spring risotto with lemon

The three weeks of spring are nearly over.

In Texas, three weeks is about all we get. Temperature climb from the 50s to the 90s in a one-month period; the transition from winter to summer is abrupt and cruel. It’s only for a few days that we can run around comfortably in jeans and t-shirts. Soon, the jeans will be too warm and will give way to shorts and skirts; a few weeks ago, one needed a jacket to maintain an ambient body temperature.

Still, to celebrate this fleeting spring, I offer you risotto. While the method I recommend does require a little “slaving over a hot stove,” temperatures are cool enough and the veggies are bright enough that that shouldn’t bother you too much. This dish, while a little time-consuming, is actually very simple to make and difficult to mess up. The spring vegetables add fun color to what can otherwise be a disturbingly beige dish, and the lemon tastes so fresh that you wonder why you don’t slave over a hot stove to make this every day.

A note: Do you know the proper way to store asparagus? I did not, and lamented that my asparagus in the crisper would always turn woody and tough as soon as I bought it. I learned, though, that asparagus should be stored like cut flowers: in a glass of water, with the stems cut every day or so. This keeps the asparagus fresh. I keep it on the counter, but storing it in the fridge works fine, too.

Spring Risotto with Lemon
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 2

You will need:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. risotto or arborio rice
Approximately 4 cups chicken broth (you may substitute some of this with water, wine, or beer)
1/2 c. frozen peas
1/2 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2” lengths
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste

Heat the broth in a saucepan until it simmers, but do not burn.

Heat the oil in a separate saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and saute until tender, about ten minutes (but do not burn). Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about thirty seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the edges of the grains are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread the asparagus lengths onto a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and roast at 400 for about 15 minutes. Set aside.

If using, add up to 1 cup wine or beer. Stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed.

Add broth in 1/2 cup increments, stirring until the liquid is absorbed and adding more liquid. Repeat this process for about half an hour, tasting for doneness. (The rice should be al dente.) Add the peas and cook, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and the lemon and stir. Taste, and season with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve immediately, topped with parmesan cheese. Happy Spring.

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