In my great spring rush to cook asparagus, over and over - finally, a fresh, non-leafy green vegetable at the farmers market! - I always include risotto in the rotation. When I snap the ends of asparagus to trim it, I save them up to make a one-vegetable broth, and use that to swell the short-grain rice in the classic Italian dish. The rest of the spears get sauteed until tender, set aside and then folded back into the risotto at the end of cooking.
Well, here's another idea that had never occurred to me: using asparagus in a red-wine risotto, one of my favourite iterations, and pairing it with mushrooms.
Why not? Turns out that the flavors match, while the asparagus offers something this particular risotto desperately needs: a burst of green to offset that dull mauve colour.
Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto (Serves 4)
4 cups store-bought or homemade mushroom broth (may substitute vegetable broth)
1 cup water
1 bunch asparagus (about 450g), trimmed and cut into 2,5cm pieces
230g shiitake mushrooms (may substitute your favorite variety of mushroom)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup chopped shallots
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup cabernet sauvignon or other full-bodied dry red wine
1/2 cup finely shredded vegetarian Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine the broth and the water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and add the asparagus. Cook until just crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the asparagus to a bowl. Reduce the heat of the broth mixture to low.
Discard the shiitake stems or reserve for another use (such as broth). Thinly slice the mushroom caps.
Pour the oil into a large, wide pot over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the shallots, garlic and thyme; cook, stirring, until the vegetables start to soften, 2 minutes.
Add the shiitakes and cook, stirring frequently, until they soften and wilt, 2 to 4 minutes.
Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is absorbed, 4 to 6 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium-low.
Add 1 1/2 cups of the broth and cook, stirring, until it is mostly absorbed.
Continue adding the broth in 1/2-cup increments and stirring frequently after each addition, until most of the liquid is absorbed.
The risotto is done when all but 1/2 cup of the broth is used and the rice is creamy and just tender, with a very slight al dente bite, 25 to 30 minutes total.
Stir in the reserved asparagus and cook for 1 minute, to warm it through.
Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
Immediately before serving, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of broth so the risotto is loose enough to spread in a bowl. (You don't want it to be stiff.) Divide among shallow bowls and sprinkle on more cheese and parsley, if desired.
Adapted from "EatingWell Vegetables: The Essential Reference," by the editors of EatingWell magazine (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016).
The Washington Post