Risotto Verde

By Michele L.

It’s springtime! And to all of us food nerds, springtime means the appearance of all those vibrant green vegetables that have been hiding since the weather turned cold in the fall.  In this day and age, we can basically get all the produce all the time, but there’s no denying that food tastes it’s best when it’s in season. The hearty recipes of winter are amazing, but they often have us chomping at the bit for something fresh and bright. This Risotto Verde is like a bridge between winter comfort and spring freshness. 

Asparagus and peas are basically the poster children for spring vegetables. At this time of year they are at their most flavorful. But seasonality is about more than what is harvested when. It can serve as a guide when building a recipe. Foods that grow together tend to taste good together. When putting together this recipe, I decided I wanted an third vegetable to go along with the peas and asparagus. So, I googled “spring vegetable chart” and settled on artichokes. But fresh artichokes are a paaaaaain to process. You have to trim them and core them and boil then in acidulatedwater. It’s a whole process, and this recipe is already a process, so I needed a shortcut. I was confident in substituting canned artichokes knowing that they would taste great together with the other ingredients, even if they weren’t actually grown at the same time. The universe put them together in the first place, who am I to question the universe?

Risotto is magic. It turns basic ingredients into something rich and delicious. Unfortunately, like I mentioned earlier, risotto is also work. You have to add the liquid a little at a time and make sure it is totally absorbed before you add any more. And you have to stir it constantly. And I mean c o n s t a n t l y. You have to stand over the stove for about 40 minutes until your arm feels like it’s about to fall off. It’s definitely a labor of love. But that’s part of what makes risotto such a special dish. When you spend time preparing food it’s like you’re giving that time to the people you’re feeding. It turns a meal from a necessity to a gift. And there are plenty of ways to occupy your mind while you’re stirring your life away. You can:

  • Listen to a song on repeat until you know all the lyrics
  • Plan your dream (see: fictional) summer vacation
  • Reenact the last argument you lost, but with better points
  • dictate a risotto recipe to your editor/best friend

That last one might just be me, but you get what I mean. 

After you’ve stirred for an eternity and the rice is perfectly al dente – is cooked through but has a little bit of bite to it – you stir one last time to incorporate the dishes big flavor bombs, parmesan cheese and lemon. Then top it all of some bright, verdant herb oil. Made with fresh herbs, of course. These additions take the creamy dreamy rice and bump it up to something truly spectacular. 

Cooking a fancy dish like risotto makes you feel chef-y. Cooking with seasonal ingredients makes you feel chef-y. Cooking this Risotto Verde will make you feel like the successful child of Ina Garten and Emeril Lagasse. Bon appetit, benvenuta primavera, and happy stirring! 

Risotto Verde

  • 1/2 lb asparagus
  • 3 canned artichoke hearts
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 C frozen peas
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 C white wine – room temperature
  • 6 C low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 C Arborio rice
  • 3/4 C grated parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 C Herb Oil (recipe below)

Prep:

  1. Trim bottom inch off asparagus and discard. Set aside 8 spears and chop remaining asparagus into small disks. 
  2. Quarter and slice artichoke hearts. Mince shallots and garlic. 
  3. Allow peas to thaw. Melt 2 tbsp butter. Zest and juice lemon

Cook:

  1. Preheat oven to 500°
  2. Heat stock in saucepan until just bubbling, then keep warm over low heat. 
  3. Heat oil in large saute pan. Add shallots and saute until translucent, approximately 3 minutes. Add garlic and rice and stir until rice is toasted, about 3 more minutes. Add wine to pan and stir until liquid is absorbed
  4. Add ½ cup warm stock at a time and stir constantly until rice is al dente (just cooked through) Make sure that all liquid is absorbed before the next addition of stock. It should take around 30 minutes in total.
  5. Meanwhile: toss reserved asparagus spears with melted butter. Roast in oven for 8 minutes or until spears are tender. Toss with 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp parmesan, and salt to taste. Set aside
  6. Add asparagus disks, artichokes, and peas along with final ½ cup of stock to rice mixture. Once the last of the liquid is absorbed ass ½ C parmesan, lemon zest, and remaining butter and lemon juice. Taste and season with salt. 

Serve: divide risotto between four bowls. Top each with additional parmesan, 2 asparagus spears, and 1-2 tbsp herb oil.

Herb Oil : Blend 1/2 C each fresh basil, oregano, and parsley with 1 1/2 C olive oil until mixture is smooth. If desired, filter mixture through cheese cloth for a translucent, clear oil.

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