Like annual plants, diet and health trends come and go. There’s seemingly something new every season. But truly sustainable and nourishing ways of engaging with food are perennial, as food writer Beth Dooley highlights in The Perennial Kitchen. The book focuses on how local, plant-forward, seasonal, low-waste dishes are always important—integral components of cooking healthfully and regeneratively that never go out of style.
In both her previous book, In Winter’s Kitchen: Growing Roots and Breaking Bread in the Northern Heartland and her work as an endowed chair at the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Minnesota, Dooley showcases how embracing the natural bounty of the U.S. Midwest can be delicious and environmentally sustainable. And for her collaboration with chef Sean Sherman on the cookbook The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, she won a James Beard Award.
Food Tank is excited to feature Dooley’s recipe for whole oat risotto with squash and sage as part of our monthly cookbook series. We started the series with Jubilee, by Toni Tipton-Martin. Her book traces Black cooking through hundreds of years of history. Today, we’re sharing a hearty, local, fall-themed recipe from The Perennial Kitchen plus a brief selection from Dooley’s introduction on the power of cooking—the inspiration we need to get into the kitchen!
And one more thing: When you cook this recipe at home, let us know! Tag us on social media @FoodTank or #FoodTank so we can admire your meals and share your photos.
* * * * *
In these pages you will find tips for stocking up on local artisan grains such as barley, whole oats, rye berries, wheat berries, Kernza, wild rice, and cornmeal, all delicious alternatives to pasta and quinoa shipped in from far away; recipes for plant-based stews, pilafs, soups; ideas for using new and heirloom varieties of apples, gooseberries, currants, and elderberries; ways to enjoy hazelnuts and chestnuts; quick tips for a harvest of organic vegetables; suggestions for cooking grassfed meat and for simmering leftover bones and scraps into nourishing stocks and broths; plus simple methods for making preserves and condiments. By practicing thrift, we savor our bounty.
Cooking is an act of showing up in the world, of caring for ourselves and for others. It is a personal and intimate means of grappling with the climate crisis, supporting our rural communities, and nourishing our families. Cooking provides a focus and an outlet; it, too, is regenerative as we create meals with ingredients from farmers and producers who take such care. When we seek out and support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers, we become agents of change. Cooking is simple; it’s powerful yet it needn’t be overwhelming—often the best meals are inspired by what is already in the pantry, the garden, the farmers market. The sum of our daily choices will ultimately impact our collective future. If you’re hungry for hope and comfort, cooking is a great place to start.
—Beth Dooley, Introduction to The Perennial Kitchen: Simple Recipes for a Healthy Future
Whole Oat Risotto with Squash and Sage
Serves 4 to 6
Whole grain oats turn as creamy as the traditional Arborio rice when cooked slowly in stock. Here, their lovely, nutty flavor nicely complements roast squash seasoned with aromatic sage for a light dinner or hearty side dish.
- 1 small winter squash, such as butternut, halved and seeded
- 3 tablespoons hazelnut oil
- 1 large leek, white part only, minced
- 1 cup whole grain oats
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4 to 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock, brought to a simmer
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped sage, plus more for garnish
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup grated aged cheese such as parmesan, asiago, or aged gouda
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the squash cut side down on the prepared baking sheet and bake until very soft, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove, cool, and skin the squash. Turn the squash into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until pureed, then set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, heat the oil and sauté the leeks until transparent. Stir in the oats and sauté the oats for about 1 minute to coat with the oil and leeks. Stir in the wine and cook until it’s absorbed fully. Stir in the stock one-half cup at a time, allowing the grain to fully absorb the stock before adding another ½ cup. Continue adding stock and stirring until the grain is tender. (If you run out of stock, add hot water, ½ cup at a time.) Stir in the squash and the chopped sage and heat through; then season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cheese, adjust the seasoning, and serve garnished with more chopped sage.
Excerpt from “Introduction: View from the Kitchen,” and “Whole Oat Risotto with Squash and Sage” from The Perennial Kitchen: Simple Recipes for a Healthy Future by Beth Dooley; photographs by Mette Nielsen. Copyright 2021 by Beth Dooley; Photographs copyright 2021 by Mette Nielsen. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press. All rights reserved.