At the cusp of the old and new years, we are Janus-like, looking back and looking forward. We reminisce. We plan ahead. We see a whole year stretched out in front of us, with endless possibilities but we’re sometimes not mindful that it’s made up of single days. I’m sure that’s why New Year’s resolutions often don’t work. I always attempt to start afresh by sorting, filing, cleaning, clearing. So do others, if you believe the instinct of stores like Target that restock the Christmas shelves with storage boxes. I know, it’s also a clever way of taking up space while they change over the merchandise. After the hectic holidays – and this one set a record in length and intensity – I just want a clean desk and an organized pantry.
So what does this have to do with butternut squash risotto and pomegranates? The answer is both pragmatic and symbolic. The largesse of the holiday season has left us with bits of this and that – the plump end of a butternut squash, a bit of chicken broth, the last of a bottle of white wine, scraps of ham and a half a pomegranate, among other oddments. Practically speaking, all but the pomegranate could end up in a soup, a bread pudding, or even a risotto, comfort food ringing out the old year and celebrating the new. But the pomegranate… Now that’s magic, a nearly universal symbol of abundance and good luck because of the number of bright red seeds that it contains. Through the myth of Persephone (we were just talking about her at dinner the other night – really – due to a certain 5-year-old’s discovery of the near miraculous fruit), the pomegranate also speaks to the seasons, and renewal. So here we have risotto that collects the old year’s leftovers and transforms them for the new. Happy New Year.
Butternut Squash Risotto with Pomegranate Seeds
½ medium butternut squash
1 small onion, finely chopped
Butter (or olive oil)
¾ c Arborio rice
¼ c white wine
3-4 c chicken or turkey stock, warmed
Salt and pepper
Seeds from half a small pomegranate
Prepare the squash. Peel it and cut some into neat small dice, roughly chopping the remainder. Steam the diced squash until just tender and reserve it. Cook the chopped squash in a little water until soft and puree it. The diced squash will be added at the end and the pureed squash will be combined with the risotto cooking liquid.
Lightly sauté the onion in a little butter until soft. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains. Start adding the stock, about ¼ c at a time, regulating the heat to keep the liquid at a simmer. Add the squash puree as you go. Keep stirring and adding additional ¼ c of stock and a little puree.
The entire risotto should take about 20 minutes to cook. When the risotto is just finished, adjust the seasonings. Stir in the diced squash and pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately.
Serves 3-4 as a side dish.