Happy first day of spring, everyone! It's a gorgeous sunny day here on Lake Lugano and the forecast calls for more beautiful, warm days ahead. Other than the fact that I'm suffering from pollen allergies —my eyes are so puffy right now it looks like someone has beaten me— I couldn't be happier to enter the new season. While I lived in Florida I missed the winter —real, snowy, cold winters that is— but I have to be honest, this year when February rolled around I had had enough of it. I was ready for spring. So when I woke up today and I saw the sun shining in the sky and felt the air warm on my face, I took a deep breath, sneezed a couple of times and then smiled to myself. Spring is officially here.
And what better way to celebrate than cooking up some delicious spring vegetables? I had bought some wonderful asparagus, baby green peas and spring onions. I had a million ideas going through my mind at once. Savory pies. Pasta. Terrines. Soups. And then I decided. Risotto. I tend to consider risotto a winter dish because of its rich creaminess and comfort-food potential, but then again that's just one of my crazy notions most people don't understand or agree with. So why not make risotto with spring vegetables? I had never tried, but spring is all about rebirths and god knows how much I need a rebirth right now. So here it goes. If you have never made risotto before, make sure you follow the directions very carefully and make sure you have 20 minutes to dedicate to the risotto, because you can't just leave it there, cooking. Risotto is a needy dish, so give it your undivided attention —it's definitely worth it.
SPRING VEGETABLE RISOTTOServes 4
11 ounces Arborio or Carnaroli rice (short grain)
a glass of dry white wine
1 spring onion, minced
a pot of piping hot good quality vegetable stock
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon of butter
8 ounces asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into bitesize pieces
2 spring onions, chopped
4 ounces baby green peas
1 package saffron
1/2 cup heavy cream
a dollop of butter
salt and pepper
Prepare the veggies: melt a dollop of butter in a large skillet, add two chopped spring onions, let it saute for 30 seconds, then add asparagus, season with salt and pepper and let cook for 10 minutes, adding a little stock every now and then so that the vegetables don't stick to the pan. Add peas and cook for another 10 minutes. In the meantime, mix cream with saffron. When the vegetables are cooked, add cream mixture, stir well and cook on high heat for a few seconds, then remove from stove, cover and keep warm.
Prepare the risotto: in a cast iron dutch oven melt one tablespoon of butter, add minced spring onion and cook it until translucent, stirring constantly. Add rice. Let it toast on the bottom of the pan for a few seconds, then add wine and let it evaporate. Add a couple of ladles of stock, stir well and continue cooking it until stock has evaporated. Add one ladle of stock, stir and cook until evaporated. Repeat this step until rice is cooked (but not overcooked!), about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cheese and veggie mixture, stir well, cover and let it rest for a couple of minutes. Serve immediately.