Cooking with Lady Smokey: Harvest Time

Last week was a big week for pumpkin sales. You know, though, they aren’t just for carving. I actually enjoy savory pumpkin dishes as much as I do the sweet ones. I’m in the process of coming up with some yummy pumpkin sweet ideas now but in the meantime, I want to share this recipe I came up with for Pumpkin Risotto. This makes a huge pot- I always like to make a big pot since it takes so long to make. Then, we can enjoy leftovers throughout the week. We often reheat some for lunch, make risotto cakes to create an entirely new meal, or sometimes scramble some into eggs for a delicious brunch. You can easily half the recipe, though, if you want a smaller serving.

Roasted Pumpkin Risotto
• 4 cups Roasted Pumpkin Puree
• 5 cups Vegetable Broth
• 1 cup Raw Pecans
• 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
• Sea Salt
• Ghee or Olive Oil
• 3 Shallots
• 2 sprigs Fresh Rosemary
• Olive Oil
• ½ Yellow Onion, chopped
• 2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
• 2 cups Arborio Rice
• ½ cup White Wine
• Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
• 1 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano

First, roast the pumpkin. In the past I have bought small pumpkins, cut in half, scooped out the seeds, and placed hollow side down with a little water in a baking dish to roast the halves. For this, I had a huge pumpkin so I cut it into pieces, removed the seeds, rubbed the pieces with a little olive oil, and roasted at 400 for about 45 minutes (or until soft). Meanwhile, while the pumpkin roasts, make the maple roasted pecan halves. To do this, mix pecans with maple syrup and a little salt. Place them in a small skillet with and cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Be sure to watch them and stir them so they do not get too brown on one side. Remove from the pan, set aside and let cool.

If you are making homemade vegetable stock, prepare that also while the pumpkin roasts. (I did this by using about 5 cups of water, half an onion chopped, a few cloves of garlic, some parsley, a carrot and a stalk of celery (both chopped), and a little salt and pepper.)

Cut the shallot into thin slices. Saute in a pan with some ghee. Stir and cook these for a few minutes. Once they start to brown, remove from heat and drain them on a plate lined with a paper towel. Set aside. Once the pecans have cooled, chop them. Chop the rosemary. Mix the rosemary, pecans, and shallots together in a small bowl and set aside. You can later use this to garnish the risotto.

Once the pumpkin is roasted, scoop out the flesh and blend. Mix the blended roast pumpkin with the vegetable stock. Keep the stock on medium low heat as you start the risotto. Heat a large skillet on the stovetop to medium heat. Add ghee or olive oil. Add the onion and saute. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add garlic. Add rice. Stir. Add wine. Stir. Gradually begin to add stock in, about half a cup at a time and continue to stir. Stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add another addition of stock and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Repeat this process until the mixture is creamy and a bit loose; the rice should still have some chew to it. The process will take about 20-30 minutes. Right when you think you are getting close, add the parmesan. Stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top each serving with the pecan mixture.

I came up with a few really simple healthy fall salads to accompany risotto or soup. For me, these salad ideas always evolve seasonally; based on what we have in the fridge, what needs to be used up, or whatever irresistible piece of produce caught my eye that day. I usually top them off with a tiny piece of cheese cut up or some nuts to give them a little more depth and protein. And sometimes, I skip the oil all together. It doesn’t always seem necessary to me.

I found a beautiful candy striped beet which became the inspiration for this first salad.

Simple Autumn Salad
• 2 cups Spinach/ Greens mix, chopped (I used a salad mix and spinach.)
• 1 Tbsp chopped Fresh Parsley
• 1 raw Beet, peeled and grated
• a couple drizzles Balsamic Vinegar
• 1 Orange, peeled and cut into sections
• 8-12 Raw Pecan Halves, chopped
• Small piece of Aged Goat cheese, chopped
• Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Mix the parsley and greens together. Grate the beet into the bowl and toss with the greens. Drizzle with vinegar and lay the orange segments on top. Sprinkle with the nuts and cheese. Salt & pepper to taste. Note: I used the Cypress Grove Midnight Moon aged goat cheese for this which was wonderful. It has a nice nutty and slightly sweet taste. Any aged cheese will do, though, or a blue would also be fabulous.

