Butternut Squash Risotto and musings from a Book Wh*re

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There was a 'M*A*S*H' episode in which all of the characters were asked what books they had brought with them.  Amidst all of the traditional answers of 'the Bible', 'War and Peace', etc., I loved Hawkeye's answer best: "The dictionary; all the other books are in there."  And so they are.

Betty, of And So Forth (among other blogs)  has tagged me for a reading/book meme.Cookbooks_2

Hmmm, me and books!  I persist, much against the advice of everyone, in hauling my books with me.  They've moved from the U.S. to Ireland to Andorra to France.  They go where I go.  Even the trashy, cheap dime-store novels.  I'll forgive almost anything – but do not, I repeat, do NOT loose a book that I loan to you. 

Why?  For the simple reason that I am not rich enough to keep me in new books.  I read too much.  Always have. 

Fortunately I am quite happy to re-read….many times.  Re-reading old books is like visiting old friends: you know what to expect but it's enjoyable nonetheless.

My Reading: I'll read just about anything: cereal boxes, junk mail, magazine ads…I do, of course, draw the line at instruction books, except as last resort.  I generally do not read books written in the first person – just a quirk.  Like many others, I read the classics when I was younger. I spent one summer reading Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, and Greek plays: Euripides and Aristophanes (don't you just love the way those names role off the tongue?) -  interspersed with with 'young romances' and Plato. (I could do the romances at the rate of one a day so I needed something to sink my teeth into). 

In order to get an 'A' in English at the high school I attended I had to read 60 books per year from the list of authors being discussed.  No problem!  I usually read twice that. 

Currently I'm reading legal and murder mysteries, science fiction (Jordan's Wheel of Time series is good for someone like me – so far 12 books of around 1000 pages each, complicated and no where near being finished), plus anything else that gets recommended by anyone.  I once reread all of my books, in alphabetical order.  Don't say it!

One more thing, lest you think I laze around the house eating bonbons and reading all day: I read for 30 – 45 minutes every day while I ride my exercise bike and another 30 minutes or so before bed.  I read magazines in the car.

How many books do I own:  I have over 200 of the 'classics' that I've collected over the years, over 200 cookbooks (1 of 4 cases in the photo), and probably 1,000 other assorted paperbacks and hardcovers of all genres.

Last book bought and read:  a Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka.  Did I mention that I also love humor?  This book is hilarious.  I also have all of Bryson's….

Five meaningful books: 

Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom.  I know nothing about WWII (or the Great War, for that matter).  I should say I knew nothing.  I'm learning.  This is a powerful book written about the the winter of 1940, with Franco flirting with Hitler and Britain standing alone.  Well written, compelling,  haunting.. and a great story!

The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  One of a few books that I finished and immediately started reading again.  There are so many layers to explore, and the author does a wonderful job of giving us a peak into the characters but leaving plenty of room for our own imagination to fill in the gaps.  What if….

Replay by Ken Grimwood.  What if you could do your life over but retain all of your current knowledge?  The main character has a heart attack at 40 and wakes up in his college dorm room, in his college body but with his 40 year old mind intact.  He knows who won the World Series and which stocks are going through the roof.  Can he prevent the assassination of JFK (no, but he prevented Oswald from doing it, a guy named Smith does it instead)?   What if….

The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. Ten young people, running from the Black Death tell stories to entertain themselves, 1 each every day for 10 days; each having a theme: 100 stories.  Written in the mid 1300's it's a collection of funny, bawdy, tragic, romantic and degenerate stories that give a wonderful, often hilarious insight into medieval life.

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon.  A fascinating, humorous and insightful peak into the mind of an autistic boy.  It was a revelation as to what it must be like to live without understanding emotion; to not grasp why other people do what they do – unless it's logical, of course.  Christopher (main character) has to solve a murder mystery (of a dog) worthy of his hero Sherlock Holmes.

Do I have to stop?  Yeah, or I'd go on for the rest of the day.  Now, whose bookshelves would I like to explore… I will tag Lydia, Blue Zebra, and Tanna… and any and every one else who wants to play.

What's on your shelf?

Now for the food.  Wondering what to do with the other half of the butternut squash?  How about some risotto?

Butternut Squash and Ham Risotto

   This is based on a recipe from the cook book 'Risotto'.  As always, the end result should be creamy, smooth, almost soup-like, never stiff.

