Risotto is a go-to fall and winter dinner in my house. There is always rice at the ready to act as a foundation for what ever happens to be hanging out in the fridge. In the early spring that might be some leftover asparagus or ramps, but this time of year it might be mushrooms or kale or squash.
All of these fall staples make for their own wonderful risotto by themselves or in combination. Great.
But I also get bored of the same old dinner. Sure, short-grain rice is wonderful stuff, but there’s a whole world of lovely grains out there just waiting to be stewed together in a risotto-style dish.
Quinoa does wonderfully but turns into more of a porridge. Millet, on the other hand, maintains a slight pop after it swells with simmering stock. It is one of the under-sung whole grains that can be found now at just about every supermarket.
Pick some up and experiment with whatever is on hand.
MIllet Risotto with Butternut and Baby Spinach
1 lb butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 head garlic
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup millet
4 cups vegetable stock or water
4 cups baby spinach
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Preheat the oven to 400°F
Toss the squash on a baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the oil and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Remove the top of the garlic head and sprinkle the exposed cloves with a pinch of salt, then wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and place it on the sheet with the squash. Roast the squash and garlic until the squash is tender and golden brown and the garlic is golden, 35 to 40 minutes.
While the squash roasts, heat the stock over low heat. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium heavy pot over medium high heat until hot, then add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally until golden, about 6 minutes. Stir in the millet, then add about 1 cup of the stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, adding more stock as needed, 1/2 cup at a time, until the millet is tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins and stir into the risotto, then add the baby spinach and cook, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the squash, butter and cheese and serve.