Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Baked Rice with Butternut Squash

I like to refer to oven-baked rice dishes as lazy-man's risotto, and I seem to have better results when I cook Arborio rice (or other short-grain rices) in this fashion. Butternut squash makes this take on it just right for fall.  If you're reading this post in the spring, check out my recipe for Baked Risotto with Asparagus, Spinach, and Cheese.

  • 1 (1 and 1/2-pound) butternut squash
  • 2 cups vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage*
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup vegan dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup grated vegan cheese
  • Fresh thyme sprigs (optional for garnish)
1. Place the butternut squash on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until tender.  Let cool before peeling (a vegetable peeler works just fine). Cut in half lengthwise, discard the seeds and membranes, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.  Set aside.

Note: you can prepare the squash up to 2 days ahead at this point, and store the cubed squash in the fridge.

2. In a saucepan, combine the broth, water, and sage.  Bring to a simmer, but do not boil.

3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute for 6 minutes.  Add the garlic; saute for 2 minutes.  Add the rice and saute for 1 minute.

4. Stir in the cubed squash, warm broth mixture, white wine, chopped thyme, salt, and black pepper.  Cook for a final 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Transfer the rice mixture to a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, just until the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from the oven and stir gently; sprinkle with the cheese and return to the oven for a final 5 minutes.  Fresh thyme sprigs make a lovely garnish when serving.

Note: for the cheese, I used the the vegan mozzarella block from Galaxy Foods, which grates well to mimic a hard white cheese like Parmesan. For more fun with products from Galaxy Foods, you might also check out their recent food demo for PETA.

Tonight, I paired this dish with the stuffed chicken from Match - already prepared and sold frozen, the folks at Match have stuffed their vegan chicken with a beautiful blend of tofu, kalamata olives, and spinach. Add a watercress salad and bread rolls on the side to round out the meal:

Pour a crisp (vegan) white wine to serve with this dish, such as fume blanc.

*A note on the herbs - I preferred using fresh (particularly so I had extra thyme sprigs for garnish) but you can substitute 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage and 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme for the fresh herbs in a pinch. 

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (about 1 cup), Calories 186 

Tasting Notes:
Yum - I felt like the fall harvest had landed on my plate. Full of buttery butternut squash and earthy sage and thyme. I am consistently impressed with how baking in the oven yields perfectly-cooked rice, tender and creamy but not mushy like a stove-top risotto can sometimes be.  The dish tasted quite simply of its few components, which is why I'm not rating it higher - nothing exquisite going on here, but if you're looking for a warming, fall-flavored rice dish, this is your recipe.


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