever size you prefer to eat mushrooms
1-2 cups grated parmesan cheese, depending on how much you like cheese
1 handful fresh sage, finely chopped (or however much dry sage you want in your pumpkin risotto)
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a medium size pot, and keep it warm.
In a large, deep pan, sauté the mushrooms in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat, about 4-5 minutes or until they're brown. Season mildly with salt and pepper while cooking.
Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set them aside. You can recoat the same pan with olive oil to sauté the onion -- cook on medium heat for 5 mintues, or until they turn golden.
Add the arborio rice and sauté with the onions for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice looks slightly translucent.
Pour in your cup of white wine (or a little bit more) and cook with the rice and onion until the wine dissolves.
Add chicken stock one ladle-full or cup-full at a time, stirring occasionally. The stock will cook down. Keep adding stock for 16-20 minutes, letting the liquid cook down before adding more. Near the end of this time, add the mushrooms back in, add your salt, pepper, and sage and taste test the risotto to make sure it's tender enough to eat, but not mushy and overcooked.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in ½ of the can of pumpkin, or more to taste. Fold in ¾ of however much parmesan cheese you grated and save the rest to sprinkle on top later. Garnish with a sage leaf, and serve it up!