Today, we need some comfort food because we found out that "Grandpa James" fell asleep in the Lord on Wednesday. DD and I are very saddened and feel a tremendous sense of loss, even though his advancing Alzheimer's made it impossible to maintain a relationship with him.
Grandpa James came late into our life. He was a lonely, elderly, quirky man who attended our church and lived near us. He came to our home many times in the course of our church life, and I gave him many rides since he preferred not to drive when it was dark, or alone. It didn't take long to grow to love him, and he grew to love all of us, particularly my Mom and my daughter. He was always willing to drop by to keep my Mom company, to help out wherever needed, to cheer DD on at every piano recital, play, dance recital, girl scout program... He took DD all over Savannah and treated her to ice creams and grilled cheese sandwiches. He spoiled her to death - she could get him to take her anywhere. He truly loved her, and she truly loved him. She had only one grandfather, and once Grandpa James came into her life, she had two. We didn't mind sharing our family with him. He had his own family, a brother nearby, two daughters and a son who lived far away, and a lot of grandchildren - all far away. We filled a hole in his life, and he added so much to ours.
Over time, he became forgetful, and argumentative, and well.... it was difficult. It became clear that he should not live alone any longer, and he became quite quarrelsome which was simply not "him" at all. We were beginning to suspect Alzheimers in my Dad, and as we read up on it, we realized that most likely that was the cause of Grandpa James' sudden personality change. Eventually, his family recognized this and put him in a beautiful nursing home. I visited him there twice, but he was quite argumentative, and over the last year, I didn't visit him at all. I regret that now, as does DD.
This has been a very sad day for us, full of regrets and memories and tears. We both needed something warm and comforting to eat for dinner. As I looked in the fridge, wondering what to cook tonight since we have no Thanksgiving leftovers, I saw about 1 1/2 quarts of fresh roasted pumpkin puree and a big bag of organic baby spinach. I had a bunch of onions and a couple of pounds of risotto rice, so pumpkin risotto with spinach it was.
I've posted before about the quick and easy way to make risotto, but today I made it the old fashioned way, spending about an hour stirring at the stove. I needed the time to reflect and pray for Grandpa James while DD napped her tears away. Sometimes, the old ways are best.
I found that the risotto was perfectly spiced and yummy yummy yummy until I added the pumpkin - then I had to fiddle with it. The pumpkin took a lot of salt, too. Then I thought that black beans would add some color and some badly needed protein, so in they went. All in all, this is pretty tasty, but it made a HUGE amount! We will be eating this forever and ever! Or maybe I'll bring the leftovers to trapeza on Sunday since its my turn to cook.
Pumpkin Risotto with Spinach and Black Beans
1 C chopped onion (could have doubled this for the amount of rice)
4 cloves garlic, minced
extra virgin olive oil
2 C risotto rice
1 C white wine (I had some Reisling open)
5 C vegetable broth
1 1/2 C pumpkin puree (this is about what is in a 15 oz can)
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 Tbs dried basil
1 tsp oregano (or Italian seasoning)
1 Tbs salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained well
1 lb baby spinach, washed well
In a large, deep pan like a chicken fryer, warm up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the garlic and the onions until translucent. Then add the risotto rice and stir well, making sure that every single grain of rice is well coated with the oil, adding a little more if necessary. Stir in the spices and herbs. Saute the rice for a couple of minutes, but do not let it brown. Add in the wine and saute until it is absorbed. Turn heat to med-low and add the hot broth a cup at a time, stirring well, until it is absorbed. You will know when it is time to add more broth when you draw a spoon down the center of the pan and you can see the bottom of the pan. Keep adding broth until the rice is tender but not mushy. Add in the spinach to wilt, and then add the pumpkin puree. Stir the pumpkin in very well over the medium lo heat, and add a half cup of broth at the end if the risotto seems too thick. Stir very, very well for about 2 or 3 minutes - this will help to release the starch so that the risotto is traditionally creamy without butter or cheese. Taste for seasonings: I ended up using about another half Tbs of salt at this point. Stir in the black beans at the very last.
This is really delicious and very creamy. You will never be able to tell that there are no dairy products in it. I think I'd like it with mushrooms sauteed at the beginning together with the onions, too, but I didn't have any fresh mushrooms today. I wouldn't mind a more pronounced wine flavor as well, so perhaps next time I'll add a more strongly flavored wine, or maybe a little more.
This makes a LOT. I'd say that it makes about 3 quarts, or a little more. Way too much for a family of TWO!
Make this when your heart needs comforting.