Butternut Squash Pilaf

  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, halved and seeded
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup instant or parboiled brown rice
  • 1 3/4 cups water, or 1 14-ounce can vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped fennel fronds, (see Ingredient Note)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Grate the squash through the large holes of a box grater. Heat oil in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly colored, 10 to 12 minutes. Combine 2 tablespoons water and tomato paste in a small bowl and stir it into the pan. Add rice and stir to coat. Add the squash, in batches if necessary, and stir until it has reduced in volume enough so that you can cover the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high, pour in 1 3/4 cups water (or broth) and wine, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, stirring once or twice, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and the squash is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Add fennel fronds, oregano, salt, cinnamon and pepper; gently stir to combine. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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