Food + Wine, Fun

Rebels and Pumpkins

Today we went pumpkin picking as a family.  It’s something I look forward to every year.  The hay riding…

…the searching for the perfect pumpkin,

my handsome boys, so proud.

the cider sipping, the farm animal petting… it’s the first real entry into my favorite time of year that I get to spend with my two favorite little pumpkins.

Last year when we went, my daughter was only 7 months old, we had her in one of those Michelin Man jumpsuits because it was freezing cold.  We pushed her in a stroller and she had no clue what was going on.  This year, it was almost 70 degrees, beautiful and perfect in every way.  She and her brother roamed the pumpkin patch like pros, she tripped over a few vines here and there, brushed herself off then popped back up again to catch up to her hero.

They had the best time.  What is it about a pumpkin patch that gets everyone so excited?  I know the reason it makes me so giddy is because I am truly in love with the Fall and the pumpkin patch means cool weather, stews and fireplaces.  But the kids adore them because why?  It isn’t even the field of pumpkins that makes them excited…it could just be a pile of pumpkins and they want to stare at them, play with them, sit on them.

my daughter, the rebel.

Kids love pumpkins, so I guess that makes me one big kid.

One big, pumpkin lovin’ kid.  With a couple of little pumpkin lovin’ kids of my own.

It was the perfect day.

And I can’t wait til late November when I cut those suckers up and cook ’em into something fantastic.  (Oh god, the pumpkins, not the kids.)  But until then, I have so many cans of pumpkin in my cupboard I could open my own store.  Granted, that would be a weird concept for a store, being one that sells only cans of pumpkin, but still.  I could totally do it.  I see absolutely nothing wrong with canned pumpkin.  In fact, I actually prefer it to using fresh…usually.  It’s near impossible to get the right consistency when you cook your own pumpkin and puree it.  And the taste is actually better unless you use the small, sugar pumpkins.  I use canned pumpkin for a lot of things, I use it to make boxed cake mix better (mix 1 box of dry ingredients with only 1 can of plain pumpkin and bake), to make pumpki-fied pasta sauces, scones, breads, macaroni and cheese, raw and vegan pies, and soups.  And now I can add to that list, risotto.

I love risotto.  Love it.  I make it often because I always have the ingredients on hand, but I probably don’t make it often enough considering how much I LOVE it.  Did I say that already?  What’s not to Love?  Starch and cheese in any form is automatically entered into My Favorite Food category.

I knew I wanted to make pumpkin risotto this week, (because this time of year I become Pumpkin Obsessed, if you haven’t noticed) and got the idea of making barley risotto when I went into my cupboard (pushing aside all the cans of pumpkin) and saw that I had a ton of barley in there.  I know it’s not traditional and there is absolutely nothing wrong with arborio rice, but I like to change things up a bit and love when I can add extra nutrients to something otherwise lacking in that department. I’ve tried making risotto with brown rice before and it just never came out as satisfying as this one does. I actually forgot I was eating barley… Barley has that fat, pearl shape just like arborio, so it even kinda looks like the real thing.  Obviously you can make this recipe with arborio rice and it will be awesome, this is just what I did because I like to live on the edge.  I’m a grain rebel.

So, here it is…hope you enjoy it!!

*Pumpkin Barley Risotto

-Soak 1 cup of dried barley (not the quick cooking kind) in enough cold water to cover them completely for 3 hours.  Drain and dry.  (This step can be done a few days in advance if need be and kept in the fridge, covered.)
-Heat up 1 quart of chicken stock (vegetable stock, of course, can be used to make this vegetarian) in a medium pot and add 1 can of plain pumpkin puree.  Whisk to combine.
-In a large skillet, heat 1 TB of unsalted butter with about 1 TB of olive oil.
-When the butter has melted and started to foam a bit, add 1 large shallot, minced.  Toss and sweat for a couple minutes.
-Add your drained barley and toss to coat in the fat.  Allow to toast for a couple minutes, stirring often.
-Add about 1/2 cup of dry, white wine and stir.
-Add in the rind of a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano (You will need 2 cups of grated cheese for this recipe later so either use the rind from that or use one you may have stored in your freezer like I do.)
-Once the wine has been absorbed, add a couple ladles of your pumpkin stock and stir slowly, on medium heat. When the stock has been absorbed into the barley, repeat with another ladle of stock and continue this until all the stock has been absorbed.  This takes 20-25 minutes.  And you’re stirring throughout the process.
-When all the stock has been absorbed, season with a good amount of freshly grated nutmeg and add in 2 cups of grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Asiago or Pecorino.  (I do not recommend domestic Parmesan, but the asiago and pecorino are generally a lot less expensive than the Parm Reg.)
-Stir the cheese into the risotto in a figure-eight pattern so you don’t end up with one big cheese ball on your spoon.
-Once the cheese has melted evenly into the risotto, taste to check the salt content and then you’re ready to serve!  Sprinkle some chopped fresh sage leaves over each serving and enjoy on a cold Autumn night.

(*The better the stock, the better the risotto!!  I used leftover homemade chicken stock I froze from making my Chicken Pot Pie last week.)

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