From the Farmers Market or the garden, spring’s first greens play a lead role in Risotto Primavera. Making it can be high drama.
Showmanship is part of its culinary potential, and risotto-making has a way of bringing on culinary pizazz – introverts beware. Go ahead, try to hold yourself back. Like trying to hold still when Aretha is rockin’, risotto making will bring on your cookin’ groove and you might not be able to stop yourself.
Wait until everyone is gathered in the kitchen and then put on an apron even if you’ve never worn one before, grab a big wooden spoon, pour white wine into the pot from on high, just pour, don’t measure, and let it sizzle; then the hot liquid with the biggest ladle you can find; stir it all with a flourish from time to time while it simmers and its creaminess develops; any Italian opera in the background. And just when the audiences’ attention might be waning toss in asparagus and peas, a few minutes later a bowl of chopped herbs, turn off the heat, stir in the parm and some butter. Take a bow.
Sign autographs and serve immediately.
Enough already, you get the picture. Risotto really is that much fun to make. When I walked through PCC the other day and saw local asparagus I decided it was my risotto moment and I’d make it for our Earth Day dinner party. The cooking scenario turned out to be something like the description above, though perhaps my audience wasn’t quite spellbound. Charlie’s Rhubarb Margarita might have stolen the show, deservedly so I might add.
Production Notes for Rosotto Primavera:
Second thing I did after finding local asparagus and leeks was take a walk through the garden to gather whatever else might fit: brassica florets, parsley, chives, sorrel and the fava beans’ exquisite edible blossom. They look like tiny orchids.
With her three-year old aplomb, Lily, our smallest dinner guest, later placed a blossom on top of each serving.
Next thing was to figure out stock, which can be almost anything, including plain water. I made a lightweight, complementary stock using the end bits of the asparagus and leek and a few pieces of celery. This is the time to mine the fridge for anything you’d like to use in the stock or in the risotto itself. Place whatever veggies you have in a stockpot and cover with water, 4 – 6 cups and a pinch of salt. Let it simmer away for half an hour or so, strain and place back into the pot on low heat for gradual ladling into the risotto. Generally, you’ll need two to three times as much liquid/stock as rice, and if you run out before rice is fully cooked use water, but it must be heated. This recipe requires 5 – 6 cups of stock, more or less.
Ingredients that are necessary and those that are optional:
Liquid for stock, veggie, chicken or just water, 5-6 cups
Grated cheese, usually parmesan
Any variety of spring greens, often asparagus, peas, kale shoots, arugula . . .
Any herb that seems to fit like parsley, chives, sorrel, thyme, oregano . . .
Butter and/or olive oil
Not many exact measurements here, but an anecdotal version that will serve 4 – 6 and takes about 25 minutes to make.
Sauté 1 large or 2 smaller leeks (could be onion or shallots) in butter or olive oil for two or three minutes until softened/ Stir in 2 cups of Arborio rice, a teaspoon of salt and sauté together for just a minute/ Add 1/2 C white wine and let simmer until liquid almost disappears/ Now it’s time to begin adding the hot stock 1/2 C or so at a time/ Add 1/2 C stock, stir and let simmer until the liquid is mostly absorbed into the rice, two or three minutes, then add some more/ Not necessary to stir constantly, but do keep an eye on it, stir occasionally and don’t let it stick/ About ten minutes into the process, stir in sliced asparagus or whatever spring greens you have/ Add a handful of frozen or fresh peas a little later on in the process/ Continue adding stock, stirring and adding more stock until it’s ‘done’/ Taste it/ When it’s creamy and rice still has a bit of bite, not mooshy, turn off the heat, stir in 1/2 C of parmesan, 2 T butter, and a pile of chopped herbs like parsley, chives, and sorrel (1 – 1/2 C)/ Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately with a few reserved herbs on top and an edible flower if you have one. This is delicious on its own or with a small piece of poached or grilled salmon. Classic Italian risotto with a PNW twist. Bon Appetito. For the record, I’m mostly an introvert, but risotto can get me going.