The drop in the price of asparagus is one of the first things in my world to mark the coming of spring. In Wisconsin, this event coincides with my hyacincths and tulips poking their way through the soil. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s difficult to judge the progress of spring by the growing flowers, as they are covered in a blanket of snow.
We’ve still been getting snow, but it’s now warm enough that it only sticks around for a day or two. As I watch the progress of my flowers, the price of asparagus continues to fall – yes! I had plans for the first major asparagus purchase of the year, but at the very last minute, I changed those plans, and the result was this dish.
The best thing about risotto is that once you master the basic recipe, you have an infinite number of possibilities at your disposal. This dish came about because I wanted to do something a little different with my vegetables, and I had some freshly made chicken stock that needed to be used.
I made a rather basic risotto to begin with, and as I tasted it during cooking, I realized it needed a little something more. I looked at my bowl of blanched vegetables, and then my gaze wandered over to a basket of Meyer lemons I had sitting on the table. Bingo! A hint of lemon would be perfect. I added the zest of one lemon, another tiny pinch of salt, and the result was light and fresh, perfect for my bright green vegetables.
Lemon Risotto with Spring Vegetables
1 lb asparagus
1 bunch broccolini
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
2 cloves garlic
1 1/4 c Arborio rice
1/2 c white wine
4 c chicken stock
tiny pinch saffron (optional)
1 Meyer lemon, zested
1 T butter
1/2 c shredded Parmesan
Shredded Parmesan for garnish
1. Prepare an ice water bath in a medium-sized bowl. Heat a large pot of water until it’s rapidly boiling. Lightly salt the water.
2. Cut the woody ends off the asparagus. Chop into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Cut the ends off the broccolini and chop into 1 1/2 inch pieces.
3. Add the asparagus in batches to the boiling water for 1 minute (1 1/2 minutes if the asparagus is thicker), then shock it in the ice water bath. Add the broccolini to the boiling water for 2 minutes, then shock it in the water bath. Remove the asparagus and broccolini from the water into a clean bowl, set aside.
4. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat chicken stock over medium heat.
5. Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat in large saute pan or dutch oven. Slice 4 shallots, add to oil mixture. Saute until lightly browned, add garlic until fragrant. Add rice, stir to make sure each grain is coated in fat. Let it sit for about 2 minutes.
6. Add the wine to the rice mixture, stir until absorbed. Add chicken stock, a couple of ladels at a time to cover the rice mixture. Add a pinch of saffron and salt, and add the lemon zest. Stir stock frequently until absorbed, continue this method of adding stock.
7. When rice is still a bit al dente, turn off the heat. Add the butter and stir until it’s melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the parmesan and add the blanched vegetables. Garnish with parmesan, if desired.