1/2 cup plus 2 tbs Arborio rice (Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)Butternut_3
1/2 cup dry, white wine
2 – 2 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 onion
1 cup shredded butternut squash
1 tomato
1 tbs butter
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese – freshly grated (about 2oz, 60gr)

Heat chicken stock and keep hot over low heat.  Finely chop onion and tomato.  Peel butternut squash using potato/vegetable peeler.  Cut it in half the long way (blossom to stem) and remove seeds. Using large holes on grater, shred part of the squash until you get 1 cup.  Wrap the remainder in film and refrigerate.  In medium saucepan heat butter over medium-high heat.  Add onion and tomato, sauté 5 minutes.  Add squash and sauté 5 minutes longer.  Add rice and sauté stirring, for 2 – 3 minutes until rice has white center.  Add white wine and stir.  Start condimenti.  When wine is almost absorbed add a 1/2 cup of stock, stir.  When stock is almost absorbed add another 1/2 cup and continue adding 1/2 cup at a time and stirring.  Before the last 1/2 cup taste a few kernels of rice.  They should be just 'al dente' – slightly resistant to the tooth but fully cooked.  If more stock is needed add it 1/4 cup at a time and waiting until almost completely absorbed.  At this point risotto will be thick but not stiff – there will still be visible liquid and it will not hold its shape on a plate.  Add the Parmesan and the condimenti, stir well, pour into a bowl or risotto platter and serve immediately.  It will continue to absorb liquid and the leftovers (if any) will be quite stiff.


1 slice, 8oz (250gr) baked or deli ham
12 – 15 fresh sage leaves, half that number if the are large – more than 2" (5cm) long 1 tbs dried
1 tsp olive oil

Cut the ham into bite-size pieces. Heat olive oil in nonstick skillet. Add ham and sage and sauté until ham is lightly browned. Turn heat to very low and keep warm until needed.

Note:  The first photo is right after I poured it into the risotto platter; the second is on my plate – with a side of butternut squash.  As you can see it quickly absorbed more stock so if I had not taken it off heat or added the last bit of stock it would not be so lusciously creamy…  Trust me, you'll be glad you did (says the spider to the fly; cackle, cackle)

Bon weekend!

27 thoughts on “Butternut Squash Risotto and musings from a Book Wh*re”

  1. Why is it so interesting to know about what people read? I rarely find that they read the books I like and read but I like it so much! Thanks Katie for letting me have a glimpse of your ‘book mind’!

  2. Love reading tags and I see we have quite a few books in common! I completed this tag a while ago. My response is at – 🙂

  3. I rarely have time to read any more, but I have read The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and LOVED both books!

  4. I enjoyed looking at one of your cookbook shelves — I wish I could get right up close and pore through it! I probably “only” have about 80 cookbooks, but I have a ton of cooking magazines.
    I also really love Bill Bryson. I read “Notes from a Small Island” this summer and thought I would split a gut.
    I couldn’t get into “The Time Traveller’s Wife” though…so many people were crazy about that book…I couldn’t even finish it. Strange.

  5. So glad to see another more-or-less-out-of-control cookbook habit 😉
    And now I’ve got some good recommendations for books I haven’t read – thanks for sharing!
    Looking forward to seeing what Tanna’s reading …

  6. Your cookbook shelf looks like my cookbook shelf!!! When I moved into my new apartment last month, my friends and family hauled 32 boxes of books into the place. I have no idea what I would do without books, especially my cookbooks.
    Love your book selection and the risotto.

  7. Thanks for the WWII book recommendation. My youngest uncle landed at Normandy on D-Day and was the Captain who carried the famous “Nuts!” message back to the Nazi general at Bastogne yet my uncle never would talk about his experiences, so I love reading about the entire episode.

  8. I’m almost done with “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I’ve loved this book! I’ve laughed so hard I cried, and there were paragraphs so gorgeous I had to go back and re-read them. Also a great fan of Bill Bryson.
    As for hauling books around, I don’t think anyone could come close to my late husband. His idea was to insulate our house in New Mexico with books, and he did a spectacular job of it. We basically lived in a library. We had a history section, a poetry section, a fiction section, etc. The cookbook section covered 2 bookcases. I never bothered counting them.

  9. Somehow I just knew you were not the type to sit around eating bon-bons…are you kidding !with your fabulous life style and gardening skills….Iam impressed that you have all this extra time to devote to reading ….and you have read some great books at that!If you didn’t take your books with you all over the world, you wouldn’t have that incredible library that you just showed us.I don’t think we can ever have enought books ….

  10. I was typing so fast and made so many mistakes-maybe I better read more books on how to spell! Sorry about that!

  11. Oh Katie, I’m in awe. You are Wonder Woman Reading!
    I must read a bunch of those that you’ve listed!
    Today is travel day for me. So I’ll try to get to this one within a week or so. Thanks for inviting me.
    The risotto looks just fall perfect.

  12. Wendy, I checked it out – one for sure, maybe two, I’m adding to my wishlist.
    Ilva, for me it’s because I just might find a new author! But I agree, and for the same reason, I think that it’s actually difficult to buy books for others.
    Kalyn, they were great, weren’t they!
    Betty, I would say about half of the people I recommended Time Traveler’s Wife to had the same reaction – just coulnd’t finish it. Must be one of those books! Reading Bryson in public can be embarrassing.
    Joanna, I am so bad. We went to Hay-on-Wye once…I’m too embarrased to talk about it.
    I hate to brag, breadchick, but last move I had over 70…but, still, you have a nice start – hahaha! (Ive also been told to start paring down)
    Casey, that was your uncle? Cool! Hope you enjoy the book.
    Toni, thanks for the recommendation. And I bow in awe to a master.
    Jann, I would be lost without my books…as to typing skills, I wish I had some!
    Tanna, have a good travel day – can’t wait to see what you’re reading!

