Autumn defined in one meal: Pumpkin and meatball risotto

As you have witnessed over the past few posts, Thanksgiving home time gave me the excellent opportunity to reboot and rekindle my dearly beloved blog. This pumpkin and meatball risotto was the final meal I made for my family on the Monday evening before returning to Ottawa.

It, of course, used pumpkin, my favourite food during Thanksgiving and the subsequent October weeks. Like many wonderful things, I found the recipe on Tastespotting, and quickly worked to recreate the masterpiece as best I could.

And as per usual, no dish is made without its challenges. As soon as I saw a mention of meatballs, alarm bells went off. The last time I tried the make the spherical delicacies at home, bad things had happened. Many things could have factored into my previous failure, including a lack of non-stick pan, my mom’s psychotic cycling heat oven, too much egg in the meatballs or all of the above. That batch of meatballs became meatcubes became meat pancakes. Before I knew it, things weren’t looking so hot. Many cautions were taken this time around to avoid duplicating what is now known as the famous Swedish meatball incident.

September 2010's failed meatball attempt. Womp womp.

The first of these precautions was to use my mom’s only non-stick pan. I knew from the start that this medium-sized pan was not going to be large enough to make the entire meal, and that transferring the meatballs over at some point would be inevitable.

Happy, cooking meatballs

Luckily, my choice was a good one. Perfectly shaped meatballs bubbled and bounced about in the melted, popping butter. Potential disaster number one: averted.

My second issue: in no way does pumpkin enjoy being grated.

Like, not at all.

Being the sometimes (read: always) unprepared amateur chef that I am, I left the pumpkin preparing until the last second. As in about four minutes before I was to add it to the already cooking, half-completed risotto.

I quickly realized that I had to both hull and peel the pumpkin before going any further. I swear, you have never seen a girl scoop the innards out of a pumpkin so quickly. Then, it was time to grate. You know how sometimes you grate something and more ends up on the front of the grater than in the back, grated pile? Yeah, well that happened. A mess was made and half of the kitchen counter was covered in a light, pumpkin dandruff. I paint an appetizing picture, n’est ce pas?

Anyways, about 15 minutes later, the pumpkin was done, and added to the mix. Finally.

Just for good measure, I added in some nutmeg, which, combined with the white wine, led to an extremely flavourful dish.

Speaking of flavour, my dad paid me a lovely compliment that went something along the lines of how my food is no longer just nice looking, but now also has complex and delicious flavours as well. He says I’ve improved. I am proud.

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Squash Risotto (and a new vegetable friend)

This was a day of trying new things!  Being in an abnormally daring mood (this can probably be attributed to the fact that I’m now rollerblading to school and feeling significantly more badass), I decided to try TWO new things: risotto and squash.  Yes, I know what you’re all thinking.  “Has this girl lived in a hole!?  How can she never have possibly eaten these two things?!”  Well it’s the truth.  The only exposure I’ve had to risotto has been when my roommate Alex makes it and I grab the occasional spoonful (secret’s out!) from the pot when she’s not looking.  Ooo, I also know risotto as the food that the contestants on Hells Kitchen always mess up.  See below for dear Gordon Ramsay’s description of this seemingly easy, but apparently very complicated dish…

Now that we’ve been distracted momentarily by Ramsay’s dreamy British accent, let me resume discussing this squash.  When I went to the grocery store in search of a butternut squash, I wandered around the produce section eventually realizing that I have no idea what it actually looks like.  Once again, my wonderful iPhone saved the day, as I was able to quickly google pictures of this strange vegetable (or is it a fruit because it has seeds?  The verdict is still out).  Once I got home, I had this gigantic desire to draw a face on the squash.  I do not know why…these bizarre thoughts just sort of come to me sometimes.  Anyways, the result was the picture below.  I almost drew a face on Brittany’s to make my squash a husband, but I don’t think that would have bode too well for me…

Anyways, the risotto was yummy!  I also discovered the definition of a miracle while making this meal: there was somehow magically chicken stock, white wine and – this is the best part – FRESH SAGE in our kitchen.  This made my day.  I was super sketched out with adding white wine to the mix at first, but after much convincing from Ariel, I finally caved.  Speaking of the recipe, this one was from the October edition of Canadian Living.  It’s a great way to make use of fall’s wonderful harvest, and I definitely recommend it.  The only thing is, it makes LOADS!  I halved the recipe (thank god) and still ended up with enough for four servings.  Make your measurements wisely blogosphere…