Asparagus and Lemon Risotto: Patience is a Virtue, and Other Profound Life Lessons

I don’t know why I always choose to try recipes I’ve never prepared before when company is coming over.

One of our best friends currently attends the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. She’s a lovely girl: full of barbed wit, euphemisms, and confidence. It takes a very secure person to take as many selfies for SnapChat as she does. I met her through Mr. Right, and was instantly taken with her, since she reminded me of my twenty-year-old self. Obviously, I plan to teach her all sorts of terribly wonderful things, like how to make a man faint with one sultry raised eyebrow and start a campfire without a handy stick lighter.

A fabulous representation of us on one of our more rebellious evenings.

I learn plenty from her, though. This lovely girl is allergic to several things in life. Without listing a long series of medical terminology, we’ll identify her as someone required to eat in the style of a gluten-intolerant vegan.

While cooking for her is difficult, she’s not exactly restricted to nuts and berries. She eats a lot of curry when she’s away at school, so I wanted to give her a different sort of rice dish. A risotto: Deceptively creamy. Extremely filling. And, per usual when I have company coming over, something I’ve never made before.

The only culinary trivia I knew for certain about risotto before embarking on a search for sample recipes was that risotto is the name of a cooking process, and not the dish itself. Confused? I’ll elaborate.

The word “risotto” refers to a cooking procedure, in which a grain with very high starch content releases those starches into the liquid its cooked in, consequently creating a creamy texture. In the states, this is usually done with arborio rice, but any high-starch grain will suffice. For example, “Top Chef: All Stars” winner Richard Blais (who just made my heart sing by following me on Twitter and Instagram – celebrate with me, small victories excite me) has a recipe for Oatmeal Risotto in his book I’m enthused to try, now that I feel more confident in my ability to execute the risotto cooking process.

You will hear every chef providing instruction related to risotto emphasizing patience, and I’m not going to tell you anything new. Risotto is a process. I watched a lot of Giada de Laurentiis videos when looking up inspirations for this recipe, and one of the first things she said in each one of them was that risotto isn’t a cooking process you can walk away from. When making risotto, you have to be willing to stand next to the stove and stir the rice for twenty minutes. It’s easy, provided you have that sort of patience.

It’s not as demanding as it sounds.

I gave up on making truffles due to their time-consuming nature. So, if I have the patience to make risotto, I hope you will as well.

 Asparagus and Lemon Risotto

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 small onion – finely diced
  • 1 cup Arborio Rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine – I used Riesling for this, since Riesling has tons of citrus notes
  • 1 bunch asparagus – cut into 2-inch segments
  • 1 cup thawed frozen peas
  • 1 lemon – for zesting and juicing
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Salt & Pepper

Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a separate small pot. Keep a ladle next to you, and keep this stock simmering during the entire risotto cooking process.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a pan over medium heat, and toss in the onion and arborio rice.

It’s time to start stirring. Get your guns ready.

Cook the rice and onion mixture until the edges of the rice start to become transparent. Get down on the pan’s level, and actually look at the rice.

Once the edges of the rice are transparent, pour in the wine. Keep stirring until all the wine has evaporated.

Now, the real process begins. No, it hasn’t really started yet.

Add the stock to the rice and onion mixture one ladle at-a-time. Keep stirring until the liquid completely dissolves, and keep adding stock in one-ladle increments until the liquid starts to remain in the pan and look creamy. Once the mixture starts sticking together, taste the rice to see when it becomes al dente.

(No, I can’t give you a solid cooking time estimate, because the dish will be done when the rice is cooked. Twenty-ish minutes. Have patience.)

Once the rice is al dente (sort enough to bite through, firm enough that it’s not baby food), add the asparagus. Keep stirring until the asparagus is heated through and also al dente. Next, add the peas and stir for one minute ish.

Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the juice and zest of one lemon, chopped fresh parsley to taste, and two tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (Adding the Extra Virgin Olive Oil at the end of the cooking process gives texture and brightness against the vegetable stock taste.)

Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Divine. Especially with a glass of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.

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