Enjoy Vivaldi’s Spring Concerto from the Four Seasons.
Spring is finally bursting free from the frosty fetters of winter here in Ohio. We welcome it with open arms. I know there will most likely be some cold days ahead. April is the cruelest month, after all. Last year, after 80 degrees the first week of April, we were treated to temperatures in the teens a week later, fatally freezing flower buds from trees and shrubs and making for a relatively drab season.
So far this year, daffodils, tulips, magnolias and rhododendrons have been spectacular and I’m hoping that our crabapples, which went from brown to green last year, skipping the anticipated bright pink flowers of previous years, will give us a beautiful display in the coming weeks.
The greening of the countryside brings us the first fruits of the seasons, or, vegetables, in this case. Fresh asparagus beckons me to the kitchen to come up with new ways to prepare one of my favorite vegetables. So far this year, we have steamed it and roasted it. Today, I will include it in risotto verde. You can call it “green rice” if Italian words scare off your family members from trying this most delicious side dish. Actually, I could make this an entree if I could afford the extra carbs.
Pioneer woman has a great photographically illustrated tutorial on risotto. Her humorous accounts of cooking and her life in general are greatly amusing and informative. Be sure to check out her photography and “lessons in Photoshop for the average person”.
What makes my “green rice” green, is the addition of spinach, asparagus, and peas, if all three are on hand. I usually have a few bags of frozen peas, and fresh or frozen spinach, and in the spring, and asparagus every other week or so. Grab some onion, white wine, chicken broth and parmesan cheese, and you’re good to go. This is perfect with any meat entree. With a tossed salad or some fruit, you have a complete meal.
2 c. onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 c. Arborio rice (it must be arborio rice or marked for risotto)
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 t. salt
2 (14.5 oz.) cans chicken broth, simmering, over low heat (homemade broth, if possible)
6 spears asparagus, cut into 1/2″ pieces, or however many you want
1 c. frozen chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed dry), or 2 c. fresh spinach, chopped*
1 t. dried tarragon
1/2 c. frozen green peas, thawed
1/4-1/2 c. parmesan, grated or shredded (try to get a hunk of parmesan, but go ahead and use the green package if that’s what you have
1-2T. butter, optional
milk or cream, optional
1. Heat butter and oil in large heavy saucepan. When hot, saute onion 5-7 minutes until soft and translucent, then add garlic and cook, stirring, one minute more.
2. Add the rice and stir one minute to coat the grains with oil.
3. Add the wine and cook, medium-low heat, stirring, until wine is absorbed.
4. With the risotto pot on a medium-low setting, begin gradually stirring in the hot broth, about 1/4 – 1/3 cup at a time, stirring quite often until it is nearly completely absorbed. Then add the next portion of broth, continuing to stir until absorbed. Keep the pot of risotto simmering, not boiling. There should never be a lot of liquid in the pot which means that you must keep careful watch and stir often to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Don’t worry – it’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds. You’ll catch onto the idea of gradually softening the rice as you prepare the recipe and you will know when it is done.
5. When adding the last bit of broth, add the asparagus, peas and spinach. Stir to combine. Taste a few grains of rice. If they are still firm, add more broth (or water if you have used up all the broth) and continue the process, tasting every minute or two until the rice is creamy and tender.
6. Add the tarragon and parmesan. Stir in the last tablespoon of butter, if you want to boost the richness a bit. Let stand off the heat for 5 minutes.
7. Add a little milk or cream if desired if the risotto seems too dry. It should be creamy and moist.
The whole process can take as little as 20 minutes or more likely 30. It depends on the rice, your stove, the temperature of the broth, the pan, and who knows what else. It can rest, covered, off the heat for a few minutes while you get the rest of the meal on the table. The constant stirring really is no big deal. It just means a quick stir every minute or so. Don’t paint your toenails, take an important phone call, or work in the yard while you fix risotto. That way lies perdition. And Minute Rice instead of risotto.
There are ways to partially prepare risotto ahead of time, methods used by restaurants whose patrons don’t usually want to wait a half-hour for their meals. I leave you to find those methods if you desire.
Give risotto a try and discover what Pioneer Woman and I have in common. Yum.
*I used a cup of leftover creamed spinach the last time I made this dish. It worked great!