Despite the fact that it totally snowed in DC last week, and despite the fact that the weather has been varying from the 30’s to the 60’s and back again for the past month, I think it’s finally time we all took a deep breath and declared it spring time. And it’s time we start eating like it, too.
For no apparent reason, risotto comes to my mind when I think of spring. I have a love/hate relationship with risotto. I love eating it. I think it is one of the most delicious dishes in the world. It is satisfying and comforting and you can do anything you want with it. But I hate making it. It’s not a difficult dish to make in terms of technique, it just takes a lot of time. And arm muscle. Unfortunately, I have little to no arm muscle, so making risotto is, quite literally, a workout for me. But sometimes, when I’m really craving that creamy deliciousness, I suck it up and I get my workout on.
And now that I’m officially declaring it time for spring to start, I made a risotto. I made it with mushrooms and asparagus, which I think is a nice late winter – early spring crossover. I totally added the asparagus in too early, so it lost its beautiful bright green color as well as most of its crunch, but I fixed that problem in the recipe. I also flavored the dish with lemon, giving it a nice bright and springy feel. What I love about risotto is how creamy it gets. Since the creaminess is actually just the starch from the rice being drawn out slowly, there is no need for dairy to get the right flavor and texture out of the dish. I made this one vegan, but feel free to add in a little parmesan.
3 cups vegetable stock (preferably low-sodium)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1.5 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 bunch asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pint cremini mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and black pepper to taste
Optional: Shredded parmesan cheese, stirred in at the end
1. Bring the stock and lemon juice to a simmer in a small saucepan. Keep the stock simmering until you’ve used it all.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a large pan and sauté the onions until they begin to sweat, about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and the rice and stir to coat everything evenly.
3. When the rice is two toned (the edges are translucent, the middle still white), add the wine. Keep stirring until the wine is absorbed.
4. Add in a ladle or two of the broth, it should just cover the rice. Stir continuously until all the liquid has been absorbed, and repeat this process several times (this is the part that takes so long/so much energy).
5. When you’ve used up half the liquid, add in the asparagus (not any sooner). One spoonful of broth later, add in the mushrooms. At this point, you want to taste the rice to see how hard it is. Continue adding the broth, one ladle at a time, and mixing like crazy until the rice is soft to chew and the whole dish is creamy. If it looks like you’re running out of broth, add some more broth or some water into the saucepan.
6. When the rice is ready, it will be creamy and soft. If you're wondering if it's ready when you try it, it probably isn't. But when it is ready, stir in the lemon zest and parsley (and cheese if you're into that). Also add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.