So maybe I jumped the gun a little bit. Who could blame me for being excited about shaking off the winter blahs and getting on with the year? After a long week of pounding rain, the snow has melted and temperatures are rising ever so slightly, adding fuel to my accelerated sense of time. Despite common sense and the calender’s conclusive decree, spring is the only season I can think of catering to now, and oh, the plans I have! Asparagus, ramps, fiddleheads, morels, all have a place on my menu, and eventually in my stomach, but for now remain a dream. It’s still winter as far as my selection of produce is concerned, yielding slim pickings at best, but at least there is hope on the horizon- Little green sprouts are popping up in planters, and the first of the crocuses are lifting their sleepy heads from their multi-month naps. Besides, daylight savings has brought sunshine back to the dinner table, relenting at last with that early, oppressive darkness. That’s got to be at least a semi-official sign of spring, right?
I’m sure the last frost is yet to come, and perhaps another cold snap or two just to keep us on our toes, but I’m ready to throw off the sweaters and turn off that pot of stew, slip into something a bit more fresh. Let’s not get crazy here, this isn’t the time for chilled bean salads or anything of the sort, but more of a compromise, bridging the gap between these two competing seasons. By easing some new spring greenery into a more hearty dish, everyone wins.
An adaptation on the butternut risotto from Jae Steele’s Get it Ripe, which I loved so much, my new incarnation drops the heavy orange squash in favor of the rich flesh of an avocado, plus some pureed white beans to lighten things up. Asparagus, one of my favorite veggies of all time, makes a cameo appearance but doesn’t steal the show, the crisp yet tender stalks contrasting nicely to the creamy rice base, redolent in savory, almost cheesy flavor. Unnervingly green as it may be, thanks to that avocado, I think the color is just a cheerful reminder of the greenery to come.
Green Risotto Primavera
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
1 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice
4 Cups Vegetable Stock
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Soymilk
6 Cloves Roasted Garlic
1 Cup Canellini Beans
1 Ripe, Medium-Sized Avocado
2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
1 – 2 Cups Chopped Asparagus, Fresh or Frozen
1 – 2 Tablespoons Fresh Chopped Chives
1 – 2 Tablespoons Fresh Chopped Parsley
1 Teaspoon Fresh Chopped Thyme
Salt and Pepper, To Taste
Set a medium saucepan over a moderate flame, and coat the bottom of the pan with the oil. Once hot, add in the chopped onion, and saute for about 5 minutes, until softened and fragrant. Add the rice into the pan, and cook for another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the grains appear somewhat translucent.
Combine the vegetable stock and soymilk together, and heat for a minute or two in the microwave to take the chill off, if they were previously refrigerated. Pour about 1/3 of it into the pan, just so that the rice is covered, and reduce the heat slightly so that it remains at a low simmer. Continue stirring every few minutes to make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the rice absorbs that liquid and begins to look dry, add in another splash of the stock mixture, while stirring gently. Continue this pattern until about 2/3 of the stock is used. At that point, pour the remainder in, cover, and let simmer on the lowest heat setting for about 15 – 25 minutes, until the rice is done.
Meanwhile, toss your roasted garlic, beans, avocado, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast into a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Once the rice is cooked through, gently fold in the bean and avocado puree, stirring just until evenly distributed throughout the mixture. Add in the chopped asparagus, turn off the heat, and cover for about 5 minutes, to steam the veggies and let the risotto finish cooking. Finish by stirring in the fresh herbs, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 4 – 6 Servings