Is it just me, or has this winter felt particularly long? The first day of spring was two weeks ago, but I still find myself wearing the same puffy jacket and boots that I wore mid-January.
On a cold, rainy evening last week I decided enough is enough. I may not be able to create spring outside, but I can create it in my kitchen. I’m a huge fan of Food52 and was inspired by this risotto recipe that I came across on their blog. Everything about it screams springtime: crunchy veggies, fresh herbs and lots of lemon. It was the perfect cure for my winter blues.
The key is making great risotto is patience. The rice needs to be stirred constantly to allow the starches to be released, which takes at least thirty minutes. This requires a lot attention, so try not to leave your risotto unattended too often or you won’t get that wonderful, creamy texture. There aren’t any shortcuts here, but the end result is more than worth the effort.
Once you get the basic recipe down, you’ll find yourself making it all the time. Simply add in any combination of your favorite veggies, proteins, and herbs. Voilá! Dinner is served.
Lemon Risotto with Asparagus and Cremini Mushrooms
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
½ lb Cremini mushrooms, stems removed and quartered
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 small garlic cloves, minced
3 tbs. olive oil
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
1 tsp. butter
½ lb. asparagus, cut into 1’’ pieces
1 handful parsley
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
¼ cup Parmesan or Piave cheese, grated
Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer with the lid on. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Sauté until softened, 3-4 minutes, then remove the mushrooms and set aside.
In another saucepan, boil 3 cups of water and add the asparagus. Blanch for 2-3 minutes until they turn a bright green color. Remove them with a slotted spoon and immediately place them in bowl of ice water. Let cool for a minute then drain and set aside.
Heat another 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Stir in the shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and let it toast for about 3 minutes. Add the wine and let it cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes.
Add ½ cup stock to rice and stir constantly. Allow liquid to be fully absorbed before adding another ½ cup of stock. Repeat this process until the rice is fully cooked and develops a creamy texture. This may or may not require all four cups of stock.
When the rice is done cooking, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter. Add the asparagus, mushrooms, lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley and cheese. Stir and serve warm.