Lemon-Asparagus Risotto

Oh yes. You knew this was coming. I have, like, fifty standard risotto flavors up there in my noggin. You were due for one.

So darn good on a cold day:

  • 2 of your favorite bouillon cubes (I am using Edward & Sons Garden Veggie). I almost always use vegetarian bouillon when I make risotto, because I don’t want to overpower the other ingredients with the stock.
  • 3 cups of water
  • 2 cups of Arborio rice
  • 2 shallots (big ones… use more if yours are small; check out the photos for some size guidance)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced or chopped however you like
  • 10 spears of asparagus, with the tough parts at the end cut off
  • 1 cup white wine (any kind you fancy; I’ve got a cheapo chardonnay here)
  • Juice of two lemons
  • 2/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (Parmesan is OK, too!)
  • 2-3 tbsp of butter or your favorite alternative spread (I’m using Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread, which is salted)
  • Black pepper
  • Mild chili powder
  • Salt
  • Paprika

First things first: assemble your veggies, chopped how you like, so they’re ready to go. I’ve chopped my onions into short, thin slices, and my asparagus into 1″-long pieces. My garlic is sliced. Once that’s ready, toss your bouillon cubes in a large pot, and boil your water with them. While the water heats up, grab a large fying pan and turn it to medium heat. Throw in one tablespoon of your spread, the shallots, the asparagus, the garlic, a big shake or two of salt, and a shake or two of paprika.

Stir the contents of the frying pan here and there; once the shallots start to become transparent, and you see some browning, add your rice and a second tablespoon of spread to the pan. Incorporate the rice by stirring the mixture into the veggies with a wooden spoon. Continue until the spread is melted throughout. Cook the rice like this, in the pan, for 3-4 minutes, and then add the lemon juice.

Coincidentally (no, not really, I planned it), by the time your rice and veggies are at this stage, your water should be boiling. Once this happens, add the contents of the pan to the pot of bouillon-y water. Stir this mixture occasionally, to keep the water moving throughout. Often I find that the rice at the bottom will expand so fast that it forms a seal, keeping the remaining water near the surface of the pan. Be an equal-opportunity rice cooker, and keep it moving!

When almost no liquid left in your rice mixture, add the wine and cheese to the pot, and stir. In fact, keep stirring as the risotto thickens. There is always a chance that you’ll need more water, so keep some on hand (it doesn’t have to be boiled, but warm is good). Apart from the obvious–that the rice is cooked to a texture you like–I consider my risotto done when it begins to adhere to itself, and stirring it from the edge lifts the whole mass right off the side of the pot (take a look at the second-to-last picture). When it’s ready, give it a taste: this is generally when I add a big shake of black pepper, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp paprika, and 1/2 tsp mild chili powder. See what you’re in the mood for when you taste it, stir your spices in, and turn the heat off.

I like to serve my risotto with some extra grated cheese on top. This recipe serves 3-4 people. And no, I don’t add the water one ladle-full at a time. I think that’s silly!

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