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Spring Vegetable Risotto

May 1, 2012
By Wendy Monro - Simply Food

I hope everyone is soaking in and savoring the springtime. Even in Las Vegas there are blossoming trees and flowers blooming everywhere. It's breathtaking. The changing seasons are subtle in some places and dramatic in others.

Springtime is for new beginnings and giving birth to new projects. I have created a new blog. It is still at: However, I have completely changed the layout and design. Please have a look at it if you get the chance. I will be updating it each week with my article, more information on food and drinks, and tons of extra photographs. I bought an amazing new camera to boot. Hopefully, my photographs are noticeably better. I am eager to get more feedback from readers through my blog. If there are any questions, comments, or critiques on what I have presented, please feel free to let me know. My goal is to constantly improve this column.

In addition to my new blog, I am just about finished with a cookbook. The theme is vegan or plant based dishes. I know, now you don't want to read it, right? Just because it has the word "vegan" in it doesn't mean it won't be worth your while. In it, you will find stories about life and love as well as many mouth-watering meals. These dishes won't just be healthy; they will be delicious. My philosophy is to be "veganish," not totally vegan (unless you want to be). Being totally vegan is cool too, if that's how you roll. This way of eating is best for your health, the environment, your looks, and animals. Making small changes, like using these recipes one or two times each week (Think Meatless Mondays) will do a world of good for all of these factors. Why not? If it still tastes great, let's do it!

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Spring risotto with asparagus

Thinking of rebirth, I reinvented my risotto dish. Many times, I load it up with portabella mushrooms. Sometimes, I have added butter and Parmesan cheese to the mix. This time, I decided to dress it up in spring attire. Obviously, I mean asparagus. Nothing is more fabulous in the springtime than some of that Minnesota grown wild asparagus? Since I am not there, I have to dream about it and use the asparagus here. It's not the same. In the front yard of our house in Hanska, I go outside to find a recurring gift of fresh asparagus from Rose Cimino every spring. Wild asparagus is like candy to me. I have seen people pick them in the ditches all around Minnesota. I always want to join them but think I would be an unwanted intruder. It's like the morels; rarely do people want to share their hunting spot. I get it.

So, I was forced to use store-bought asparagus. Oh well. I also made some fresh vegetable broth to cook the risotto in. I think this added some delicious flavors to the risotto. I also included sun dried tomatoes, capers, and lemon to add tanginess and saltiness. Then, at the very end, just as I was about to serve the risotto, I added fresh spring lettuce to give it an extra springtime boost.

The following day, there were still leftovers in the refrigerator. However, it wasn't enough for lunch. So, I grabbed a can of navy beans from the cupboard and heated them up with the leftover risotto. The result was surprisingly great. I would recommend even making the risotto with the navy beans in the first place. I really loved it.

Fact Box

Spring Vegetable Risotto

Time: 50 minutes

Serves: 6

2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)

3 cloves garlic, sliced

2 cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry red or white wine

6 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)

1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Juice from one lemon

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 bunch asparagus, cooked

2 cups spring lettuce mix

salt and pepper to taste

lemon wedges for garnish

Heat olive oil on medium heat (if using oil). Add the garlic and saut for three minutes. Add the rice and let it brown for another three minutes. Add the wine. Let this soak into the rice. Add one cup of the vegetable stock. Every time the stock soaks in, keep adding more in 1/2-cup increments until it is all used. Stir occasionally. Add in the Herbs de Provence, lemon zest, lemon juice, and thyme. Cut half of the asparagus into one inch pieces. Mix these into the risotto. Set the rest aside. Mix in the lettuce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once you have scooped some onto a plate, place a few sprigs of asparagus on top. Serve with lemon wedges.

A while ago, Kristy Paulson suggested I add beverage pairings to my dishes. Well, I am finally getting around to it, Kristy. If being an expert were dependent on your passion for wine and total consumption, then I would be a sommelier. Unfortunately, this isn't the criterion. I am no expert. This is my humble opinion. For risotto, it isn't the rice you pair the wine with, it is the flavors added to the dish. So, a risotto that is heavy with mushrooms, cheese and cream will not pair with the same wine that would accompany a spring vegetable risotto such as this one. For this dish, you would probably want to drink a light crisp dry white Italian wine. I imagine a Verdicchio, Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Bianco would go amazingly well. You could also cook the risotto with the same wine. I am partial to reds, and used red wine to cook this dish. So, my choice was a Barbera. It is a lighter red wine, which goes well with springtime dishes. I am certain Schell's Maifest would go together with this dish if you aren't a wine drinker. That is definitely what Claud would choose. I wonder if we could ship some to Las Vegas?

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