01 May 2007
Spring for Green
Last weekend spring finally decided to burst forth, the kind of weather that makes school children gaze longingly out the window, that makes your toes seek the wiggling freedom of flipflops. A weekend that defies you to stay indoors, much less in the kitchen. However, we were having friends for dinner and in addition to throwing open all the doors and windows, I could at least surround myself with the produce of the season. “I hope you like green things,” I asked our guest, noting the array of artichokes, arugula, spinach, asparagus, and peas that littered the kitchen, “I just couldn’t help myself.”
I had remembered a recipe for a risotto made green with spinach, and since I think risotto should not be just a bowl of cheesey rice, I thought I’d brighten it with asparagus and peas. All went well as I stirred and stirred, and soon we were sitting down to dinner and talking and talking and laughing and eating. Oftentimes, this is what good food is for, to serve as the backdrop, a mere supporting role. But when I went back to think about it, I couldn’t remember, was the risotto good? Should it be faulted for not sealing the show? Did it need more cheese?
When revisited, this risotto did indeed hold it’s own at the table. It is light and subtle but also wonderfully delicate and satisfying at the same time. And if your conversation usurps your meal, that’s ok too, because that is what the joy of good friends and good food is all about.
Spring Green Risotto
This risotto turns a lovely green color from the spinach. It is meant to make use of the best spring produce, but is good any time of year. Serves 3-4.
2 tbl olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
4-5 cups vegetable stock
10-12 spinach leaves
1 cup spring peas
about 2 cups asparagus tips
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1. Bring a pot of water to boiling. Add the peas and asparagus tips and blanch until just bright green, about five minutes. Drain the vegetables into a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Set aside
2. Put the vegetable stock in a pot and maintain on a simmer on the stove top.
3. In a wide large pan or deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and saute until just softened and golden. Add the rice and stir so that each grain is coated with oil and the grains begin to turn opaque, a couple minutes. Stir in the half cup of white wine, scraping up any browned bits in the pan. Stir constantly until the wine has been absorbed and the pan begins to look dry. Stir in half a cup of the warm stock and stir constantly in a gentle circular motion, until the stock is absorbed. Continue this process, stirring and adding more stock when necessary.
4. After about twenty minutes, begin checking the rice for doneness, you want it to be creamy but the grains should still be slightly al dente. It may take another 10-15 minutes depending on the size and type of pan you are using. You may not need all the stock.
5. When the rice is almost done, rinse the spinach leaves well and put them, with the water still clinging to them, into the food processor. Process until you have a puree. Immediately stir in the spinach puree into the risotto, and add the asparagus, and peas. Cook, stirring, another 3-5 minutes, for everthing to incorporate. Remove from heat and stir in half of the cheese. Serve immediately, passing the remaining cheese alongside.