Life has a way of sweeping me off my feet sometimes and carrying me for a few weeks before setting me back down, cheeks all sore from smiling and completely wiped out. Since late September, I’ve been in a swirl of birthday celebrations, welcoming sweet new babies into the world,
spectacular wedding festivities,
our third anniversary (on which evening we threw a backyard bachelor party with about 30 folks, a cheesesteak slider bar and loads of food, fire, and games), precious moments with family,
(Adam and I went as the Silver Lining- which we are always looking for in life),
visits to a friend who had emergency surgery and needed some cheer, support offered across the miles to a loved one who experienced a scary stroke, and an afternoon soiree to send my Soul Sister off to Colorado to start a new leg of her journey.
And since you know me well enough by now, you know there were a few concerts, festivals, and ball games thrown in there too. It’s been mostly a euphoric whirlwind, with a few of life’s regular doses of “you better soak up each and every day, because you never know how many you’ve got left.” Point well taken, as always.
Amidst all of the excitement, I’ve been cooking up a storm!!! Small portions,
and everything in between. It’s no wonder I haven’t had a second to write!!!
I’ve also been obsessing over the multitude of glorious fall vegetables available to us, even as the weather grows colder.
So much variety!!!! All kinds of peppers, beans, peas, winter squashes, sweet potatoes, and sweet turnips give us plenty of options for creating hearty, whole meals. Cooking during this time of year is rewarding, colorful, and warming to the soul and the toes. And while many window-fogging, slow-cooking recipes are at the forefront of my mind these days, today’s risotto is simple to cook and truly embraces the essence of fall. You can make this for dinner tonight in a heartbeat.
Farro Risotto with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Turnip Greens
Instead of using an arborio rice to make the risotto, we chose to use farro. Farro is an ancient Italian grain that is more easily digestible than many other grains. It has an inherent and pronounced nuttiness to it, and I love to incorporate it into salads all year long. In this application, the farro provides a lovely chewy texture to the dish, sort of reminiscent of an al dente whole wheat pasta. Paired with scrumptious local sweet potatoes and slightly bitter, tender turnip greens, the playfulness of contrasting flavors at work here makes for one seriously delicious bowl of goodness.
*Preheat oven to 400°.
*Place 4 Cups of chicken broth in a pot on the back burner of your stove and heat it through. You don’t want it boiling, but you want it hot.
2 large sweet potatoes, washed and dried well, peeled
1/8 t or a sprinkling of cinnamon
1/8 or a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg
1 Cup farro, rinsed and drained
2 T butter
1 shallot, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 Cup white wine that you would drink
4 cups chicken broth (homemade is best, but low-sodium for sure)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (or use asiago or pecorino romano)
juice of half a lemon (not pictured…)
1/2 a bunch or about 10 leaves fresh turnip greens, rinsed and dried, chopped
2 big or 3 small sage leaves, chopped
Cut the sweet potatoes into small bite-sized chunks, about an inch around. Don’t stress about making them perfectly square, but try to keep them close in size.
Lay the chunks out on a sheet pan and drizzle heartily with olive oil. Then, sprinkle the potatoes with salt, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Use your hands to toss the potatoes in the seasoning. Then, spread them out into one even layer.
Roast for about 8 minutes, and then use a spatula or tongs to toss the potatoes. Cook another 6 – 8 minutes and toss again. Start testing to see if you’re getting close to tender. You may need to go for one more round of cooking, another 5 minutes or so. Once the sweet potatoes have some nice color to them and are fork tender, remove them to a bowl.
While your potatoes are cooking, you can begin constructing your risotto. Grab a sturdy whisk and get ready to make the magic happen!
Start by melting your butter in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add your shallots and a pinch of salt and cook for about a minute, allowing them to soften, but not brown. Then, add pressed garlic and stir for about 30 seconds to a minute. When you can smell the garlic, it’s time to add the farro.
Stir the farro into the buttery aromatics, turn the heat up to medium-high, and let the grains become toasty- about 2 – 3 minutes.
Then, add the wine to the mix and STIR, stir, stir. Stir constantly until the wine has been absorbed into the farro. This part goes quickly!
Once the wine has evaporated, add a ladle full of chicken broth to the pot. Again, you want to stir with gusto to incorporate the liquid. You don’t have to stir the entire time the liquid is bubbling, but it is most important to stir diligently upon adding each new ladle-full of broth.
Repeat this process of stirring in broth and allowing the liquid to be absorbed into the grains until the farro reaches your desired texture. It took us about 20 minutes for the contents of the pot to become creamy and the farro to reach a lovely al dente. You may not have to utilize all of your chicken broth to achieve a luscious consistency.
Add your lemon juice and cheese, stirring the cheese until it melts. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
Lastly, stir in your turnip greens, sweet potatoes, and sage. Taste again (WOW!!!) and make any last minute adjustments to seasoning.
If your risotto feels too thick as your stirring in your veggies, feel free to add another splash of broth.
Plate this gorgeousness up in a big ole bowl. You’re going to want to eat a lot of it. I was dazzled by the flavors in this dish- the way they mingled and danced on my taste buds was thrilling! The sweet potatoes were perfectly sweet (not cloyingly so), and the earthiness of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and sage sang loud and clear. The bright orange chunks lovingly countered the welcome bitterness from the turnip greens, while the acidity from the wine and lemon had its own strong, but not overpowering, presence. The nuttiness from the cheese and the farro were beautiful in that they somehow grounded the dish along with the savory foundation builders- shallot and garlic. Y’all, it was deeelightful! And I ate it all over again in the morning. You know, with an egg on it.
This risotto can stand on its own two feet for a vegetarian dinner. It would also be excellent paired with a juicy pork tenderloin, but it could easily be served with any kind of meat or fish. It wasn’t overly heavy, so it wouldn’t weigh a meal down.
Make it your own! You could totally mix in roasted butternut or acorn squash in place of the sweet potatoes and use arugula or spinach or lacinato kale as the greens component. If the greens you have on hand are quite bitter, I’d recommend blanching them for a few minutes before adding them to the risotto though, as they won’t have time to mellow in this application.
And I’m off! I’ve got shopping lists to make and cooking to do, of course! I hope you find this fall recipe to be inspiring and delicious.
Happy cooking and eating to you!