Recently some of my lawyer friends prevailed upon me to go vegetarian for my next post, so, being a magnanimous fellow by nature, I happily obliged. After all, the beauty of a vegetarian dish is that you can always have big honkin’ steak as a side… right?
Okay, no steak tonight. We’re doing risotto instead, with asparagus, leeks and lemon zest as the main flavor components.
Here’s your ingredient list:
- 4 tbsp. whole butter (divided into two equal portions)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 leeks (whites/light green portions only)
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- Kosher salt
- Fresh-cracked black pepper
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 lb. asparagus
- 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
Start by cutting the leeks into quarters lengthwise and washing them carefully — otherwise you will probably get an unpleasant gritty surprise later. Then cut the leeks across the grain into small pieces. Next, blanch the asparagus in boiling water for about 1 minute, then shock it in ice water to prevent overcooking and set that beautiful bright green color. Cut the asparagus diagonally into 1/2″ pieces. In a separate pot, heat the vegetable stock to a simmer.
In a large skillet, melt 2 tbsp. of the butter and sweat the garlic, leeks, carrot and pepper together. Season with a pinch of salt. Add the remaining butter with the olive oil and the Arborio rice, and stir to completely coat the rice with fat. Add the wine and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Add the stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring each time until absorbed before adding more. When all the stock has been added, throw in the lemon zest, a teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of cracked pepper. Next fold in the asparagus and parmigiano, and mix them in thoroughly. That’s it, you’re done. Plate it up, garnish with some more shaved parmigiano, and munch it down with a big happy vegetarian grin on your face.
But because I and my friends are committed, doctrinaire carnivores, I simply couldn’t stop there. We decided to make a minor variation to the dish more in keeping with our non-vegetarian dietary practices. Sauté some shrimp in olive oil and garlic, season with some kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, and voila, the dish is reborn with a new sense of purpose.
There you have it, my humble answer to the call of the vegetarians. I hope it tastes as good when you make it as it did for us. Until next time: Eat well, my friends!