Hope springs eternal risotto

By Bob Blumer
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SERVES
6

Ingredients

  • 1 leek, white section only. Enough for 1/2 cup when chopped. Or 6 green onions
  • 1-1/2 cups (packed) arugula, or baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup best available olive oil, divided + extra for drizzling
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 7 cups home-made chicken stock or vegetable stock, or best-available store-bought stock
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice (available in many grocery stores and all Italian food stores.)
  • 1/2 cup dryish white wine (as dictated by what’s leftover in your fridge, or what you are drinking)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen fava beans (if available), or fresh or frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into quarters
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Edible flowers, petals pulled from the flower (optional),
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor, add leek, arugula, a couple pinches of salt and 1/3 cup olive oil. Puree and reserve.
  2. Discard the woodiest section of the asparagus spears (usually the bottom quarter—unless it has already been trimmed). Use a vegetable peeler to peel the tough outer layer from the lower third of the remaining spear. Cut the asparagus just below the tip. If asparagus is fat, slice the tip in half from top to bottom. Slice remainder of the spear on the bias into 1/8-inch rounds. Reserve.
  3. In a medium pot, bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
  4. In a heavy, large pot over medium heat, add three tablespoons olive oil. Add garlic and shallot and stir for about two minutes, or until the shallot is translucent. 
  5. Add rice to the garlic and shallot and stir continuously for one minute until all of the rice grains are well coated in oil.
  6. Add wine to the rice, and stir occasionally for two to three minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed. 
  7. Use a ladle to add 1 cup of stock to the rice. Stir occasionally. Each time the stock is almost fully absorbed, add another cup. After the fourth cup of stock, add the favas and asparagus. Continue stirring occasionally, adding stock one cup at a time. Risotto, like pasta, should be served slightly al dente. And like pasta, it continues to cook and absorb liquid after it is removed from the heat. It can’t be said enough: Be vigilant about the texture of the grains and the creaminess of the risotto. Keep tasting the grains as they cook to asses their texture. Your risotto is done when the grain is soft, but still has a bit of toothiness, and the sauce is creamy and loose (see sidebar). The total cooking time, once the rice has been added, should be about 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. When the rice is just shy of the desired degree of toothiness, fold in green pesto, butter, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper, and three quarters of the Parmigiano. Stir for one more minute. This will thicken the rice. To keep the rice creamy (see finished photo for a visual reference) and to avoid the possibility of it thickening up more as it travels to the table, if necessary, add a last ladle full of stock just before you pull it off the heat.
  9. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. 

To serve:

  1. Serve in pre-warmed bowls and sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano and flower petals. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

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