Rich and creamy pumpkin risotto with scallops and a delicious sage-butter sauce. The perfect hearty cold-weather meal!
I feel embarrassed writing about this. Maybe it’s the feminist in me that wishes I could overcome this debilitating habit that so many women (people, really) struggle with. I have food issues. It feels so narcissistic to dwell on something that makes me so self-conscious. It’s definitely improved over the last decade but it is a constant struggle. From what I’ve learned about food issues/disorders, they are an ongoing battle that don’t really ever go away but can be managed with the right tools. I am prone to negative thoughts naturally, and eating certain foods seems to increase those negative thoughts.
I am never not aware of when and what my next meal will be. I love food and I also have a sweet tooth, which makes managing my diet exhausting at times. I used to be unaware of how food affected my mood and my body. I would overeat, feel lethargic and negative about myself, and never make the connection of how my body felt after consuming certain foods. I just thought I would be happier if I was thinner. Just sharing this makes me squirm in my seat. It’s so cliché. I guess I’m a cliché. Over the years I have educated myself on healthy eating habits- how sugar, carbs, gluten, etc. affect the body as well as the mind. I read somewhere recently that people who struggle with anxiety and depression should avoid sugar as much as possible; sugar causes inflammation and increases anxiety. I don’t want to cut sugar out of my diet completely, but it’s a slippery slope. Even eating a small serving of sugar often sets off neurons in my brain begging for more. I can usually tame the beast if I’m in a good place mentally. But if I’m already struggling with something when I eat sugar, I tend to eat too much of it. Then I feel sick and beat myself up mentally for not controlling myself.
I feel like everyone is constantly trying to strike the right balance in their lives. I guess one’s diet is no exception. I’ve started making a kale-banana-blackberry smoothie every morning for breakfast. And I’ve gotten much better about eating a couple of servings of vegetables every day. But come 3 or 4pm, I am clamoring for a cookie or a muffin. Something sweet and carb-heavy to comfort my anxious self. Sometimes an apple will cut it, but I have to really convince myself that it is better for me. Some days it doesn’t satisfy my sweet tooth, but I eat it anyway. I’m also improving on balancing those rich, carb-heavy foods that I love with smaller portions.
I love risotto but I hardly ever order it at a restaurant. Just thinking about the calorie count will make me uneasy. But I don’t want to avoid certain foods anymore simply because I’m afraid of what the voice inside my head will say. I have never made homemade risotto for fear that I would eat it all and get fat. But it’s a new year and I am trying a new approach to foods that scare me. I can eat them every once in a while in moderation and not degrade myself for doing so. Right. I can. I totally can.
This pumpkin risotto recipe, adapted from Gourmet, blew. my. mind. It is, dare I say, the ultimate comfort food. If you’ve never made risotto, or never even tried risotto, this is the recipe to start with. It’s rich and creamy, and the squash and onions add a nice touch of sweetness. The parmesan cheese creates depth and a nice saltiness to balance the pumpkin and onions. The most important part of making risotto is to keep stirring when incorporating the stock into the rice. Also, be sure to pat the scallops dry. This will ensure a nice, crisp crust when sauteing them. Enjoy every bite of it, and if that negative voice pops up, tell it to go to hell.
Scallops with Pumpkin Risotto
- 1-1/4 cups diced, peeled, and seeded small butternut squash (you will have squash left over)
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3/4 cup Arborio rice
- 1 oz. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/3 cup)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 20 large sea scallops 1-1/2 lbs., tough muscle removed from side of each if necessary
- 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh sage
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Place diced squash on baking sheet.
- Roast squash until tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Bring stock and water to a simmer in a small saucepan and keep at a light simmer.
- Cook onion in a large saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add rice and cook, stirring 1 minute.
- Add 1 cup simmering stock and cook at a strong simmer, stirring constantly, until stock is absorbed.
- Continue simmering, adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, about 18 minutes total. (There may be broth left over.)
- Remove from heat and stir in diced squash, cheese, and butter, stirring until butter is melted. Add salt and pepper and cover to keep warm.
- Pat scallops dry and season with salt.
- Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté scallops, turning once, until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
- Transfer scallops to a bowl with a slotted spoon and discard any oil remaining in skillet (do not clean skillet).
- Cook butter in same skillet over moderate heat until it foams and turns light brown.
- Add sage and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and stir in truffle oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Put one cup of risotto on a plate, place 5 scallops on top, and drizzle sage-butter sauce on top of scallops.