Risottos are perfect for spring, when it's still too chilly for a grilled-only diet, but too warm for heavy stews and casseroles.
And despite what some crabby celebrity chefs tell us, it is not that big a deal. Really. Once you have the basic risotto technique
under your belt, your only limit is your imagination.
There are a couple of important points, though. First, you really
should use homemade stock (broth). It does
make that big of a difference. If I can make time, you can, too, or you will just have to wait until a Saturday. (If you’re very clever, you already have some in your freezer.) Then keep a pot of it simmering next to your risotto pan. Second thing: Use the freshest produce you can find.
Need some ideas? Try these:
1. Artichoke hearts and pesto
Here we have some freshly shucked (freshly choked?) artichokes. A pain in the butt, yes, but oh-so-worth it.
Pro-tip: When using fresh artichoke hearts, it helps to slice them up and blanch them in boiling water for a minute, then douse them with a little lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.
2. Snap peas and fresh mint
Add the peas during the last five minutes of cooking so they don't get soggy. Frozen peas are also fine! Add finely sliced mint leaves at the very end.
3. Asparagus and lemon zest.
Add the stems of the asparagus about ten minutes in, saving the tender tips for the last five minutes so they stay crisp. Add the lemon zest at the same time. Don't forget lots of fresh parm!
4. Asian mushrooms with brie.
It's gooey like mac and cheese, but with all those earthy mushrooms and fancy cheese to make it more grown-up. Use shiitake, maitake, enoki and beech mushrooms for variety. Stir the cheese in at the end.
5. Roasted tomato and sweet corn.
You lucky folks who live south of the Mason-Dixon Line are already getting these summery treats. Roasting tomatoes and corn brings out a depth that goes perfectly with creamy risotto. If you enjoy meat, you can even make this into a jambalaya by adding chicken or shrimp.
Enjoy your spring!