When I was in college there was an Italian place in Fort Worth that I would go and treat myself with a decadent bowl of risotto primavera filled with lots of asparagus tips, baby peas and pearl onions. But, as delicious as it was, I know it was also filled with what felt like a pound of butter, cream and cheese. Yes, a touch is good…but too much just requires a three hour run both before and after. I was determined to lighten up this tasty risotto the other night and pump up the veggies with lots of fresh squash, mushrooms, asparagus, basil and parsley with just a touch of cream and cheese (like 1/3-1/2 cup of each for 10 servings) and no butter. And, as we were having friends over, I didn’t want to stand at the stove stirring for 30 minutes just as they arrived so opted to bake it in the oven until almost finished and then finish quickly on the stove. Delicious!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, peeled and diced
2 leaks, dark green removed and stem, cut in half lengthwise, then into half moons and washed well
1 pound asparagus, rough ends removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
8 button mushrooms, sliced thin
1 small zucchini squash, sliced thin
1 small yellow summer squash, sliced thin
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
8 cups stock (we used a mix of chicken and vegetable)
1/3 cup cream
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
Chive flowers for garnish
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Preheat the oven to 375. Add the stock to a large sauce pot over low heat to simmer. Drop asparagus into the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds then use a slotted spoon or spider spoon and remove into an ice water bath to quickly chill (ice and water in a shallow bowl). Then drop the squash and zucchini into the boiling water and repeat the process, removing the asparagus into a bowl and set aside to fold into the risotto at the end of cooking. Repeat adding the squash to a separate bowl. Drain the boiling water from the Dutch oven and begin making the risotto in the same pan by adding the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and leeks and saute until very soft. Add the rice to the pot and cook for a few minutes to coat with the oil. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and season with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir in a pinch of red pepper flakes then add 6 of the 8 cups of stock. Place the lid on the pot and into the oven for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir. If the liquid has fully or almost fully soaked into the rice remove to the stove top, if it is still a bit liquidy let cook in the oven another 7-10 minutes. Then remove to the stove top over low heat and add 1 ladle of remaining stock then fold in all the vegetables. Another ladle of stock, then add the cheese, lemon and herbs. Taste and adjust any final seasonings. Fold in the cream and another ladle of stock. Serve immediately garnished with fresh chive flowers.
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