  13. With each subsequent household move, the number and weight of my book boxes increases. Now that I am married to a reader even greedier than I, it makes me shudder to think just how heavy the combined haul will be when we buy a bigger place. “The Last Days of Socrates” was actually quite good, as I recall…

  14. I don’t have Arborio rice, just Jasmine rice, but I am going to try to see if there is enough starch in the Jasmine Rice to make a risotto. I have been looking at your risotto on and off all day, and I want some! Wish me luck, this is my first try.

  15. A few of the books that you are reading look like something that I could get into. I too can read a book more then once (if it is good) one of my childhood favorites I still read like Anne of Green Gables and the Hobbint and Lord of The Rings. I have been reading a lot of Rutherford the last 2 years. I see that we even have some of the same cookbooks too.

  16. I don’t read instruction books, either 🙂
    I am an official fan of your risotto recipes, the quantity is always just right for my family. I’ll be trying this one as soon as I get my hands on a butternut squash.

  17. Reading on the exercise bike! I read cookbooks and books about wine. I subscribe to a number of food and wine magazines so my nose is usually in one of those. If I do read a book, it is usually food reltated. I am reading “Heat” by Bill Buford right now. He left his job at The New Yorker for a most unlikely destination -the kitchen at Babbo which is owned by Mario Batali. Good story and humor so far.
    I enjoy the cookbooks that have a good story along with the recipes. Too funny, I have the Risotto book that you got your recipe from above. Great book! Your risotto looks so comforting! Nice photos!

  18. Wow . . . I was really intimidated when I read about your Iliad / Odyssey / Aeneid reading adventure. You’re quite the reader! Three thoughts:
    * When you read magazines in the car, are you in the passenger seat or the driver’s seat? 😉
    * If you liked Winter in Madrid, you may also enjoy Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk. Amazing set of novels covering the lead-up to WWII and the war itself through a cast of characters you’ll grow to think of as family.
    * Perfect recipe for this turn-to-autumn–thank you! I’ve got a butternut squash on my counter and an abundance of sage in the garden . . . you’ve just made my dinner!

  19. Katie
    Having friends for dinner on Wed just planning the menu and as I have a celiac coming I was thinking of risotto as a first… yours looks wonderful. Will get back to you.

  20. Susan, that is a very scary thought, isn’t it…all of those book boxes…
    Lannae, good luck… I don’t think it will work like risotto rice but I do think it will be very tasty…
    Shayne, I like Rutherford, too. There’s at least one on my wishlist right now. And I’d forgotten Anne of Green Gables..
    Meredith, glad they work for you. At Carrefour the other day they had all the squashes labeled wrong.. hahaha!
    Deb, if I couldn’t read on it I wouldn’t use it. I can read on a treadmill, too! Food and wine mag’s are for the car.
    Swirlingnotions, passenger, or course. I gave up reading while driving when I left the U.S. One really has to pay attention here…hahaha I’ve read War and Remembrance and I agree, It was wonderful. I’ll look for the other – hope you enjoy the risotto!
    Gilli, hope it works for you – or any risotto.. I’ll wait to hear..

  21. I loved – The curious incident of the dog in the night.
    I totally understand you wanting to take all of your books with you wherever you go. I have very sadly had to start giving some of my books to charity because we just don’t have the space. I have sulked like a child with every box that has gone!

  22. Looks good. Risotto’s are currently one of my favorite dishes. I normally end up with a risotto that is drier at the end. I will have to try bringing it to a soup like consistency the next time I make it.

  23. Katie, I’m the same way with books! I won a reading contest when I was in 2nd grade–the town library’s, and it was open to all children. My mom wouldn’t let me compete the next year…
    I will have to look at some of the those books. I don’t have a lot of time to read right now, but here is a small smattering of what’s on my shelves:
    Fannie Flagg–several titles, including Welcome to the World, Baby Girl
    Elizabeth George–What Came Before He Killed Her
    Dorothy Sayers–Gaudy Night
    Jan Karon–A Light In the Window
    Minette Walters–Disordered Minds
    Frances Mayes — Bella Tuscany
    Barbara Hambley — Sold Down River
    J.R.R. Tolkien — A History of Middle Earth
    Diana Gabaldon — Drums of Autumn
    Lindsey Davis — Two for the Lions
    Huizinga — Waning of the Middle Ages
    Waverly Root — The Food of Italy

  24. I too love cookbooks. My favorite book is the “I Hate To Cook” series. I have read them so many times. At one time I had over 100 books, including the booklets from various food companies.
    You said you didn’t like books in “first person”. I felt that way once until I spent a weekend at my mother’s without bringing a book. I found one called “Here Come The Brides”; It was in first person. I went back and read all the books I missed. Now I prefer them in first person: otherwise I sometimes get confused as to which character is which.

  25. Trace, I do like an eclectic bookshelf!
    Georgia, I don’t know what it i about the first person – I DO read them…and enjoy them, but when I open the cover and see that first sentence I find it off-putting – then I usually read and enjoy the book! No logical explanation!

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