I tend to get emotional at the farmer’s market in spring. The colors at the market turn from the winter beiges to the vibrant glorious hues of spring. Fresh picked asparagus. Fresh glorious peas in a pod waiting to be shelled. Little tomato plants waiting to feel the warmth of the sun. You can almost feel the earth vibrating with the arrival of spring. Gone are those root vegetables; the earth unfolds with spring; the new season is here – let it begin!
My challenge is always which vegetable to take home. So rather than choose, I decided to make a spring risotto – bring ‘em all home! Make it a spring veggie celebration all mashed together. Definitely let the season be your guide. Pick whatever spring vegetables are your favorites. If the asparagus looks awesome; go for it. If you can’t find fresh peas, frozen will do. Use what you like best. Cook with what the season brings. And if you think you might prefer more spinach than asparagus, that is ok too. Do not stress. Glorious spring is here after all!
Contrary to what you may think, risotto is not difficult to make. Rice, broth, stir. Yes, you need to stir a bit but not constantly and you can surround yourself with your friends, family, kids as your stir impressively over the pot. Be careful not to overcook the rice as you want the rice to have bite in the middle. The amount of broth you need may vary. You may have a bit of stock leftover. Use it to deglaze a pan later in the week.
This dish is also awesome with a poached egg on top. Or serve on its own with some additional freshly grated Parmigiano and a bracing spring white vino with a side of music from the island of Capri perhaps.
Buona primavera, tutti!
- 6 cups chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium canned
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 6 ounces shitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 pound asparagus
- 10 ounces frozen peas, defrosted or about 1 ½ cups shelled fresh peas
- 1 small bunch fresh baby spinach, trimmed (about 1 cup)
- Zest from 1 lemon
- ¾ cup grated Parmigiano or Pecorino, plus additional for shaving
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.
- In the same pot in which you will make the risotto, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the shitake mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Remove the mushrooms to a bowl.
- Halve the leeks lengthwise and slice crosswise into very thin half moons. Add the olive oil to the same pot and heat over medium heat. Add the sliced leeks and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the leeks are soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add the rice to the pot and stir until each grain is coated. Add in the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
- Ladle in about ½ cup of the simmering chicken stock and stir often until most of the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding in stock, ½ cup at a time and cook over medium heat until each ladle is absorbed before adding more. Cook until the rice is tender but still al dente. (You want the rice to have a bite in the middle.) This should take about 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut the tough ends off the asparagus and slice the stalks diagonally into 1½ inch length pieces. Blanch in boiling salted water and drain. Put in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. If using fresh peas, add them to the same pot for about a minute or two prior to draining.
- Stir in the mushrooms, asparagus, peas and spinach into the risotto. Add in the lemon zest and cheese. Taste – add in salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Top with additional Parmigiano, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a few grinds of pepper.