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asparagus addiction + spring risotto

April 5, 2010

Hello, my name is Caroline and I am addicted to asparagus.

Grilled, roasted, sliced, steamed, tossed in an omelet or plain next to a large chunk of crusty baguette and a glass of crisp white wine, I love me some asparagus. Now that it’s spring time, it’s officially nosing its way into asparagus season, that most sacred and lovely of times. I will admit (Barbara Kingsolver, cover your eyes), I have only bought it once so far because right now, the only asparagus we have here in the Mitten is from California. I loathe the idea of transporting produce that far so mostly, I have been abstaining until Michigan asparagus peeks its tender little head out of the soil.

However, I’m not perfect and I have been known to quickly impulse-buy asparagus on my way to the check-out at the grocery, hoping no one will notice and jump out from behind the grapefruits and shout, “AH-HA! That’s from Bakersfield, California, you oil-guzzling hypocrite!” and then slap me across the face with my own reusable shopping bags.

So after all that blather, I am writing this to share a recipe that I am eager to try again once asparagus are officially in season here (or until I have another moment of human weakness at the grocery store). This is based off of two recipes — one from Annie’s Eats and the other from the much revered and adored Jamie Oliver. I made this yesterday for Easter and between three of us, we ate an inappropriate amount (polished off with two slices of the best carrot cake on earth — recipe to come later). I sadly don’t have any photos of the original, since I forgot my camera and was cooking at my parent’s house — so this is what Jamie’s is supposed to look like, which is pretty similar to mine. Alas, no matter!

Happy eating!

Springtime Risotto
(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

1 large leek, rinsed and with dark green ends chopped off
1 good glug olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 cup arborio rice
1 good glug white wine (I used Pinot Grigio, but you could use any dry white wine)
1 box (about 5 cups) organic, free-range chicken stock (or veg stock, if you prefer)

1 medium bunch of asparagus, rinsed and woody ends removed
2 good handfuls frozen peas
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 handful mint leaves, finely chopped

1 good handful (or 2!) Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp. butter
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle of olive oil

Place the chicken or veg stock into a medium saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, so it keeps nice and hot (but not boiling!). Place a ladle nearby — you will be needing this soon!

Heat a large saucepan on medium heat — add the olive oil and butter. While that gets nice and hot, halve the leeks, remove the dark green ends and the root tip, then rinse in cold water (leeks tend to be very gritty and sandy) and chop into small pieces. Mince the garlic and add all to the now sizzling olive oil and butter mixture. Let this cook for about 10 minutes or so, until soft.

While this is cooking, zest and juice the lemon and place the zest/juice in a small bowl. Chop the mint leaves finely (make sure not to use peppermint, FYI) and add to the lemon mixture. Just let this hang out while you tackle the rest of this recipe.

Once the leeks and garlic are soft, add the arborio rice and the white wine, stirring constantly (the two words that describe making risotto — I hope you ate your Wheaties or have a kind helper who will assist). This needs to cook for a minute or two. Let the white wine cook down until the rice has absorbed it all — you will smell the soft, heavenly scent and sigh. But don’t get distracted! There is work to do and pots to stir!

Add the chicken stock to the risotto a ladle at a time, stirring constantly. This helps the rice release its starchy goodness as it begins to absorb the liquid. Stir until the chicken stock is mostly absorbed before adding another ladle of stock. This process will continue for about 15 minutes or more. Taste the rice to see if it’s cooked al dente yet. (Did you know that “al dente” actually means “tooth” in Italian? It means the rice should a bit of a hard bite to it, but not be crunchy.)

As you are getting your wrist workout, recruit a friend to take over the stirring. Rinse and remove the woody ends from the asparagus. (The best, most well-known trick for this is simple — gentle bend an asparagus spear until it snaps. Lay the piece with the tip next to the rest of the asparagus and cut where the snapped piece ends.) Chop the asparagus into small discs, leaving the tips intact. Once the rice is cooked al dente, throw the asparagus in so it can begin to cook. You may also add the peas at this moment, straight from the freezer bag because you’re a renegade like that and because peas are so small they defrost very fast in hot rice. Keep ladling and stirring, tasting every few minutes to see if the rice is done yet.

Once the rice tastes fully cooked (though the risotto may appear a little soupy), turn off the heat. At this point, add the lemon/mint mixture, the Parmesan cheese, the 2 tbsp butter and sea salt/black pepper to taste. The risotto should be creamy, luscious and smell like heaven. Sneak a spoonful out of the pot because hey, you earned it! Adjust any seasonings and once it has the stamp of approval, pour into a big serving bowl, drizzle olive oil over the top and consume as ravishly as is polite in the company you find yourself in.

[Photo credit here]

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Noelle permalink
    April 6, 2010 12:31 am

    I came upon this lovely site while on one of my similar asparagus binges. You will probably enjoy it…http://www.asparagus.org/
    Whoever knew there was a Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board? And whoever knew it would be fascinating to us:)

    I just made this asparagus parmesean lasagna that will blow your mind.
    I hate lasagna and it was so tasty. Not your typical lasagna…
    No ricotta cheese and no tomato sauce. The two worst things about lasagna.

    Anyways, I will post it.
    Love you pookie.

  2. Caroline permalink*
    April 7, 2010 6:56 pm

    @ Noelle!

    Frig’ yeaaaaah. I love that the Mitten has an advisory board on asparagus, something that is only in season 6 weeks out of the year.

    Post the lasagna recipe quickly, my love — the asparagus days are a-wastin’!

    Love you too.

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