Suzi's Blog

Spring Risotto with Asparagus Fontina

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Now, technically, I know it is not spring. In just a few days it will officially be fall. But that means that south of the equator, it will be spring. So you could make this recipe while visiting Argentina or the vineyards in Chile. A great South American wine would go so well here.

Or, you can look in your market for “fresh but non-local” asparagus that has been airlifted to us in North America from those spring fields far to the south. I don’t think we really pay enough attention to the impact Boeing has had on our culinary experiences and opportunities.

Vegetables often come to us with an edgy, sharp taste. Certainly that is true of asparagus. So, soft, creamy, mild risotto is the perfect foil for asparagus and even the peas suggested here. You can always amend this recipe, substituting green beans or sautéed carrots or corn kernels. The concept is to let flavors and textures resonate together. Risotto is a “platform” that provides the foundation supporting an endlessly varying market basket.

The final frosting or dusting of Fontina is just the ticket to make this dish authentically Italian. The particular recipe comes from The Italian Vegetable Cookbook by Michelle Scicolone. This is her latest book. I want to call it her greatest, but I don’t want to diminish all those earlier books and all those wonderful recipes she has shared with us. Let us just say that The Italian Vegetable Cookbook continues a great tradition.

You don’t like vegetables? You will.


Spring Risotto with Asparagus, Peas, and Fontina

Yield: serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces asparagus, trimmed
  • 5 cups rich vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups short grain rice, such as arborio
  • ½ cup dry white wine, at room temperature
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
  • 1 cup grated Fontina Valle d’Aosta
  • ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preparation:

Cut the tips off the asparagus and set them aside. Chop the asparagus stalks into ½-inch pieces.

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth just to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat to low to keep warm.

In a large wide saucepan, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in the scallions and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook over medium high heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes, or until the rice is hot and coated in oil and butter. Add wine and cook, stirring, until it has evaporated.

Add the warm broth about ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently after each addition and waiting until each one is almost absorbed before adding more. Regulate the heat so that the liquid remains at a simmer and the rice does not dry out. After about 10 minutes, stir in the asparagus stems and continue cooking and adding broth. If you run out of liquid before the rice is done, add warm water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When the risotto is almost ready it will be firm yet tender to the bite and look creamy, when it's done-16 to 18minutes, stir in the asparagus tips and peas. Cook for 2 minutes more

Stir in the cheeses and let stand for 1 minute, then spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and serve.

Source: The Italian Vegetable Cookbook by Michelle Scicolone

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4 for1/30th second at ISO‑125

 

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Salmon with Mashed Peas and Tarragon Butter

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The supply of salmon seems endless and almost all of us indulge on a regular basis. After all, if you go to a catered event, your choices generally are steak, chicken or salmon. And salmon is often the safe choice.

With safety can come boredom. It’s tragic that over time this wonderful fish can lose its magic. There are so many ways to serve salmon that it should always be inspiring. How to do that? It’s the sauce and the side. Here the salmon is stacked atop mashed peas and then adorned with herbed butter. You keep the salmon flavor, but anoint it with these accompaniments that make this dish lively to look at and then consumed with surprising pleasure. Yes, this dish is different.

Peas are one of the few food that you can freeze, defrost, and find yourself still with the original taste. Here the texture is transformed by mashing and the flavor is accelerated with onion and cream. The peas provides a lively nip on your palate and well complements the salmon proteins.

As the picture shows, you might as well go all-orange here. Pair this salmon with a side of sautéed carrots, either babies or slices. When you cook them, you can experiment with herbs and spices to match that tarragon butter.

Suzen often serves this dish now for her cooking classes at Cooking by the Book. It's a great recipe for team cooking or for your culinary club. The peas, the butter, and the salmon itself can all be divided out among your group so everyone is happily "employed." And, when the parts come together into that final dish, everyone can take pride. In the kitchen, you can both satisfy your stomach and brighten your soul.

 

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