Foodie Friday - Asparagus Risotto

My paternal Italian heritage stems from deep southern Sicily, but I could eat this staple of northern Italy pretty much every day.

Rich and filling, but not quite so heavy as pasta, risotto lends itself to a wide variety of additions. The key, though, is careful attentiveness to stirring and the gradual addition of broth to the rice.

This particular rendition, 'Asparagus Risotto', taken from Bettina Vitell's, "A Taste of Heaven and Earth" is more of a light spring/summer dish. As a child, I was traumatized by asparagus, and it wasn't until in my late-twenties before I dared to try it again. I came to realize that my well-meaning mom was coercing me to eat this tender veggie in canned form, which I believe, borders on the criminal. Thankfully, I overcame my aversion...

Arborio rice is usually the central grain for risotto, however, this recipe calls for a lighter but more flavorful Basmati or long-grain brown rice. The beauty of risotto is its adaptability to whatever you have on hand. Buon appetito!

Asparagus Risotto

    Broth:
  • 4 c. water
  • 6-8 parsley stems
  • 8 mushroom stems
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 1/2 c. dry white wine
  • 1/4 c. sliced red onion
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

The Rest:

  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 2 c. Basmati or long-grain rice
  • 2 tbls olive oil
  • 3/4 c. chopped red onion
  • 1 1/2 c. yellow squash, cut in half, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • parmesan cheese
  • paprika

Combine all broth ingredients in a small soup pot. Cover tightly with a lid and simmer for 1/2 hour before beginning the rice. Keep broth simmering on the stove while cooking the rice.

Cut the tips from the asparagus and set aside. Trim the ends and slice stems on the diagonal into thin 1/4-inch slices. Rinse the rice and set aside to drain.

Heat the olive oil in a medium pot. Saute' the onions and squash over high heat for 3 - 4 minutes, stirring frequently. When the onions begin to look translucent, stir on the rice. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Strain the veggies from the broth and mix 1 1/2 cups of broth into the rice, or just enough to cover the rice. Adjust the heat to a full simmer. Partially cover the pot. Keep your eye on the rice and when it has absorbed most of the liquid, add more broth, just to cover. Continue in this way until all the broth is gone and the rice is al dente. This should take about 30 minutes.

Just before adding the last portion of broth to the rice, blanch the asparagus tips briefly in the simmering broth for a couple minutes until bright green. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon.

Add the last bit of broth to the rice and stir in the asparagus. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with the asparagus tips and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.