Friday, February 18, 2011

Green Spring Risotto

I’m sorry to rub this in anyone’s face, but it’s springtime here in the Bay Area. The cherry trees are blooming, daffodils are lifting their sleepy heads, and the hills have turned their most beautiful shade of green. I wouldn’t trade any fall colors, or so-called “seasons” for a California spring. It lasts forever, and every week something new is in bloom.

When the weather is this sweet, it puts me in the mood for light, bright, and fresh food. The vegan diet is the perfect canvas to showcase the fresh vegetables and fruits that are at their peak this time of year. The simplicity of this dish highlights the individual flavors of zucchini, asparagus, and peas, while bringing them all together for a blissful spring dinner. And, just in case you’re still in the land of ice and snow, this risotto is also warm, cozy, and satisfying.

Green Spring Risotto

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
2 zucchini, halved and chopped roughly
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups arborio rice
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup white wine
1 cup frozen green peas
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated
1/4 cup basil, chiffonaded

Heat the oven to 375ºF. Spread the asparagus and zucchini in a single layer in an oven-proof dish. Drizzle with the 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake until tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot. Add the shallots and garlic, and sauté over medium low heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the rice, and stir to coat with oil. Sauté over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer, stirring frequently, until the wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup of stock, and continue stirring. When the risotto begins to look dry, add more stock, and continue stirring. Repeat until the rice is tender, and the risotto is creamy.

Slice the asparagus into 2 inch pieces, and dice the zucchini into 1/2 inch pieces. Add the vegetables, peas, lemon juice, and lemon zest to the risotto. Cook for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Add the basil, and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

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