Divine Dining: Try Risotto Primavera for a little taste of springtime

Mar. 20, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

As I walked outside today, the cold air swirling around my feet made me wish I’d thrown on a pair of socks this morning as I rushed off to a meeting. Though I wore a coat, my neck longed for a scarf to keep out the biting breeze.

Walking in the sun, I felt like I could just plop down right there with a good book and ice cold lemonade; however a quick step into a shady spot made me crave a warm fire and hot chocolate. Ah, the schizophrenia that is North Carolina weather.

Well, the weather may not have decided whether or not it’s spring yet, y’all, but I have. I hereby declare that, though my toes go numb, I shall not swath them in socks! Though I shiver, I refuse to bundle up as if it were January! It is March. Spring is here.

Just as I celebrate the arrival of autumn with the warming delight of rosemary-roasted butternut squash risotto, I celebrate spring’s arrival with another risotto: primavera. The word means spring, after all! This creamy risotto with the delightful verdant crunch of fresh asparagus and peas, a creamy bite from Parmesan cheese and sweet freshness from basil, just tastes like spring.

Get thee to thy local farmer’s market, and celebrate the first delicious taste of the season.

Risotto Primavera

Serves 2.

1 T extra-virgin olive oil

2 T butter

1 cup arborio rice (only this sort of short-grained Italian rice will do)

4-5 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock if making it vegetarian)

1/2 lb. fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed and chopped in 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup frozen peas (fresh if available)

2 shallots, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup fresh basil, rolled into a log and chopped (impress friends at parties by calling this a “chiffonade”)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 T fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper

Heat stock in a saucepan, keeping at a low simmer while cooking risotto. In a deep pan, heat olive oil and 1 T butter on medium heat. Add shallots and cook, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional couple of minutes. Add rice and cook until beginning to turn opaque, about 5 minutes. Add wine and simmer 5 more minutes. Begin adding stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring the risotto as continuously as possible with a wooden spoon. Once most of the liquid is absorbed, add more hot stock. Continue cooking for 10 minutes, then add asparagus and peas. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes, until risotto is creamy on the outside but still has a little bite on the inside, and asparagus and peas are tender-crisp. Remove from heat; add cheese, basil, remaining 1 T butter, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with additional Parmesan cheese and a basil leaf. This light but satisfying dish is substantial enough for a simple dinner, but is also delicious paired with grilled chicken.

Share your beloved recipes with me at heraldfood@gmail.com.

The Rev. Whitney Wilkinson is pastor of Cameron Presbyterian Church.