Monday, May 14, 2012

Spring Risotto

What better way to celebrate spring than with a medley of artichokes, asparagus, and peas?  Risotto is one of my favorite things to cook because it's extremely versatile and lends itself to an array of ingredients. No matter the season, there's nothing you can't add to risotto even leftover meats and vegetables. 

I've been making a variation of this spring inspired risotto for a number of years. This time, I've added artichokes. I've been a little obsessed with artichokes after roasting them with garlic and dipping them in a heavenly aioli earlier this week. Artichokes take a bit more effort to prepare compared to your average vegetable, but they're definitely worth it; you can never go wrong with creamy rice and delicate pieces of chopped artichoke hearts. To me, this dish is a splendid harbinger of spring, an anticipatory taste of summer's bounty.

Often times people are turned off by cooking risotto because they feel they have to be glued to the pot. It's true, making risotto takes some love and care from the cook, but I actually enjoy stirring the pot, sipping a glass of wine, and leaving my mind free to wander. It's an alternative form of meditation, and one that leaves you with a delicious dinner. 

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion
1½ cups arborio, carnaroli, or baldo rice
¾ cups white wine
4 to 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 globe artichokes
1 lb. asparagus
1 cup fresh green or frozen peas
Zest from 1 lemon
Juice from half a lemon
1 lemon, for preparing the artichoke
1 cup Parmesan 
Handful of Italian parsley, chopped

To prepare the artichokes, start by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil. Using a serrated knife, cut the top 2/3 off of each artichoke and discard. With a paring knife, cut off the green outer leaves until you reach the light areas of the artichoke. Pull off the purple colored leaves and discard. With a small spoon, scoop out the choke being careful not to dig into the heart. Using the same knife or a vegetable peeler, remove all of the green off the stem. Rub the artichokes with lemon juice to prevent browning and place in a small bowl filled with water, with half a lemon in it, until ready to use. Place the artichokes and lemon in boiling water and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until a paring knife slides easily in and out of the heart. Remove the artichokes and lemon with a spider and place in a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Discard lemon. Once cool, chop artichokes into large cubes. 

In the same boiling water, blanch the asparagus for 2 to 3 minutes, just until tender. Immediately transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking. Once cool, chop the asparagus on the bias into 1½-inch pieces. 

Meanwhile, begin the risotto. In a 2-quart pot, bring the stock just to a boil. Turn off heat and cover to keep warm. In a large Dutch oven or other heavy duty pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saut√© until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, and stir, cooking for 1 minute more. Add the rice and stir to coat with the vegetables, oil, and butter. Pour in the white wine and let simmer until most of the wine has cooked down and been absorbed by the rice. Begin adding the stock two ladles at a time. Allow the liquid to be almost completely absorbed before adding more. Continue adding the stock a ladle at a time, allowing it to absorb, until the rice is done, about 25 to 30 minutes.

When the rice is 10 minutes from being done, add the artichokes, asparagus, peas, lemon zest, 2 tsp. salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and continue cooking and adding the stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender, but firm. Once done, turn off the heat, and stir in the lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, and chopped parsley. Taste to adjust seasonings. Garnish with more cheese and drizzle with olive oil, if desired, and serve immediately. 


  • If you're intimidated by the artichokes, watch chef instructor John Riley from the CIA demonstrate how easy it is to prepare them here.

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