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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring Green Risotto

I've never made risotto before . . . I may have never really eaten risotto before either, unless the kind from the box counts. I always choose pasta over rice at Italian restaurants, I'm not sure why. Anyway, I've been wanting to make risotto for a long time now, so when I saw Ina Garten make this primavera version, on a particularly 'spring-like' weekend temperature-wise, I decided this was the recipe. This was wonderful! I loved the colors of the green vegetables, and the creaminess of the dish, even though you don't use cream. The lemon zest and juice really brighten the flavor. I've never worked with fennel bulb before, so I was excited to try it. I knew it was supposed to have a slight anise flavor when raw, which I could taste in the raw piece I tried, but I didn't taste that in the finished dish. I'm not quite sure what flavor it imparted, but it's always nice to try new things.
Spring Green Risotto

1 1/2 Tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1 cup chopped fennel
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
4 to 5 cups simmering chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 pound thin asparagus
10 ounces frozen peas, defrosted, or 1 1/2 cups shelled fresh peas
1 Tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, preferably Italian
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
3 Tablespoons mince fresh chives, plus extra for serving

*My notes about the ingredients: I used salted butter, so I just used less salt later in the recipe. I ended up needing close to 6 cups of chicken broth (canned) because my rice took longer to soften. I just had a BIG can of chicken broth and used the whole thing. I used frozen petite peas. I didn't use mascarpone because it's expensive, and it was already costing a decent amount between all the veges and the Arborio, so I used 1/3 red fat cream cheese instead. We didn't think that mascarpone would have added that much more, so I'm glad I didn't splurge on it. And lastly, I didn't use the chives. Again, it's about $3 for a pack of chives in our store, so I just left them out. If I had a private, year-round garden in the Hamptons like Ina, I'd use them too ;)

1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and fennel and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Add the rice and stir for a minute to coat with the vegetables, oil, and butter. Add the white wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add the chicken stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cut the asparagus diagonally into 1 1/2-inch lengths and discard the tough ends. Blanch in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, until al dente. Drain and cool immediately in ice water. (If using fresh peas, blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes until the starchiness is gone.)

3. When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, drain the asparagus and add it to the risotto with the peas, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.

4. Whisk the lemon juice and the mascarpone together in a small bowl. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the mascarpone mixture plus the Parmesan cheese and chives. Set aside, off the heat, for a few minutes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve hot with a sprinkling of chives and more Parmesan cheese.

Recipe notes: I blanched the asparagus right away, not 'meanwhile.' I just didn't think I'd be able to do that and babysit the rice at the same time. I'm glad I got it out of the way, because I still was trying to zest the lemons and prepare the cheese/lemon juice mixture while stirring. I really need to learn how to 'prep' better! The process of softening the rice took me quite a bit longer. I might have had the heat too low, I'm not sure. I just kept adding more broth until the rice was cooked.

Source: Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe on Food Network


  1. Your risotto looks fantastic - I love all the fresh veggies and lemon, it's definitely perfect for spring! Now I'm craving asparagus!

  2. Looks really tasty! I love the spring veggies!

  3. Hi Megan, mind if I add you to my blogroll?

  4. Thanks ladies! I was happy to use the spring veges-I'm so excited they are finally in season!

    Hi Priscilla- I don't mind at all! :)


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