My garden is in! Memorial Day weekend was reserved for the big plant. When my girlfriend came up for a spontaneous weekend, I put her to work putting my potential-filled seedlings in their sturdy (and new) raised beds. Tomatoes dominate, along with hot peppers, cucumbers, carrots, onions, leeks, and my favorite, shallots. Cauliflower, raspberries, kale, spinach, chard, arugula and lots of herbs. You can surmise from previous posts that I am a fennel fan (it makes yet another appearance below) and have been searching for fennel for the garden as well but no luck so far. Besides being a kitchen staple, the fronds attract butterflies so it’s a double-duty must-have. So, my search continues, and I hope to add it to the busy beds by week’s end.
It has been a rainy and cold spring, and I am ready for some sun. To stay warm, yet get a taste of spring, I searched for a hearty, yet full of bright greens, recipe for this post and found it via Ina Garten. Her Spring Green risotto is fantastic. I have made it twice, and my only modification is adding spinach to the greens parade. The mascarpone cheese makes this rich but not over-the-top.
Pipelette continues to spread the gospel of hazelnut brownies. I just added the fourth Rosemont Market location to my customer base and hope to have some more good news in a few days. I will, of course, keep you posted. I will be selling my goods at the Farmers Market here in downtown Portland starting in June and added some sweet (yet floury) coins (Chocolate Pistachio/Cherry and Coconut/Cranberry) to the mix. See you there!
Spring Green Risotto with Artichokes
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 1/2 T unsalted butter
3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1 cup chopped fennel
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
4-5 cups vegetable stock
1 pound thin asparagus
10 oz frozen peas or 1 1/2 cups shelled fresh peas
8 oz frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
2 cups fresh spinach, slivered
1 T freshly grated lemon zest
Sea salt and black pepper
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan and additional for serving
2 T fresh lemon juice
3 T minced fresh chives
1. Heat olive oil and butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and fennel, and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Add the rice, and stir for one minute to coat with the vegetables, oil and butter. Add the wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly until most of the wine is absorbed. Add the stock a half-cup at a time, stirring constantly as the rice absorbs the liquid. This will take 25-30 minutes.
2. In between stirs, cut the asparagus. I slivered mine, but you can chop it as well. Blanch in boiling water until bright green. Remove from heat and drain. Run cold water over it to stop the cooking and retain green color. If using fresh peas, blanch them as well.
3. After the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, add the asparagus, peas, artichokes, lemon zest, salt and pepper and spinach.
4. Continue cooking rice until tender but firm. When it is done, remove from heat and stir in mascarpone, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice and chives. Serve topped with chives and additional cheese.
- When I made this the first time, I blanched the asparagus even though I had sliced them paper thin. They came out fine. The second time around I omitted that step and just cooked them in the risotto bath with no blanching. Either way was lovely.
- Mascarpone is Italian cream cheese and I love it! I will be looking for ways to incorporate it more often. Maybe it’s my new fennel. In lieu of this, you could always go American, with some Philly cream cheese.