May 4th, 2011

A Risotto for Springtime

DSC_0061

Making risotto invokes cooking tips I’ve come across that sound like life aphorisms, from the practical “Your risotto is only as good as your broth.” to the lofty “Time and loving patience create the creamiest bowl.” to the cautionary “Never turn your back on a bubbling pot.”

I don’t make risotto often, so when I have all the right elements for a perfect one: a mound of fresh asparagus, fresh herbs and green onions from my little garden, a delectable lemony vegetable broth, and my favorite Carnaroli rice— I am ready to slip into a meditative mode and stir up a big loving batch.

DSC_0049

Have you ever used Carnaroli rice? Its grain is longer than Arborio, and has a higher starch content. Firmer too–It retains its shape better, and yet yields a marvelous creamy texture. The Italians call it “superfino” and the king of rice.

I found this bag in an unexpected place–the gourmet food shelf at a TJ Maxx discount store. There, you can usually count on an assortment of vinegars, preserves, and olive oils at a savings, but a bag of Carnaroli? A lucky-lucky find.

DSC_0033

With the bounty of local asparagus arriving at our markets, making an asparagus-rich risotto is not only irresistible, it is also easy. I like to load it with a couple of bundles, and use the entire spear.

Nothing is wasted. The woody ends go into the vegetable broth. The middle section is chopped small, and sauteed into the risotto’s foundation. The delectable tips are saved for last—stirred in during the last ten minutes of cooking to retain a nice tender-crisp green.

DSC_0036

I prefer a vegetable broth to chicken. It brings a lighter touch ( and zero fat content!) that truly enhances the springtime ingredients. And, unlike chicken or meat based broths which benefit from long-slow cooking, you can make a lively veggie broth in thirty minutes. ( Any more time, and it can go bitter.) Lemon juice and strips of zest lend a pleasant tartness that marries well with the asparagus.

DSC_0042

The risotto itself doesn’t take as long as you might think to make. From the time the rice gets stirred in with the onions and asparagus, the process entails thirty minutes. With its heavy enameled cast-iron, my Le Creuset Dutch oven works well on low-to-medium heat, insuring a creamy-not-sticky risotto.

DSC_0044

At around the twenty-minute mark, I add the asparagus tips. They will finish cooking, retaining nice bite, in the remaining ten minutes.

DSC_0047

And, it does not require constant stirring. Oh, I keep up with the process, pour in the sumptuous broth, paddle the thickening rice to coax out that starch. It’s a zen thing to watch the grains become plump.

But I have been known to turn my back on it, just for a moment or two, to monitor the busy finch-feeder in my backyard. A new addition to the shade garden, it has drawn a remarkable number of brilliant yellow and purple finches, a migrating rose-chested grosbeak and some feisty chickadees.

DSC_0051

DSC_0058

ASPARAGUS RISOTTO
2 lbs. fresh Asparagus: stems removed and set aside for broth, tips cut and set aside for later incorporation in the risotto, remaining center section of the spear chopped small
1 bundle Scallions, chopped
2 Tablespoons Butter (can use good olive oil)
Salt and Black Pepper
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio Rice
8 cups Lemony Vegetable Broth (see recipe below)
a few shavings of Romano cheese (optional)

Melt butter in a deep saucepan or Dutch oven on medium heat. Sprinkle in salt and black pepper. Saute chopped onions and asparagus spears for about 5 minutes.

Add rice, and stir well, coating all the grains. Pour in 2 cups of broth and continue stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Pour in another cup of broth and stir. Continue this process–about 20 minutes, add broth and stir, add broth and stir. Gradually the rice will plump and get glossy and a creamy soup will begin to form.

Stir in the Asparagus tips that had been set aside along with more broth and cook for another 10 minutes.

Pour into bowls. Top with a few shavings of romano cheese, a few grindings of salt and pepper, garnish of chopped chives or parsley, and serve.

Serves 8

LEMONY VEGETABLE BROTH
Peel and Juice of 1 Lemon
3 Carrots, cut into chunks
1 medium Onion, quartered
2 cloves Garlic
Asparagus stems (see above)
10 cups Water
Salt and Black Pepper
Bouquet Garni: parsley, dill, thyme

Place all the vegetables and herbs into a stockpot and cover with water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a rolling simmer. Simmer for no longer than 30 minutes. Strain vegetables from broth, squeeze out any remaining juices, and toss. Have pot of vegetable broth ready to cup into the risotto.

DSC_0050

Posted in Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Vegan, Vegetables

27 Responses to “A Risotto for Springtime”
  1. Faith Says:

    That rice was a lucky find indeed! I’ve never had it, but I will be on the lookout now. Love the spring flavors in this risotto!

  2. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Thanks, Faith! It was actually your risotto cakes post a couple of days ago that reminded me of the find, and my need to make something wonderful with it.

  3. Tracy Says:

    This gave me chills…It looks so good.

