I don’t know about you, but I am thoroughly enjoying this Spring’s produce. Fiddleheads, asparagus, fresh peas, zucchini… and that’s just the vegetables! I’ve recently altered my stance on rhubarb, and now appeared to be addicted to it – as well. But that`s food for another post…
While I was out the other day and thinking ahead to dinner, as I tend to do, I was picturing what was in my kitchen. Having already removed some chicken stock from the freezer, I was picturing the wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano in the fridge, as well as the arborio rice in the cupboard. Pretty sure I had some asparagus and zucchini, in addition to my herb garden – I headed home, with thoughts of a delicious Spring green vegetable risotto.
If you’re not familiar with risotto, it’s a classic Italian rice dish. Creamy. Elegant. Comforting. Yes, like most Italian foods it can be all these things…. as well as yet another wickedly delicious example of cucina povera. With some everyday ingredients and some time stirring this one of a kind creation…. kitchen alchemy happens. It does take a bit of time to prepare, so do like I do. Find the act of standing at the stove and stirring, comforting. Meditative. The stirring is necessary and what releases the starch from the short grain stubby rice, to make the characteristic creaminess. The aromas will drive you wild. You`ll have all that time to anticipate the tastes to come.
I hadn’t made risotto in awhile, so I checked a recipe to find the ratio of rice to stock. What I found… no consistency. All recipes said it depended on if you like it more soupy or more solid. So, do like I always suggest. Make it once. Once you’ve done that, you can alter to suit your tastes and make it your own. That’s the joy of cooking!
Spring Vegetable Risotto
The quality of the stock can make or break this Northern Italian preparation. If you don’t have homemade, buy a good quality stock and be sure it’s not too salty. Usually made with some white wine that’s reduced at the beginning, I’ve intentionally left it out; I just didn’t want the taste of alcohol, this time. While almost any vegetable, from cubed and cooked pumpkin to sauteed mushrooms is usually stirred in at the end – I added the vegetables at the beginning. In theory, they should’ve overcooked. The reality… the unmistakable taste of Spring green vegetables, totally permeating the entire dish. Delizioso! Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Small onion, finely diced
3 – 4 stalks asparagus, cut into thin diagonal pieces
1 small zucchini, cut similar to the asparagus
1 cup arborio rice
3 – 4 cups chicken stock, heated and kept simmering on the stove
salt, to taste (keep in mind the saltiness of your stock, as well as the Parmigiano)
fresh ground pepper, to taste
Half cup freshly ground Parmigiano Reggiano
Quarter cup chopped fresh herbs (oregano, marjoram, chives, parsley, etc)
A drizzle of olive oil, to finish
Heat the stock to boiling, then keep at a simmer over low heat.
In a large deep saute pan or pot over medium heat, add the olive oil, then stir in the onion.
Saute the onion for several minutes, but do not brown; you just want the onion to soften a little.
Add the rice, asparagus and zucchini and stir to coat with the oil and onion mixture; cook for several minutes, until the rice is translucent.
With the rice and vegetable mixture over medium high heat, add a ladle of hot stock and stir.
Cook until the liquid is almost evaporated, and add another ladle of stock.
Keep repeating this process for approx 16 – 18 minutes; at this point taste the rice.
If it`s not soft enough, keep cooking – it should only take a few minutes more.
Once the rice is cooked, stir in the Parmigiano, herbs and olive oil.
Taste for seasoning and add black pepper, and more salt if needed.
As you can see, I used a rather large pot. I was ready for some energetic stirring!
About halfway through the cooking time. The rice is swelling and releasing it’s starch.
If it looks soupy – keep cooking until the stock evaporates.
The difference from raw rice to cooked.
Finishing touches…it will thicken as it starts to cool.