Monday, October 28, 2013

Winter Squash and Rice Casserole

I can’t remember clipping this recipe from a magazine. (Maybe because it was published in September 2002!) I can’t remember how it sifted itself to the top of my recipe to-do list. I can’t even remember how I decided that I had to make this NOW, rather than some other time this fall, except that I had a squash laying around and all the rest of the ingredients seemed to be on hand.

Remembering all that stuff might be overrated, however, as long as I remember to make this Winter Squash and Rice Casserole whenever squash is in season. Since it is made with hot broth and Arborio rice, it’s kind of like an oven risotto, but less soupy and creamy. And less demanding of your undivided attention. The squash is roasted first, some aromatics are sautéed, the rice gets a quick blast in the sauté pan, and then everything is tossed into a baking dish and the oven does the rest of the work. Oh yeah, it all gets topped with Parmesan cheese near the end. What could be bad about that?

I loved the flavors of the sweet squash, sage, garlic and onion in this fairly simple casserole. I used a butternut squash, since butternuts seem to be the easiest to peel and chop. If you happen to have a tougher squash to handle, you could pierce the skin several times with a knife, roast it whole at 350 F for 20-30 minutes, cool it until you can handle it easily, and then peel it and cut it into cubes. These cubes of squash might be tender enough to add right to the recipe as described, or you might need to cook them a little more. However you cook the squash, that part of the recipe could even be done a day or two ahead of time.

I also think this might work with another variety of rice. I’d like to try it with brown rice to bump up its Whole Food Quotient and add some nutty, whole grain flavor. Perhaps if that works, other grains, such as barley or quinoa, might work as well. Cooking times are likely to vary with these other grains, of course. I’m getting away from the risotto idea with these thoughts, but the casserole that comes out of the oven isn’t much like risotto in texture anyway.

This Winter Squash and Rice Casserole is really, really delicious, though, and quite simple to put together. I’m glad this recipe reached out and grabbed my attention from amidst the ancient recipe stacks and archives in my ridiculous collection. Even if I don’t remember how it got there.

Note: Sorry about the bad pics, folks. It’s that time of year when there’s no sunshine at suppertime, and food photos by a rank amateur like me suffer greatly.


Winter Squash and Rice Casserole
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

I find butternut squash to be easiest to use here, but any good squash that you don’t mind taking the time to peel and cut into small cubes will work.

1 pound peeled winter squash cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
¾ teaspoon coarse salt, divided
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice, or other short-grain rice
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
½ cup freshly grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, toss the squash cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt. Place in a single layer on a lined or greased baking sheet or in a roasting pan. Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender, but still holding its shape.

2. Remove the squash from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 400 F. Prepare a 13 x 9-inch baking dish by coating it with cooking spray or by greasing it with your preferred method. Set aside.

3. In a medium-size saucepan, combine the vegetable broth and sage. Bring just to a simmer. Do not boil. Keep warm.

4. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds more. Add the rice and cook 1 minute, stirring often.

5. Add the wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cooked squash, hot broth, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and black pepper. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Transfer the rice mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture gently. Top with the Parmesan cheese. Bake 5 minutes more or until the cheese is melted.


Makes about 6 1-cup servings.

Another recipe like this one: Winter Squash Risotto

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