Friday, April 01, 2011

A Very Veggie Pesach 2011: Butternut Squash-Cheddar "Risotto"

Last year, I offered a number of kosher-for-Passover vegetarian recipes.  Those posts went over very well, so I'll be providing a few new ones this year!
This recipe is based on one I got from Cabot Cheese, which makes an excellent kosher-for-Passover run of sharp cheddar cheese. UPDATE: Cabot has discontinued its Passover run of cheese! Heartbreaking! There are other sources of Passover cheddar; I recommend Les Petites Fermieres if you can find it; I find it at Wegmans. Make sure it's certified for Passover; it isn't always. Most of the ingredients were already vegetarian and kosher for Passover, with one key exception: Rice. "Risotto" is a rice dish, and rice isn't kosher for Passover (by Ashkenazic standards).  I initially thought of substituting matzah farfel, but I realized that quinoa would give it much more of a risotto look and feel. Of course, not everybody accepts quinoa as kosher for Passover (see my discussion from 2010), so you can try it with matzah farfel if necessary, and let us know how it goes in the comments! UPDATE: Even OU now accepts quinoa, but of course they insist on using KFP certification.

I also made one other change that has nothing to do with Passover: I don't like mushrooms, so I substituted asparagus. My taste-testers, Rachel and Claire, gave this quinoa version two thumbs up, even though I made a few mistakes in my test batch! And yes, they liked the way the squash and asparagus went together.

This is not a particularly difficult recipe, but it is a time-consuming recipe, because the squash takes quite a while to roast.  Don't try to make this after you get home from work on a weekday!

  • 1 small to medium butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (a medium onion)
  • 1/2 cup chopped asparagus
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup wine or sherry
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or milk
  • 2 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley to garnish
Kashrut notes:
  • Star K's website says that fresh supermarket produce is not a Passover problem, which covers the squash, onion, asparagus, garlic and parsley.
  • OU's website says that all extra virgin olive oils are Kosher for Passover, even without any Kosher supervision. Many are marked kosher-for-Passover all year round.
  • Alcohol requires kosher-for-Passover certification. Kosher wine (which is usually marked kosher for Passover) is available in many liquor stores, even in surprisingly remote locations. I don't think I've ever seen kosher sherry, but I don't usually use sherry in my cooking.
  • Quinoa was discussed extensively in a 2010 recipe.  Short version: Not everybody accepts it as kosher for Passover, and nobody certifies it. Some suggest there is no problem with Ancient Harvest brand (green box).  If you don't use quinoa, try using matzah farfel (matzah nuggets) instead.
  • Vegetable broth would requires Passover certification.  There are vegetable broth cubes that make 2 cups of broth that are kosher for Passover.  If you can't find those, water is ok, though you might need more salt to taste.
  • Half-and-half requires kosher for Passover certification. I'm not sure how widely available that is (never tried to use half-and-half on Passover before). If you can't find certified half-and-half, use milk. It is widely accepted that milk does not require Passover certification if it is purchased before the holiday begins.
  • Cabot Cheese, the source of the recipe that this is based on, makes its wonderful sharp cheddar in a Passover run certified by the OU. You can order it from their website.
  • Iodized salt is not kosher for Passover! Star-K's Passover Guide says that non-iodized salts that do not contain dextrose or polysorbates may be used, but ideally you should try to find salt with Passover certification or just skip the salt.
  • Spices are not kosher for Passover without certification, and certified spices are hard to find. You can skip the pepper if you can't find certified black pepper in your Passover section.
  • Roast the butternut squash about 45 minutes at 400 degrees.  If you've never done this before: clean it, and slice off the top part (with the stem) and slice the bottom part to make a flat stable surface.  Place the flat bottom on a cutting board and slice in half downward.  Wiggle the knife downward left and right if you get stuck.  Scoop out the seeds and guts around the seeds (you can toast the seeds later -- they're edible in the shells, like pumpkin seeds).  Brush the exposed side with olive oil and put it on a cookie sheet greased with olive oil.  Cook it at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. 
  • Saute the onion in the olive oil until the onion becomes transparent.  Add the asparagus and garlic and saute for another minute or two.
  • Add the wine or sherry and simmer for a few minutes.
  • Add quinoa and stir well, coating it with liquid.  Let it cook until the liquid has absorbed
  • Reduce to medium low heat and add 2 cups of broth or water.  Stir and let this cook until the water is absorbed
  • While the quinoa is cooking (but keep an eye on it!), scoop the flesh out of the skin of the squash and mash it in a mixing bowl with the half-and-half or milk and the cheese.
  • Let the quinoa cook until the liquid is absorbed.  If the liquid doesn't all absorb, increase the heat to boil off the excess; if it seems under-cooked, add a little more water.
  • Stir the squash mixture into the rice mixture and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve topped with chopped parsley.
In case you're wondering what mistakes I made: I was short on a number of ingredients, and didn't notice until the squash was half cooked!  I was out of kosher wine (substituted water), out of broth cubes (substituted water), and short on quinoa (but it was a small squash), and forgot the parsley.  I also didn't measure carefully, and used too much olive oil and too much garlic (but really, is there such a thing as too much garlic?).  It still came out delicious, so this recipe obviously has a high tolerance for mistakes!

I hope to post one or two more new recipes next week.

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