What is more autumnal than winter squash and cranberries and some nutty, al dente farro?
I’ve been leaning heavily on these squash-y, grain-y combos lately. They feel so comforting now that the evenings are chilly, and the savory textures are a world away from the crisp sweetness of summer. The first time I ever had risotto was in Munich almost 5 years ago to the day (wow, time flies!), a pumpkin version with sage and loads of Parmesan and (I can only assume) even more butter. This dish is vegan, actually, but just as delicious as that first one I had. The squash and whole grains fill you up with lots of fiber, protein, beta carotene, antioxidants, and even omega-3s. I like to tip the balance in favor of the veg — though I totally understand if you feel compelled to double the quantity of farro for a more grain-heavy version. Maybe as a Thanksgiving side dish?
Farro is a great for making risotto. It is not gummy at all and it cooks up almost as fast as white rice, even though it’s a whole grain! I loved the flavor of slightly sweet butternut squash and slightly tart cranberries. I bet dash of cinnamon and/or a sprinkling of crushed pistachios would be delicious as well (I’ll try this on tomorrow’s leftovers!).
Farrisotto with Butternut Squash and CranberriesYou will need 2 large skillets for this — I used one 12″ and one 10″ pan. It sounds like a pain but it lets you control the two elements individually. The squash cooks better covered so it can steam, while the farro needs constant stirring. Plus, both pans will be right in front of your face so it should be pretty easy to pay attention to both at the same time. And no complaining about extra dishes to wash (I thought this at first, too) because really, the only other things you need are a cutting board and a knife. Yields 3 main-course servings. Takes about 45 minutes.
- 1 cup farro
- 2 cups vegetable stock or water
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1.5 lb butternut squash, diced into 3/4″ cubes
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 heaping cup fresh cranberries
- salt and pepper
- Chop your veggies while you bring the stock to a simmer. Preheat two skillets over medium-low heat, add 1/4 cup olive oil to each.
- Add the squash to one (the larger of the 2 if they’re different sizes), stir to coat it with the oil and cover, stirring occasionally. Add the farro to the other pan and stir to coat it with the oil for a few moments, stirring constantly.
- Add a ladle of stock to the farro. Don’t be alarmed if it steams up when it hits the oil, just stir constantly until the stock is absorbed. Continue stirring in one ladle of stock at a time, waiting to add the next ladle until nearly all the liquid is absorbed.
- Meanwhile, add the onions to the squash along with some salt and pepper. Stir well to coat. Cook uncovered for a minute or so to sweat the onions, then recover the pan. Don’t forget to stir the farro every minute or two while you’re doing this.
- When you are ready to add the last ladle of stock to the farro, the squash should by now be fork-tender. Add in the garlic and cranberries, stir, and cover. You’ll hear the cranberries start to pop! Stir the last of the stock into the farro. Give the squash pan a shake every minute or so.
- Once the last of the stock is incorporated into the farro, taste it to make sure it is tender enough for you. If not, you will need to add a bit more water or stock til it’s to your liking. Once you’re happy with the texture, combine it with the squash pan. Stir well for another minute or two. The onions and the squash will release some starch of their own to coat the farro, giving it even more risotto-like texture. Serve and enjoy!