What to make this weekend: Shelled Pea and Asparagus Risotto, (with a twist).

I sent an quick email to Daniel Gritzer, Associate Food Editor at Food and Wine magazine, asking him what he suggested would be a great seasonal risotto I could make this weekend.

And here’s what he said:

“You could make a simple risotto with a vegetable stock, then add asparagus, or peas, or any fresh herbs. It could be a whole mix of nice spring produce, or, you could focus on just one ingredient.
A thing that’s nice, if a little more work-intensive, is to take your main ingredient, let’s say asparagus, trim the bottoms (put them in your stock), then take the stalks and blanch them (you could blanch them right in the boiling stock, to capture that flavor). Then take your blanched asparagus, cut off the tips and reserve them, and then make a puree in a blender with the edible stalks, Olive Oil and grated Parmesan. You can stir the puree into the risotto at the very end, and then stir in the tips as well. You can do the same with peas (half as a puree, half stirred in whole).”
A great twist on one of my old stand-by recipes. Which took my regular Shelled Pea and Asparagus risotto (below) from so-so, to so divine! Thanks Daniel!

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SHELLED PEA AND ASPARAGUS RISOTTO: Start by making your own vegetable stock (as Daniel says: easy enough to do, no reason not to), add trimmings from the vegetables (onion and garlic skins, pea pods, asparagus woody bottoms, whole black peppercorns, etc.). You’ll get more of the flavor that way.

Then take the edible stalks (of about) one bunch of asparagus, and a handful of shelled peas and blanch them in the boiling vegetable broth (around 4 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon, and put them in a colander and flash rinse in cold water. (This will keep them vibrant green.) Then take your blanched asparagus and cut the tips off. Reserve the tips.

Puree the blanched asparagus and half of the blanched peas, in a food processor with some Olive Oil, grated Parmesan. Season to taste.

Meanwhile make your risotto: Strain your vegetable broth, and keep it warm on simmer (you’ll need about 1 quart, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less, you can always use just plain water if you need more).

In a large pan or pot, melt around 2 tablespoons of butter with around 1 tablespoon of oil, place a diced small medium white Onion in and saute. Add half a cup or more of Arborio Rice. Stir. Add 2 finely chopped garlic cloves and about 1 cup of White Wine. Season with Salt and Pepper. Add the strained simmering broth in half cup fulls at time, into the rice, stirring constantly until the rice is cooked, (around 25-30 minutes). At the last minute stir in the asparagus/pea/parmesan puree, the asparagus tips, and the blanched whole peas. Stir. Season. Add more parmesan as necessary.

Try it, and let me know what you think.

Have a great weekend!

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DANIEL GRITZER: is associate food editor at Food & Wine magazine and a former restaurant cook. He grew up in a family where tongue sandwiches were often packed for lunch, and bone marrow spread on toast was a popular predinner snack. For more info click here.

(Pics: Dimity Jones)

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