  4. Kath Says:

    Oh Nancy, you really do have my mouth watering with this one. Your descriptions are so wonderful. I am also very jealous of those exotic (to me at least) finches at your feeder.

  5. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Okay, this looks irresistibly good. I still haven’t tried Carnaroli, only Arborio. Must try the carnaroli.

  6. foodonfifth.com, Teresa Blackburn Says:

    Nancy, I was making risotto, something I do not often do either, the same day you made your lovely risotto with asparagus. I made a risotto with fresh sweet corn which was very creamy to the palate. The corn from the supermarket was actually very sweet which is surprising for early spring. I was making the corn risotto for Relish Magazine’s July Issue. I was using simple Arborio rice as that is what most readers will be able to easily find, but the Carnaroli sounds dreamy. I, too, often find culinary treats at TJMaax. It is always worth a trip down the edibles aisle to see what is available. You found a great treat. Thanks for sharing this simple but elegant dish with us.

  7. heather Says:

    Hi Nancy, Great post! I think it’s funny to have risotto in the spring because I think of it as a winter dish but my son always requests risotto in the springtime – maybe it’s the perfect time – for sure with these great ingredients! I like it that your last words are “feisty chickadees”!

  8. Michele Napoli Says:

    What a great dish to showcase Spring’s asparagus. I, too, love Carnaroli rice best for risotto, athough it is not always the easiest to find. Beautiful.

  9. Maggie Says:

    Nance, this looks so, so good! Something I want to make soon!

  10. Nancy Says:

    This dish is so, so perfect for spring. Your photos are wonderful! And might I add – nice TJ Maxx find! My mom and I are aficionados of their random gourmet foods aisle, too (she always has better luck than I do, but I think your Carnaroli find tops them all!).

  11. Fluffy Says:

    this was incredible! creamy spring green and good

  12. rhonda Says:

    Looks yummy!

  13. Wendy Says:

    I was lucky enough to get to share this dish and can attest to the creamy deliciousness. My husband went back for a big seconds and I scraped up the few remaining grains for lunch the next day—wonderful!!

  14. brett Says:

    Man, I’m going to have to make this one. thanks.

  15. Barbara Says:

    I’ve never used Carnaroli rice. I’ll look for it as you’ve raved about it. Wish I made risotto more. This one looks fabulous with the asparagus and scallions. And I bet the lemon broth is wonderful with it.

  16. Juliana Says:

    Oh! Nancy, your risotto looks delicious, it sure has the SPRING written on it. Love the lemony broth…looks perfect. Hope you have a great weekend :-)

  17. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Kath-these finches are exotic to me too. I am really enjoying their antics at the feeder.

    Teresa–corn in risotto sounds delicious. there are so many variations on the theme. Farro would be quite good too, I think.

    Thanks, all–and best of luck locating the Carnaroli. Any tips on where to find it on a regular basis are appreciated. My find at TJ Maxx was a one-of-a-kind.

  18. Cakewhiz Says:

    i agree that with all those veggies and lemon juice… this risotto screams “spring” and it looks fantastic!

  19. Greedy Rosie Says:

    MMhm, I had asparagus risotto this week too – our native asparagus season is so short here, so it always feels special when it’s time.
    Yours looks great!

  20. Mary Says:

    This is a cooks version of an ode to spring :-). It looks better than delicious and your tips are great to have. This is my first visit to your blog, but I’ll definitely be back. I like the food and recipes you feature here and I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent browsing through your blog. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  21. Karen Says:

    Nancy, this is my kind of dish – I’m the biggest risotto fan and make it usually once a week. Your asparagus risotto looks incredibly delicious. The two go together so very well!

  22. Renee Says:

    It looks perfect! I cannot wait to attempt to recreate it!

  23. rachel Says:

    As is often the case, we are in tune. I must say your risotto looks really beautiful, that perfect moment: wavy, creamy irresistable. I agree with you about carnaroli and the vegetable stock, I have been experimenting with pea pod broth lately which is really good. Now off to read about the rather wonderful mango delight below. Always nice to come here Nancy.

  24. Sherri Says:

    Hi Nancy,
    I made this last night and we loved it! Had to use TJ’s arborio rice. I did feel, however, that mine kind of turned to mush at the end of the 30 minutes. I used an enameled Dutch oven and followed your instructions exactly (I generally tend to wander off course). Do you think I cooked it too long or was my medium heat too high? Or was it the quality of the rice? Can you find the Carnaroli rice at Whole Foods?

  25. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Sherri–I think it had to do with the quality of the rice. Carnaroli holds up better than Arborio. I have experienced the “mush” factor. The flavor is still good, but the texture less appealing. If you can’t find carnaroli, try cooking the arborio on a little lower heat. Test it at the 20-25 minute mark and remove immediately when it gets al dente.

    I don’t know if WF has the Carnaroli–but I have to go there soon, so I will have a look, and I’ll report back!



Comment on This Post: