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Spring Risotto with Gremolata

April 13, 2008

Spring Risotto

Boston is finally showing signs that spring might appear sometime soon. The trees are budding, the crocuses are blooming, and last Thursday the temperatures hit 72 degrees and I got to leave the house without a coat. The first warm days of the year fill me with a kind of joy I can barely express. I feel instantly lighter. Boston winters are HARD, especially for a wimpy California girl like myself, and I sometimes forget that they’re ever going to end. That first day of sunshine and light breezes gives me hope, and although I know it’s not quite over yet, that winter doesn’t truly end in Boston until mid-May, a 65 degree day here and there is like getting a little gift.

I celebrated the first warm day of the year last Thursday by making an excellent fresh vegetable and herb risotto. I adapted the recipe from something I saw in a recent Bon Appetit: a spring pasta full of vegetables and topped with a blend of parsley and lemon. I thought instantly it would make a great risotto. So I opened up the windows, put some music on, poured myself a glass of wine, and set about making the first risotto I’ve made in months.

The flavors in this were perfect: bright and lemony, and the creamy risotto was perfectly balanced by the crispness of the vegetables. In fact, I loved this so much that I was kind of saddened that I wasn’t sharing it with anyone. However, the loveliness of the day and the fact that the sun was still shining when I finished cooking got me over that right quickly.

There are kind of a lot of ingredients in this one, so it took a good amount of time to prep everything, and then of course cooking the risotto itself can be a lengthy process. This is definitely not something to make when you’re short on time, but if you can set aside an hour or two for cooking dinner, it’s worth it.

Fresh vegetables and risotto

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Fresh Herbs and Lemon

  • 3 T. chopped parsley
  • 1 T. lemon zest
  • about 2-3 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 1 c. snow peas, trimmed
  • 2 or 3 big handfuls of spinach, trimmed
  • 1 shallot, finely sliced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red jalapeno, finely sliced
  • about 1 c. arborio rice
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • about 2 c. chicken stock
  • 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
  • a small handful of fresh basil, thinly sliced

Mix the parsley and lemon zest together, and set aside.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet. Add the zucchini and snow peas to the skillet and saute for about two or three minutes, or until they’re softened and cooked through. Remove them from the skillet and set aside. Add the spinach to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until it’s wilted, probably about three minutes. Set the spinach aside with the zucchini and snow peas

Set the stock to boil in a small saucepan on a back burner. Once it’s come to a boil, let the stock simmer over low heat, just enough to keep it warm.

Add another tablespoon or so of oil to the skillet, and once it’s hot, add the shallot, garlic, and jalapeno. Saute for a minute or two, and once the shallot is softened, stir in the rice. Let the rice cook for a few minutes, giving it an occasional stir, until the edges are translucent. Stir in the wine, scraping up all the shalloty bits from the bottom of the skillet, and lower the heat. You want it just high enough that the wine will bubble slightly.

Cook the rice and wine, stirring frequently, until the wine is entirely absorbed and/or evaporated. Then start slowly stirring in the chicken stock. Add about half a cup at a time, stirring frequently. The heat should be low, but still high enough so the rice and stock mixtures bubbles a bit. Let the stock absorb completely into the rice before adding another half a cup. This is the part where you should pour yourself a glass of wine and put some good music on, because you’ll be standing at the stove stirring the rice for about forty-five minutes or so (I have even been known to stand at the stove with a book in one hand and a spoon in the other, reading and stirring, because I am a dork like that). Just keep adding stock and stirring until the rice is cooked through and you’ve achieved a nice, creamy consistency. The rice should still have a little firmness, but not starchiness. I find it difficult to explain how to know when it’s done; I usually just keep tasting.

Once you the rice is cooked through, remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the parmesan cheese, the cooked vegetables, and the basil, and serve topped with the parsley lemon mixture. Et voila–instant spring!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    April 13, 2008 1:56 pm

    Sounds delicious! I want some right now! Patrick made a yummy salad Friday night with Fennel/Anis. It was light, crispy and delicious. I’d tell you how to make it but I wasn’t watching.

  2. April 14, 2008 6:04 am

    I like the addition of the sliced jalapeno pepper. That’ll brighten things up all right, without making into a heavier, eternal summer, southwestern dish. Good thought!

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