Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Ina Garten's Spring Risotto
I have been loving Ina Garten lately. For my birthday, I bought myself Barefoot in Paris, in the hopes that I might learn a few French recipes before I get to France in September. She's so classy and elegant, and yet so effortless and calm. More than anything, her recipes are fun. They're recipes you can play around with and put your own twist on and eat any way you like. Ina treats her readers like they are her close friends, not her ignorant pupils. Best of all, I tend to have (relative) successes when attempting her recipes. She includes just enough information that you manage to pull it off, even when you're sure it will all fall apart.
When I was cooking for two of my most favorite friends last week, Sadiqeh and Idris, I knew I wanted to try another Ina recipe. I knew Sadiqeh in particular would appreciate the combination of deliberateness and comfort that I found from Ina's foods time and time again. I had a bunch of asparagus I wanted to get rid of so I picked her Springtime Risotto.
We all loved it. I kept tasting it periodically and it was good every time, but the addition of mascarpone and lemon zest right at the end really made it phenomenal. I had heard of mascarpone many times, but had never cooked with it before. It gave the risotto this amazingly creamy consistency without being too rich or overbearing. Its saltiness also added some depth to the peas and asparagus. My favorite part was definitely the freshness. I have always thought of risotto as a warm, winter comfort food and was amazed to see how fresh and light it could be with the addition of more vegetables and lemon juice. I omitted the fennel, because I just don't like fennel, and as usual the recipe below is my version (use the link for hers).
adapted from Ina Garten
1 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 to 6 cups simmering chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 pound asparagus tips
10 ounces frozen peas, defrosted
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup Italian mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus extra for serving
Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Add rice and stir for a minute to coat with the oil and butter. Add stock and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add more stock, two ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. The whole cooking process will take 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, discard the tough ends of the asparagus and cut the tips diagonally in 1 1/2-inch lengths. Blanch in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, until tender. Drain and cool immediately in ice water.
When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, drain the asparagus and add to the risotto with the peas, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.
Whisk the lemon juice and mascarpone together in a small bowl. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the mascarpone mixture, plus the Parmesan cheese. Allow to sit off the heat for a few minutes, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot with a sprinkling of chives and more Parmesan cheese.