Asparagus Risotto an Antidote to Spring's Chilly Rains

It's spring in the Northwest, which means we're getting two inches of rain in as many days thanks to an atmospheric river deciding to flow directly over the Willamette Valley, dumping its heavy load before climbing over the Cascades. The good news is that spring, being the Janus-like, capricious spirit that it is, will be whiplashing us with temperatures in the mid-70s to mid-80s within the week.

Until that happens, though, we still need to pull on our Muck boots and hooded parkas for another day or two and hit our local farmers' markets, many of which are fortunately opening for their regular seasons this weekend. I managed to make it to two of them, the Beaverton Farmers Market yesterday—a generous sponsor of the blog you're reading—and my intimate neighborhood King Farmers Market today.

Both were brimming with bounteous goods from growers and makers, and among other things I picked up several bunches of beautifully green asparagus to carry us through the week. Ready to go in the oven to roast, chopped into a quiche or frittata, or in a risotto like the one below, these green spears will be equally delicious grilled as is or chopped into a salad when those warm temps get here.

Spring Asparagus Risotto

1 lb. asparagus, tips removed and reserved, stalks sliced into half-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp. garlic, finely chopped
Spring onion or green garlic, finely sliced (optional)
2 c. arborio rice

1 c. white wine
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese plus more for the table
Salt to taste

Put half of the chopped asparagus stalks in the food processor and purée (add a teaspoon or so of water, if needed, until smooth). Set aside.

Put stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. In a deep skillet or larger saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. When it shimmers, 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 absorb into the rice. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring frequently. Each time stock has just about absorbed into the rice, add more.

When you have used about half the stock, add the puréed asparagus, asparagus tips, plus spring onions or green garlic (if using), stirring to combine, then continue to add stock as necessary. In 5 minutes or so, 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. Add the cup of parmesan and stir briskly, then remove from heat. Taste and adjust salt. (Risotto should be slightly soupy.) Serve immediately.