Whether its miner's lettuce, nettles or fiddleheads, I just can't get enough of the first green things that pop out of the ground in spring. Call it months of chard or kale overload, but the appearance of the first rapini or asparagus at the farmers' market sings a siren song that has my feet dancing over and my hands loading my basket with them.
But right now I want them fresh, so other evening I made an asparagus risotto that featured the crunch of the bright green tips combined with the puréed stalks, which colored the creamy rice a lovely chartreuse. With a last-minute shower of crumbled hard boiled eggs and ribbons of duck prosciutto, I was sure I heard an echo of that irresistible song of spring.
1 lb. asparagus, peeled, trimmed and cut into one-inch-long pieces, tips reserved
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 c. white wine
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/2 onion, diced
2 tsp. garlic, finely chopped
2 c. Arborio rice
1 c. dry white wine
Salt to taste
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 hard-boiled eggs, crumbled
4 thin slices pork or duck prosciutto, cut in ribbons
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the asparagus stalks and simmer until just tender but still a bit crunchy. Drain and immediately rinse under cold water. Put cooked asparagus in a blender or food processor and add just enough water to allow machine to puree until smooth; set aside.
Put stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. Then, in a deep nonstick skillet, heat oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium flame. When it is hot, add onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine, stir, and let liquid bubble away. Add a large pinch of salt. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring occasionally. Each time stock has just about evaporated, add more.
After about 15 minutes, add asparagus tips, continuing to add stock when necessary. In 5 minutes, begin tasting rice. You want it to be tender but with a bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes total to reach this stage. When it does, stir in asparagus puree. Remove skillet from heat, add remaining butter and stir briskly. Add Parmesan and stir briskly, then taste and adjust seasoning. Risotto should be slightly soupy. Sprinkle with crumbled egg and prosciutto ribbons. Serve immediately.
This recipe also works quite nicely with the microwave method, but you'll have to ignore the screams of risotto purists. (The noise will die down once they taste it.)