Risotto Verde

I’ve had a thing for rice this week. It was rice pudding on Tuesday, then risotto last night. I had over a gallon of homemade chicken stock in the fridge after roasting a chicken earlier in the week so I was eager to put it to use. I can never decide which I like more – the chicken itself or the stock that it produces once every morsel of meat has been consumed. As Alex would say, it’s just a win-win all around.

I wanted to make a risotto using all of the spring vegetables that have been popping up in the markets lately. Fresh peas, asparagus, spinach, etc. After perusing some of my trusty cookbooks and blogs, I settled on a Risotto Verde from Leite’s and made a few tweaks. I figured if I was going to make the effort of shelling peas, I should use more than a scant 1/2 cup. Also, it turns out that catching up with friends over the phone helps facilitate pea-shelling. (Thanks Sarah!) I also parboiled 8 hefty asparagus spears for a couple of minutes and then chopped them into 1.5 inch pieces, about 1 cup total.

The meal was fantastic but that was a given with such delicious ingredients and wonderful guests. Our friends Karen and Tad were here from Seattle with their adorable 6 month old, Wylie. They drove through the central CA coast over the weekend and brought back some enormous artichokes which we steamed with garlic and bay leaves. They also brought a vat of strawberries which I know we’ll have no problem devouring within the next 24 hours. Nothing beats the produce of CA in the springtime!

Spring Risotto Verde
(adapted from Lora Zarubin’s I Am Almost Always Hungry)

  • 4 cups spinach leaves firmly packed with stems removed
  • 2 cups arugula leaves firmly packed
  • 1 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves (about 1/2 ounce)
  • 5-6 cups homemade chicken stock (this makes a huge difference!)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, finely minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine (toss it in the fridge and then drink w/ dinner)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 cup fresh shelled peas, chilled in ice water
  • 1 cup parboiled asparagus, chopped into 1.5 inch pieces, chilled in ice water
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano + more for the table
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Soak the spinach and arugula leaves separately in water for 30 minutes to remove all the grit and sand.

2. Heat a 10- to 12-inch skillet and add the washed spinach leaves. Saute for several minutes, stirring, until wilted. Place the spinach in a colander and drain well, then finely chop.

3. Drain the arugula leaves and roughly chop. Wash and drain the parsley leaves and roughly chop.

4. Place the stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a high simmer. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface.

5. In a 6-quart non-reactive saucepan, melt the olive oil and butter. Add the shallots and garlic and stir over low heat for 2 minutes. Add the rice and continue stirring until the rice is translucent (about 2 minutes). Add the white wine and cook over medium heat until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Then using a ladle, begin adding the warm stock approximately 1 cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon several times after each addition. Wait until the stock has been absorbed before adding more. Repeat this until almost all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is al dente. The cooking time for the risotto is approximately 35 minutes.

6. Stir in the chopped spinach, chopped arugula, chopped parsley, peas, and asparagus. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve immediately, passing the remaining Parmigiano separately.