Food column: Spring chores and an easy meal with risotto
March 16, 2013
Spring already. Warm and balmy one day, and cold and wet the next. And we never had any real winter to speak of, just the Christmas storm, and now a light snow that will melt as soon as the sun comes out. We need a BIG storm with a lot of moisture. But the early-season tasks still have to be done, moisture or not. Even though it doesn't feel or look like spring yet — nothing's in bloom, no trees are green and the nights still are cold — there are fruit trees to prune: apple, pear, peach, plum, cherry, apricot. (Some of those really don't have a chance to make fruit in this climate because of late freezes.) There are raspberries to cut back, asparagus fronds from last year to cut out, fields to drag and spray, and ranch implements to repair before haying time comes this summer.
There are two levels of equipment repair here on the ranch: Either David can fix it, or it's a "call Sam" — our knowledgeable and reliable mechanic. He really can fix anything that we have on the place, so we don't know what we'd do without his expertise.
Seeds for the vegetable garden have been ordered; some have arrived. Soon there will be tomato plants to start, and the very early stuff to plant — peas, lettuce, beets and chard. We've still got produce from last year to use up — beans and corn in the freezer, a few winter squash and even some Burpee "long-keeper" tomatoes in my reliably cold studio. A few onions still hang from ceiling hooks. One season blends into another.
Other ongoing activities need to be tended to also — David's building projects, studio time for pottery, the bed and breakfast of course — so meals and time in the kitchen get short shrift this time of year. To that end, our recipe this week is a "two-fer" — part of dinner one evening, and a nice lunch on a subsequent day. It's also pretty quick, light and seasonal.
ASPARAGUS AND GREEN ONION RISOTTO, TWO WAYS
This recipe will serve two or three for dinner, with leftovers to turn into a risotto pancake for lunch, or four to five with no leftovers. I've specified asparagus and green onions, but other vegetables that are good are peas, mushrooms, diced summer or winter squash, and leafy greens, cut in strips. Risotto is a very adaptable dish and doesn't deserve its reputation as difficult. You can be as creative as you want, and it's always easy and good.
For the risotto:
Heat but don't boil; set aside and keep warm
5 (five) cups chicken or vegetable stock (note: you want a really light stock here)
Prepare and set aside
2 cups asparagus, cut in half inch slices on the diagonal
1 bunch green onions, cut in pieces about 1 inch long, green and white parts
In a heavy saucepan (such as LeCruset), melt
3 tablespoons butter, and then add 3 tablespoons olive oil
Chop fine and sauté in butter/oil
1 (one) fairly large onion
2 or 3 cloves garlic
When the onion/garlic are transparent but not brown, add and saute just until colored 1½ cups Arborio (preferred) or medium-grain white rice
Juice and grated zest of half a lemon
Slowly add about a cup of the hot stock, and be careful; it will spatter. Stir until mostly absorbed. Continue to add stock in increments of about a cup, stirring frequently until the rice has absorbed the stock and is cooked through — slightly al dente. Then add the cut-up vegetables all at once, and a little boiling water or stock. You will want the finished risotto to be soft but not soupy, which will take about 15 minutes. Cook briefly until asparagus is cooked through; add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Refrigerate the leftovers.
For the risotto "pancake": Depending on how much you have left over, beat one or two eggs, add as much as quarter-cup parmesan cheese, add the cold leftover risotto, and form into small pancakes. Fry in a small amount of hot oil until brown on both sides and serve immediately, accompanied by a green salad for a delicious lunch.
David and Muffy Vhay are the owners of Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.