Well I finally did it, I started a blog! After years of loitering around everyone else’s food blogs I decided it was time I became an active participant in this electronic food world. The fact that my name (April) represents spring and the fact that spring by definition represents new life and new beginnings and the fact that spring is in fact upon us…well it just seemed like the perfect time to launch myself into this new adventure. It has nice symmetry and I’m just not one to argue with symmetry.
Did I mention it was spring? Well it is and we all know what that means..the air is warmer, the sun is with us longer and we can smell the farm fields all coming back to life. Our farmers market isn’t open yet but our local farms are certainly well on their way to their growing season. This past weekend we decided to venture out to Andrew’s Scenic Acres, a local ‘pick your own’ farm. I’d like to tell you that our first farm visit of the year was picture perfect with bright blue skies and the smell of the earth being warmed by the sun but I’d be lying. We were there to pick asparagus and rhubarb but I had pumpkin pie on the brain and Bridget thought we should be picking out a Christmas tree. Although the air was cool (ok fine, freezing) we were still thrilled to head out into the fields and catch the first signs of what’s to come. Asparagus standing tall like little soldiers in their beautiful green and purple uniforms and rhubarb with its gorgeous ruby colored stems and leaves the size of pillows. As a result of the rather chilly weather we decided to make quick work of our harvesting and head for home to see what treats we could conjure up with our little treasures.
I think asparagus is in it’s glory when it’s really prepared in the most simple ways. A little olive oil, a little sea salt and some freshly ground pepper and on the grill, that’s my absolute favourite way to enjoy them. That’s what I had in mind on the way home from the farm but I think the cooler weather got the better of me and I was really looking for something a little more ‘cozy’ than something from the grill. Risotto…oh yeah. Traditionally I go to my stand-by lemon and asparagus risotto but again, today I was looking for something a little more cozy, a little more savoury. This recipe is virtually the same as my lemon one but instead of adding fresh lemon zest near the end, I just added some fresh thyme at the beginning when I was sweating the shallots. The end result was outstanding and it has now moved to the top of my list as my new favourite risotto recipe!
Grilled Asparagus and Thyme Risotto
3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
4 good sized shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
4 ¼ cups chicken broth, warmed (preferably organic and/or homemade)
1 ½ lb. asparagus, tough ends trimmed
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
Coat the asparagus with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Grill the asparagus, turning occasionally, until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. When they start to look bright green they are probably done. Do not overcook. Cut the asparagus on the bias into 2-inch lengths.
In a saucepan bring your broth to a simmer.
In a large pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and salt and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Keep things moving, you don’t want anything sticking to the bottom. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock a ladle full at a time, stirring constantly and waiting until it has been fully. Continue adding stock as needed, until the rice is tender but firm, 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheese until combined. Stir in asparagus. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Don’t forget to bring the block of cheese and the grater to the table for those who enjoy a little extra!