Now that Pesach has come and gone and we are back into the swing of eating leavened things again I though I would share a great spring recipe with you. I think I’ve mentioned before that my dad has always been the cook in my family – and fortunately he’s very talented at it. One of my favorite “Dad meals” is a risotto he makes with fresh peas and Parmesan cheese (and sometimes mushrooms as well). Because of this recipe I have become a lover of risotto.
In my family if you helped cook the meal you didn’t have to clean up (this is especially relevant to Shabbat dinner) so I would always volunteer to help my dad cook. Thinking back, this is probably one of the reasons I got interested in cooking. On nights when he made risotto my job was to stir the risotto and add more liquid when necessary. At the time it seemed like quite a tedious process but I now feel fortunate to have been given that job since the stirring and adding the right amount of liquid at the right time is the key to perfecting risotto. Risotto is really incredible because it starts out as rice (Arborio rice to be exact) and through a specific (yet fairly simple) method of cooking it becomes very creamy and delicious.
Risotto is great as a main course or as a side for fish or meat. I happened to get a beautiful bunch of asparagus in my CSA box so I decided to add it to some risotto, however, the other great thing about risotto is that it’s quite versatile. Feel free to add other veggies, meats, fish, etc. As usual please share your favorite risotto recipes!
One more thing… this recipe contains milk and meat. I personally wouldn’t recommend leaving out the milk ingredients since they’re key to the richness so I would recommend substituting vegetable broth (or pareve chicken flavoring) for the chicken broth.
And now for the recipe…
1 pound asparagus (woody ends chopped and composted)
2 Tbsp good quality extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves chopped garlic (depending on how much you like garlic)
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (or 1 Tbsp lemon juice and 1/4 cup water for a non-alcoholic option)
About 3 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock (or other previously mentioned options)
1 tsp butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and pepper
First get rid of the woody ends of the asparagus. You should do this by take one piece of asparagus, holding with one hand on the bottom and the other hand midway down, then bend it until it snaps. Then use that as a guide for where you should trim the rest of the bunch. You can do this by putting the snapped piece back in the bunch (making sure the tops are all even) and just cutting the rest of the bunch at the height of the snapped piece. Then cut the asparagus into 1.5 inch pieces.
Bring a small/medium pot of water to boil and blanch the asparagus for 2-3 minutes. Drain in a strainer and rinse with ice cold water so that the asparagus maintains its bright green color.
In a large saucepan or rimmed saute pan heat olive oil at medium temperature add garlic and onion and cook until translucent, do not brown. While garlic and onions are cooking heat chicken stock in a separate pot or in microwave. This is so that when you add it to the rice you aren’t drastically lowering the temperature in the pan.
Add rice to the onion and garlic and cook a few more minutes. Add the wine and stir slowly until the rice has absorbed the wine. Add half cup chicken stock and continue stirring until almost absorbed. Continue until rice is tender and creamy but not mushy. You’ll want to add more liquid just before all of the liquid is absorbed because you do not want the rice to stick to the bottom of the pan. The whole process should take about 20 minutes.
Turn burner to lowest temperature and gently mix in asparagus, Parmesan cheese, butter, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with more Parmesan cheese on the table. This recipe serves 2-3 as an entree and 4-5 as a side.