I love making risotto. The slow process of adding hot, aromatic, stock to the cooking rice and watching the rice plump up and release its starches into creaminess is beautiful.
Last night, my sweetie brought home a bunch of very expensive winter asparagus. It’s really pumpkin weather, but still, what to do with this wonderful largesse?
Risotto seemed both warming and hearty for a cold evening, and I love asparagus in just about anything, so away I went.
Risotto lives and dies by its stock. If I have the time, I start early in the day and begin making a huge pot of stock (if I’m going to the trouble, I may as well make enough to freeze). But this dish was for a weeknight, and had to be made as quickly as possible. Organic boxed stock to the rescue! I used 4 cups of mushroom stock and 2 cups of vegetable stock, threw in a handful of dried shiitake mushrooms, and called it done.
To give my risotto pretty flecks of color, I added chopped parsley, which also adds tiny hints of “greenness” to every bite. I also added the zest from an entire lemon, thinking that it would add a nice counterpoint to the asparagus …and it did.
6 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 bunch small, tender asparagus, steamed and chopped into 1″ lengths [save a few tips for garnishes]
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons vegan butter
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
Start heating the stock. You’ll need it to keep it hot throughout making the risotto, so a low simmer is about right. In a large, heavy, flat-bottomed pan, sauté the onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons of butter until the onion is translucent. Add 1/2 cup of the wine and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan and add the rice, stirring for 1 minute. Add 2 cups of hot stock, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 a cup of white wine, stirring until absorbed. Then continue adding stock 1/2 a cup at a time, stirring, letting it absorb after each addition, about half an hour. When you’ve used all the stock, the rice will have increased in size and become creamy from released starches. A taste will reveal just a bit of tooth.
Fold in the onion-garlic mixture, zest, parsley, and asparagus. Mound carefully into warmed soup bowls, garnish with a few asparagus and parsley tips. Serve with a crisp white wine.
Yield: about four servings