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A fresh asparagus Bouquet from the farmer’s market.

This time of year, the produce aisle and farmer’s markets are bursting at the seams with summer’s bounty. And of all the berries, fruits and veggies, I am always drawn to the asparagus. So much so, that I want to give each of my friends a big bouquet of the slender, crunchy delights.

Asparagus is great about 1000 different ways (especially grilled in the summer) but I always invite it to join my favorite summer risotto. The lemon zest, white wine and basil add a light and fresh character that pairs well with even the warmest of summer days.

While risotto does take some babysitting in the kitchen, it is one of those single pot dinners that is relaxing to cook. Grab a glass of wine and chat it up with your spouse or a friend while you nurse the rice to fruition. And once you master the technique, play around with the ingredients – there are endless possibilities! Justin even made it with beer while camping a few years ago. Yes, my husband made risotto on a camping trip. +10 Foodie Points for him.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 lb fresh asparagus, cut into thirds
  • 1 Tbls lemon zest
  • 1 qt chicken stock (or vegetable or mushroom stock)
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 medium shallot or ½ small onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 2 garlic gloves, minced
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 2 Tbls fresh basil, chopped
  • Kosher salt, to taste

To Make:

Blanch asparagus in salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes then transfer to a ice water bath. Set aside.

Heat the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, then lower the heat so that the stock just stays hot.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil and 1 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the chopped shallot or onion. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until it is slightly translucent.

Add the rice to the pot and stir it briskly with a wooden spoon so that the grains are coated with the oil and melted butter. Sauté for another minute or so, until there is a slightly nutty aroma. But don’t let the rice turn brown.

Add the wine and cook while stirring, until the liquid is fully absorbed.

Add a ladle of hot chicken stock to the rice and stir until the liquid is fully absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry, add another ladle of stock and repeat the process. Note: It’s important to stir constantly, especially while the hot stock gets absorbed, to prevent scorching, and add the next ladle as soon as the rice is almost dry.

Continue adding ladles of hot stock and stirring the rice while the liquid is absorbed. As it cooks, you’ll see that the rice will take on a creamy consistency as it begins to release its natural starches.

Continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, for 20-30 minutes or until the grains are tender but still firm to the bite, without being crunchy. If you run out of stock and the risotto still isn’t done, you can finish the cooking using hot water. Just add the water as you did with the stock, a ladle at a time, stirring while it’s absorbed.

Stir in the remaining 2 Tbsp butter, the parmesan cheese, basil, zest, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss in asparagus and serve right away.