This next salad was adapted from a NY Times recipe for Fennel Slaw. I just simplified it, basically. I found a beautiful large fennel bulb at the farmer’s market last week and just so happened to have a red pepper in my fridge. I tried not adding the olive oil to this one but found it to be much better with just a drizzle. It gave the flavors a little more depth.

Fennel Red Pepper Salad
• 1 large Fennel Bulb, finely chopped (include some of the fronds)
• 1 Red Bell Pepper
• Juice of ½ a Lemon
• Sea Salt & Pepper to taste
• Parmesan Reggiano, chopped or shaved
• Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Mix the fennel and pepper together and squeeze the lemon juice over. Stir. Salt & Pepper. Top with cheese and olive oil and toss all together. I just used a small chunk of cheese. It really doesn’t take much but use as little or as much as you like.

Do you ever buy a bag of bulk dried beans and then forget about them? Apparently, I do that quite often. I just realized that we have quite an assortment of dried beans in the cupboard. Luckily, it’s soup season. I still have lots of herbs in my garden, too, so I came up with this very simple but delicious white bean soup. I picked up a little piece of local country ham to toss in but you can very easily leave it out, use some salt, and substitute a good veggie stock to keep it vegetarian. 

The herbs are so nice and flavorful that it will work nicely. In fact, I was worried mine was too salty with the ham and stock that I added in a potato to absorb some of the salt. Turned out to be just right at the end so I left the potato in and cut it in quarters. Each bowl got a chunk of potato. I served this with a simple Carrot Apple Salad.

Herby White Bean Soup With Country Ham
• 2 cups dried White Beans
• 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
• 1 Onion, finely chopped
• 6 cups Stock or Water (I used 3 cups homemade chicken stock and 3 cups water)
• 2-3 oz piece of Country Ham, finely diced
• 1 large Red Potato (optional)
• 3 Tbsp chopped Fresh Herb Mix (Sage, Rosemary, Lemon Thyme, Oregano)

Soak the beans overnight in water (enough water to cover the beans and an about an inch above). When you are ready to start the soup, rinse the beans and set aside. Heat a large pot on medium heat and add the oil. Cook the onion in the oil until it softens. Add the ham. Stir. Add the beans. Stir. Add the stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for about 2 hours, or until the beans soften. Add the herbs. Stir. Cook a few more minutes. Salt and pepper if necessary. Serve.

And as an accompaniment to all your Fall soups and stews… I present Cheddar Sage Biscuits. I made these for a recent country music house party my friend Allison and I hosted and they were a hit. They sort of taste like a vegetarian version of the delicious classic, party-favorite- sausage balls! Basically, this is just a slight variation of my standard biscuit recipe.

Cheesy Sage Biscuits
• 3 cups All Purpose Unbleached Flour
• 2 Tbsp Baking Powder
• 1 tsp Sea Salt
• 1 cup finely grated Cheese (I used a blend of Beecher’s Flagship & Grana Padano but any extra sharp cheddar would be great, as well)
• 10 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
• 1 ¼ cups Buttermilk
• 1-2 Tbsp fresh chopped sage

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix the salt, baking powder, and cheese with the flour and then add the chilled butter in a medium mixing bowl. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the butter pieces are about the size of an English pea. Work quickly so that the heat of your hands won’t melt the butter. Pour in all of the buttermilk and, using light pressure, fold the mixture a few times until it holds together. Don’t overmix. In order to make light biscuits, it is important to work the dough as little as possible.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and fold it quickly and gently 4-6 times, just enough to get all the ingredients mixed. Sprinkle a little flour under the dough so that it won’t stick to the board and lightly dust the top of the dough so that it won’t stick to the rolling pin. Roll the dough out to about ½” thickness. Cut the dough into 1” rounds, place on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven for about 11-12 minutes. I like the biscuits to be slightly crispy and golden brown on the top and bottom, but velvety in the middle.

Our buddies Off The Wagon played the aforementioned party. They have been playing in Nashville for a long time, usually at one of my favorite places, The Station Inn. Not only are they super talented guys but, also, really nice people. You can find out more about them here.

And in other bluegrass related news, I’ve been enjoying this wonderful album that was released earlier this year by another fellow Nashvillian, Nora Jane Struthers. You can purchase it here. And I will close with this super fun video of the title track, Carnival.


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