Peter Cassidy Photo
Garlic risotto and butternut squash combine in an autumn dish. The recipe and photo are from “Garlic: The Mighty Bulb,” by Natasha Edwards.
King Tut took it to the tomb. The Israelites mourned its loss as they fled Egypt. Psychology Today recently described its aphrodisiac qualities. We’re talking garlic here. Of course.
Garlic is a storied food. What other edible can you think of that supposedly repels vampires and attracts lovers?
Garlic’s roots reach far back in antiquity. It was fed to the workers who built the pyramids to strengthen them, and Roman soldiers ate garlic before going into battle. But the use of garlic is just as robust today. It is a staple in restaurants and home kitchens, and it is a favorite of alternative health practitioners.
Garlic is used in nearly every cuisine: Asian, Mediterranean, African, Middle Eastern, and South, Central and North American. Two exceptions, according to “The Oxford Companion to Food,” are Iranian cuisine (where garlic is used sparingly) and in foods consumed by practitioners of Jainism, a religion that bans garlic and all members of the onion family. Otherwise, writes the book’s editor, Alan Davidson, garlic “is coming close to complete penetration of the kitchens of the world.”
Davidson, whose hefty tome is very light on health claims about food, touts the antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-blood-clotting properties of garlic. “Generally, it would be fair to say that the health-giving properties of garlic are well attested and have probably not yet been fully explored,” he writes.
I make it a policy never to eat a food solely because it is “good for you.” Fortunately, with garlic we can have our proverbial cake and eat it, too. Few savory dishes are not enhanced by a clove or five.
“Garlic: The Mighty Bulb,” by Natasha Edwards (Firefly Books, 2012) contains everything you need to know about garlic: cooking, medicinal uses, planting and harvesting. As luck would have it, garlic is easy to grow; in fact, fall is the time to plant it.
Edwards’ Roasted Butternut Squash and Garlic Risotto is a stunning fall dish and makes a fabulous vegetarian main course. You might even consider it as a “turkey and dressing” alternative for any non-meat-eaters at your Thanksgiving table. Like garlic itself, it is something for which to be thankful.
Roasted butternut squash and garlic risotto
Yield: 4 servings
1 large butternut squash, seeded and cut into chunks
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
A few sprigs thyme, plus 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 to 4 cups vegetable stock
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup arborio rice
½ cup white wine
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash in a large bowl and, using a garlic press, crush in 2 of the garlic cloves. Drizzle with 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil and throw in the thyme sprigs. Season generously with salt and pepper. Toss to coat the squash. Place mixture in a large roasting pan and roast 30 to 40 minutes, or until the edges of the squash begin to brown.
Remove squash from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Before you turn off the oven, throw the pine nuts in a small baking pan and toast them about 5 minutes. Watch carefully; they will burn easily. Remove the pan from the oven and remove the pine nuts from the pan to stop their cooking. Set aside.
Scrape the squash flesh from the skin into a bowl, removing any thyme twigs. Scrape any sticky juices left on the baking pan into the bowl and mash the squash. Keep warm.
Meanwhile, bring stock almost to a boil. In a heavy saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, along with 2 tablespoons butter. Add onion and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Crush remaining 2 garlic cloves into onion and gently cook another 2 minutes. Add rice and stir well so the grains are coated with butter and oil. Pour in wine and stir until absorbed. Add a ladleful of hot stock and stir until absorbed. Keep the pan simmering while gradually adding more stock, a ladleful at a time, and continuing to stir, until the rice is cooked but still firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Reserve any unused stock for another use.
Remove rice from the heat and add mashed squash, the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, grated Parmesan and the tablespoon of chopped thyme. Season with salt and pepper and toss lightly. Sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and additional grated Parmesan.
Recipe from “Garlic: The Mighty Bulb,” by Natasha Edwards (Firefly Books, 2012)
Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.
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