Oat Groats, Naked Oats or Rice of the Prairies … three names for one of the newest darlings of the Canadian farming scene: Cavena Nuda. It’s an amazing variety of hull-less (naked, get it?) developed by researchers at Agriculture Canada and now grown across the country, in places where rice could never flourish. This grain looks and cooks like rice, but has a much more impressive nutritional profile along with a chewier texture and nutty flavour. High in fibre and protein, they’re gluten-free and a good source of iron. Castor River Farms at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market is a great local source – they call it “local rice”, in fact. For this winter Farmers’ Feast dish, the squash came from Bryson Farms, the shallot from Roots Down Organic Farm and the Hillbilly Cheese, a more flavourful alternative to Parmesan, came from Canreg Dairy. Use this recipe as a starting point and add in your favourite vegetables to make it your own! The omnivores, vegetarians and vegans in your life will all thank you.
- 1 small squash, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) cubes
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil, divided
- 3 cups (750 mL) vegetable stock *
- 1 large or two small shallots, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 5 cups (375 mL) oat groats or Cavena Nuda
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup grated Hillbilly or Parmesan (use a non-dairy cheese for vegan version)
- Additional grated cheese for garnish
- Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
* purchased, low-sodium vegetable stock is fine, but it’s really easy to make your own! Combine 1 shallot, quartered, 1 carrot, scrubbed and chopped with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Strain and refrigerate until needed.
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- In a small roasting pan, toss the cubed squash with 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of the olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 – 30 minutes, until squash is tender and edges are starting to caramelize.
- Transfer roasted squash cubes to a bowl and set aside until ready to prepare risotto (can be made up to 8 hours ahead).
- For risotto, heat remaining olive oil in a medium sized pot, over medium heat. Add chopped shallots and sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Add Cavena Nuda and stir to coat grains well with oil; cook for 1 minute to lightly toast the Cavena.
- Add the vegetable stock to the pot and partially cover with a lid.
- Bring to a boil then reduce heat and cook at a simmer until oats are tender but still a bit firm (like al dente pasta) – about 45 minutes. If most of the liquid gets absorbed, add a few tablespoons of water so you can maintain some liquidity (I like to serve this dish a little on the ‘soupy’ side).
- When Cavena is tender, add roasted squash and grated cheese to the pot; stir gently to combine well. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve the risotto and remaining broth in heated soup plates; garnish with chopped parsley and a little bit more cheese.
Serves 3 – 4.