Monday, April 27, 2009

The First Taste of Spring

Tristan and I went to the University District farmers market on Saturday with the simple intentions of getting breakfast (buckwheat crepes) and buying a dozen free range eggs. Good thing I brought two bags because we filled them both. Not only did we get three types of lettuce and two parsley starters for our urban garden window boxes, we filled the kitchen counters with curly fiddle heads, butter potatoes, rhubarb, freshly picked spinach, our beloved eggs and, the surest sign of spring, asparagus.

The first of our treasures to be gobbled up were the leafy greens. And what a breakfast it was! I quick boiled the spinach, sprinkled it with a bit of apple cider vinegar, topped it with fried eggs and served the whole shebang with buttered, sprouted grain toast. There's nothing quite like bright, yellowy-orange yolk running into fresh greens. Truly and utterly satisfying.

We decided to have the asparagus for dinner. When I lived in Europe I collected all sorts of recipes and one in particular came to mind. It was from the Swiss magazine Kochen and called for tender white asparagus to be pan fried in a light, crunchy almond coating. The picture alone makes my mouth water every time and I couldn't wait to try it. However, I had green asparagus and something told me it wouldn't quite translate. Back to the bookshelf it went.

My inspiration finally came in the form of Gourmet's May 2009 issue: Lemony Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp. Bingo! I've always loved the hypnotic process of stirring hot broth into Arborio rice until it gives up its starch and asks for more liquid. I tend to get lost in the creamy swirls. I am happy to say that after 30 minutes, we had a dish that welcomed Spring as if it were royalty.

Lemony Asparagus and Shrimp Risotto
A wonderful way to use the first asparagus of the season. Adapted from Gourmet, May 2009.

4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 glass dry white wine
3/4 lb uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
Freshly chopped parsley

In a medium saucepan, bring broth and water to a simmer. Add asparagus and simmer, uncovered, until just tender and bright green, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer asparagus to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside. Keep broth at a bare simmer.

In a 4-quart pan over medium heat, cook shallot in 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil until softened, about 4 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth mixture and briskly simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy and tender but still al dente, about 20 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and cook until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the asparagus, lemon zest, remaining tablespoon butter, parmesan, parsely and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

1 comment:

Adair said...

You have a way with the details that makes my mouth water every time :)