Divine Dining: Try Risotto Primavera for a little taste of springtime
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.
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.
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The Rev. Whitney Wilkinson is pastor of Cameron Presbyterian Church.