A study in Bitter.

risotto bitter pot


I used to have a cookbook buying problem.  I couldn’t go into and out of the orange room at Powell’s without a book in my hand and $20-40 less in my wallet.  Until, that is, I discovered what an immense selection of cookbooks are contained within my public library.

And now I have a cookbook rental problem.  At any given time I have 5-8 cookbooks from the library on my bookshelf and under my desk.  Which doesn’t really work, because I can’t study that many cookbooks at once.  But at least I’m saving money and making use of a wonderful public institution, right?  And the books I really like, I buy.  It’s like a test drive.

Some of the books, like Maida Heatter’s, no one else seems to want, so I just keep renewing… and not reading.  The more current, popular books I have to read fast, because I know I won’t be able to renew them when my three weeks are up.

The current focus of my attention is Bitter by Jennifer McLagan.  This is my kind of book.  She takes a topic that I wasn’t interested in (or hadn’t thought to be interested in) —in this case bitter foods— teaches me about them, and inspires me to change the way I cook.

While I’m not ready for some of the recipes (beer jelly) and some are a bit out of my reach (turnip ice cream — I’ve no ice cream maker), most of her recipes are totally accessible.  Like this recipe here.  The bitterness of the radicchio is balanced by the nutty sweetness of the squash and the creaminess of the risotto.  It makes a perfect fall dinner with a glass of wine alongside.

risotto bitter bowl

Radicchio and Squash Risotto

(adapted from Jennifer McLagan’s Bitter)

serves 2-3

  • 3 1/2 – 4 c vegetable broth
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 – 2 1/2 c Kabocha or Hubbard squash, cut in 1 inch cubes
  • 6 c radicchio leaves, rinsed
  • 3/4 c arborio rice
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine or vermouth
  • kosher salt, fresh pepper
  • parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, bring the broth to a boil, reduce to a simmer.

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt half the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallot and cook for 3-4 minutes or until translucent.  Add the squash and stir.  Season with a good pinch of salt and cook, stirring a few times, for about 5 minutes or until the squash starts to soften slightly.

While the squash is going, cut the radicchio into large bite size pieces.

Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat them in butter.  Add the radicchio and continue stirring until the leaves start to wilt.  Add the wine or vermouth and stir until the liquid evaporates.  Add the fresh pepper.

Add a ladle of hot broth to the pot.  Stir continuously until the broth is absorbed into the rice.  Add another ladle of broth, and keep stirring.  Repeat the process until the rice is cooked but al dente and the squash is tender.  You may not need all of the broth.  Turn off the heat and let the risotto sit for a couple of minutes.  Add the other half of the butter and stir to incorporate.  The risotto should be lovely and glossy.  Serve with fresh parmesan over the top and enjoy the subtle bitterness!




2 thoughts on “A study in Bitter.

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