An ode to the spring

I love the spring. For a number of reasons. First of all because it comes after the winter and I absolutely dislike the winter. My ideal place to live would be a place with no winter at all. No coat, no scarf, no gloves, and overall, no socks. Very few things make me happier than the weather being good enough to not wear socks.

There are many more reasons. Flowers bloom everywhere, the trees grow leaves and everything becomes greener. Being able to read outside, eat outside, and do whatever outside without freezing or melting.

Another big reason is spring seasonal food. I wouldn't say that spring is my favorite season for food, because I really love summer fruit and vegetables. But the spring is the preface of the summer, and it starts giving you some treats to make you forget the dullness of the winter and prepare you for the summer explosion. The spring gives you strawberries, which are a great prize when you have been eating apples and oranges for so long. The spring gives you green onions, leeks, Swiss chard and asparagus. Spring asparagus are just so much better than any other time of the year.

Having written that very corny introduction about flowers and strawberries, I am going to talk about what I made last night for dinner and why. What did I make? I made mushroom and asparagus risotto. Why did I make it? I made it because yesterday I posted a question on my Facebook profile and on Spoonglish Facebook profile asking for suggestions for dinner (If you like spoonglish on facebook, you will see on your feed when there is a new post). I received a number of very delicious ideas. My friend Ana suggested that I made a boletus risotto. Boletus are a type of mushroom that I have never seen at the store here. However, this was my favorite suggestion, so I decided to make it with a different type of mushroom, shiitake. When I got to the store and saw the asparagus I decided to incorporate them to the dish too, so I would have a more seasonal risotto.

I really wanted this dish to be really good, and a very effective way to improve a risotto is to use homemade stock instead of store-bought chicken stock. Then I remembered that I had 2 ham bones in the freezer that I bought when I went to the farmers market (that trip to the farmers market was so productive, I really have to go back). And I was like, "Oh my! A risotto made with a ham stock? That sounds amazing!". So I made the ham stock. It's very easy to make, but it takes a while and you need to have the bones. As an alternative, you could use a couple of chicken drumsticks, and make a chicken broth. And as not-so-great alternative, you can buy store chicken or ham stock and it will be good too (but not as good).

Mushroom and asparagus risotto
Serves 4. Adapted from Gourmet

1lb / 500g green asparagus, cut into 1/2inch(1cm)  slices, leaving tips longer
6 cups / 1 1/2 l  ham stock (see recipe below) or chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp butter, divided
1lb/ 500g shiitake (or any other type) mushrooms, clean and cut to 1/4inch(1/2cm)  slices
1/2 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups/ 300g arborio rice
1/2 cup  / 120 ml white wine
1/2 cup / 30g grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a medium sauce pan, bring the stock to a boil and add the asparagus. Cook for 4 minutes, until crisp-tender. Transfer asparagus with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking, then drain and pat dry. Keep the stock simmering on low heat.

In a heavy deep skillet or a 4 quart sauce pan, heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the mushrooms and cook over medium heat for 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and cook the onions, over medium heat, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute. Add the wine and stir for 1 minute, until absorbed. Add one cup of stock to the rice and cook at a strong simmer, stirring, until absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is just tender and looks creamy, 18 to 20 minutes. Not all the broth needs to be used, just stop adding stock when the rice is cooked.

Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, cheese, salt and pepper. Gently stir in the asparagus and the mushrooms. Cover and let it sit for 1 minute. Serve immediately and rejoice in the goodness of the spring.

Ham stock

2 2inch wide ham bones
1 leek, white and light green part only, halved
2 carrots, peeled and halved
1 celery stalk
1 garlic clove, peeled

Put all the ingredients in a big pot and cover with 2 quarts (2 liters) of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 hour. Strain the stock through a fine colander to get rid of the solids. Let it cool and remove the fat from the surface with a slotted spoon, if necessary.

1 comment:

  1. This looks delicious.
    And the nice bowl ..........