Asparagus Risotto

Asparagus were on sale at Greenlife/Whole Foods in Asheville this Saturday. In honor of the vernal equinox, i picked up a bunch and made my yummy spring risotto. This is a hearty dish. I combined a couple of recipes i found in 2007 & 2008 in the NY Times and did my own thing with them. One is the Pope’s Risotto, a dish developed for the Pontiff’s 2008 spring visit to NYC. Age 81 at the time, the Pope requested bland dishes that were light and seasonal, so this asparagus, peas and fava bean risotto was developed to suit the papal entrails.

The other is from my favorite food columnist, Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist. Typical of his recipes, this Asparagus Risotto is simple, easy and mmm, mmm good.

so here’s Kath’s Yummy Spring Risotto with Spinach/Onion Pesto Sauce

For the Risotto:
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces, tips reserved. remove any thick stems.
1 1/2 lbs Arborio rice
4C veg stock
2C water
2T olive oil
3T Earth Balance margarine
1/3 medium red onion, medium-small dice
1 portabello mushroom cap, large dice
1/2C peas (frozen OK)
1/2C white wine
1+t Celtic sea salt, to taste
3-4T vegan Parmesan
3-4T hemp nut seeds
1/3-1/2C toasted pine nuts

For the pesto:

1C packed spinach leaves, washed
1/4-3/8C packed sliced chives: 2-3
1/2C+ olive oil
1/4t Celtic sea salt

Steam half a bunch of the asparagus stalks (no tips) until soft, approx 5 min.

Put stock & water in separate pans and heat on low.

In a large, deep stir-fry pan, heat the oil and 1T of the margarine on medium heat. When its hot, add the onion, stirring occasionally until soft, about 5 min.

While the onion is cooking, puree the steamed asparagus stalks in a food processor (yes, u get to use it :), adding enough water to get a smooth paste.

When the onion is soft, add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until glossy, about 5 min. Add the wine, stirring until the liquid bubbles away. Add salt. Begin adding the warmed stock, 1/2C-1C at a time, stirring occasionally. Each time the stock has about evaporated, add a little more.

While the risotto is cooking, blend the pesto ingredients together in the food processor: put the veggies in the bowl and add the olive oil in a stream thru the hole at the top.

When the risotto has cooked about 15 min, add the remaining asparagus and tips, mushrooms and peas (if using fresh peas).

When the risotto becomes tender with a slight crunch (after about 30+ of cooking time) add the asparagus puree and peas (if using frozen). Remove from heat, add the Parmesan, remaining butter, hemp seeds and pine nuts, stirring well. add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a spoonful of pesto over the top. Enjoy. KB

Why Celtic sea salt?

this type of salt has more trace minerals, many of which have few other dietary sources.

Why hemp seeds?

Hemp seeds are high in protein, especially important for those on a plant based diet. You can stir it into rice and grains and sprinkle over veggies and salads. they are about the size of sesame seeds, with a mild flavor.