a fresh fall dinner

When I'm in the mood for comfort food, a great risotto is always a welcomed dish.  I tried out this unlikely combination of butternut squash risotto and panko fried shrimp, and it turned out to be amazing - especially paired with a fresh, light salad.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Panko Fried Shrimp
Preheat oven to 400°F, and use a fork to put several ventilating holes in the uncut butternut squash.  Place squash on a baking sheet covered in tin foil, and bake for about an hour. Let cool (this can be done ahead of time).  Cut the squash in half length-wise, scoop out the insides, puree them and set them aside.
Marinate shrimp (around 1 lb. for 4 people) a few hours beforehand in a good olive oil, a few chopped cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, and thyme.
Meanwhile, begin the risotto (here is a classic recipe you can use, or you could just use the recipe listed on the container of most arborio rice).  Remember that the key to amazing risotto is to continually stir the rice and broth mixture until your arm wants to fall off!
While you're busy with the risotto, enlist the help of a friend to toss those marinated shrimp into a mixture of 1 cup panko breadcrumbs and a few pinches of salt and pepper.  You can either use a deep fryer, or just put about 1/4 an inch of vegetable oil in a skillet on high heat to fry the shrimp.  You'll probably have to fry the shrimp in batches to prevent them from sticking together.
After the risotto is done, I always recommend adding about 2 tablespoons of butter to enhance the creaminess - plus, with this recipe, it really brings out the flavor of the butternut squash.  Warm the reserved butternut squash in the microwave, then add it with about a cup of freshly grated Parmesan to the risotto and mix it together.  Plate the dish with a few shrimp on top of the risotto, some extra Parmesan if you like, and some thyme for color.

Walnut, Parmesan, and Fresh Greens Salad with Balsamic Dijon Dressing
I kind of eye-ball all of my salad dressings, but here's the general idea:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard (I use Maille)
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp honey
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
Toss this dressing with a spring mix salad, 1 cup walnuts, and 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Now Dig in and enjoy!

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