Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Comfort Food: Winter Squash Curry Risotto

As mentioned in an earlier post, I have spent more time on airplanes this month than I have at my apartment, which means my poor kitchen has suffered from neglect for most of January. Winter months are a kitchen’s prime, when the stove should still be hot from 3 burners getting action each meal and the oven radiating with the sizzling sounds of roasting vegetables or the candied aroma of apple crisp. Sadly, my cold, dark abode seemed as though someone was using it for a changing room or refueling station – clothes abound, mail splattered across three different tables and an un-emptied dish washer.

Upon my return, I craved some home cookin’ that could rival my mom’s Roasted [insert animal chop here] with Mac n’ Cheese and Steamed Broccoli that used to feel so good when we came home exhausted from school drama or back-to-back sports games. Something warm, something filling, something flavorful. While I hadn’t been to the grocery store in what felt like ages, or 4 whole days, I did not feel like maxing out my credit card at Whole Foods after slapping my Visa all over Washington, DC. Even with the most disparate supply have I whipped up some passable meals.

I looked to my cupboard and what did I see? Butternut squash and a jar of curry. This of course brought on a few Thai-inspired ideas, but without a trip to the store I was stuck with what was on hand and I didn't have any basmati, white rice or rice noodles. Plus I didn't feel like a curry was necessarily considered comfort food and my mind was set. Peering further through the cupboards, my goal was to use up one of the miscellaneous grains that accumulate in the back corners of my cabinets (you known, the unused quarter- and half-cups here and there leftover from another brilliant meal). I spotted some Arborio rice and thought of how warm and comforting risotto sounded. Thai risotto? Hmmmmm…. It could work.

And it did. It was delicious.

If you have not made risotto, it is very easy. This is hard to convey in a recipe, because glancing through the directions, there seem to be many steps and a good amount of attention required. However, it is very simple I promise. Rice is typically cooked by bringing it to a boil, reducing the heat and simmering until the liquid is gone. Risotto does not stray far from that basic principle.

The difference lies in the amount of liquid that simmers at one time. Instead of pouring all the liquid and all the rice into one pan, you slowly add the liquid, a cup at a time, until it is absorbed. Then you add another until absorbed, repeating until the rice is done. Occasional stirring while it cooks allows the rice to release some of its starches, creating a thick and creamy sauce which is what makes this a comfort food.

Curry Squash Risotto
Serves 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


1 Medium Butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 c. Green bell pepper, sliced into 2” strips
4 ½ c. Water
2 T. Soy sauce, regular or low sodium
1 T. Canola oil
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ T. Ginger, minced
2 T. Green curry paste
4-5 Scallions, chopped, white and green parts divided
1 c. Arborio Rice
½ c. Coconut milk
1 T. Sugar
1 T. Fresh lime juice
Soy sauce to taste
½ c. Tomato, diced
¼ c. Fresh cilantro, chopped


Bring butternut squash to boil in a medium sauce pan. Turn heat to medium and simmer at a low boil until squash is somewhat tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside.

Bring water and soy sauce to a low boil in another pan and keep on medium-low heat while cooking the risotto.

In a large skillet, sauté garlic, ginger and white parts of onions in canola oil over high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add curry paste and stir-fry 1 additional minute, being careful not to burn. Turn down heat to medium-high and add rice, stirring to completely coat in spices. Add 1 cup of seasoned water to pan. Lower heat to medium and let rice simmer ~5-6 minutes. When rice has absorbed most of the liquid, add another cup of seasoned water and stir. Let rice simmer until liquid is absorbed again ~ 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add butternut squash, green peppers, and another ¾ cup of seasoned water to pan. Meanwhile, mix coconut milk with 1 cup of seasoned water. Once rice begins to look dry again, add the coconut milk and continue to simmer.

Meanwhile, mix the sugar and lime juice together in small bowl. When sauce becomes thick and rice is tender, stir in sweetened lime juice and season with soy sauce to taste. Divide risotto into servings and top each with tomatoes, green parts of scallions, and cilantro.


  1. Sounds delicious and easy to make. Do you think it is high in protein? ... a weight trainer's dish?

  2. Oh my yum! We added some swiss chard for some extra roughage, and it was delicious. Thank you for sharing!