Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sometimes, my dinner is accidentally cute

I was too lazy to post yesterday, but tonight I worked up all the energy I had left after my bike rides and coffee-drinking and book-reading and talking, and made risotto. I love risotto to distraction. (In fact, today, I lost the thread of conversation at one point because I was thinking about risotto, then I pretended to be reading my book while actually I was planning this risotto, which btw, recipe below.)

Asparagus is almost gone, but I've got plenty of greens:
1 bunch red chard
1 bag spinach
3 heads baby red lettuce
1 bag (about 1/2 lb?) baby bok choy
1/2 lb. garlic scapes
1 lb. sugar snap peas
1 bunch baby carrots
2 lbs. green and yellow zucchini
1 lb. asparagus
1 qt. strawberries
Total spent: $48

The strawberries were much nicer than last week's - they are from my favorites, Terhune Orchards. Terhune was offering two varieties, a larger and a smaller (of course I've forgotten the names because apparently notepads haven't been invented yet), and I chose the latter, assuming they'd be sweeter. While the quart I have is uneven as far as taste, by and large they are lovely, sweet, fragrant little gems. Oh, how I love strawberries. Next weekend, for Katherine's birthday/housewarming, I'm planning to make strawberry shortcake, though I may have to incorporate rhubarb somehow. Or maybe I'll make two things. We'll see.

I have no idea how I'll use the garlic scapes, though they always have so much hype that I figured I would join their bandwagon late. And I bought the baby bok choy specifically for the stir-fry I made last night, but in classic Anna form, forgot to use it. Instead, we had a stir-fry of asparagus, sugar snap peas, and matchsticked carrots, which was very lovely but leaves me with unplanned bok choy. I think I'll have to make another stir-fry; it's too small to grill and there's not enough of it for a main dish.

This spinach and havarti risotto may be my favorite I've made yet, and being as though my photo assistant is out of town, I'll have leftovers all to myself for days. I sautéed some asparagus spears simply with a little olive oil and sea salt on the side, then when I plopped everything on the plate together, it was accidentally cute - like a little asparagus bow for my risotto face...or something. The raw-milk havarti is from the vendor at USG whose name I can't remember, but which always has a lot of good-looking tan vaguely-punk kids in their 20s working behind the counter, and lots of lactic acid-fermented pickles. It's great cheese! It has flavor dimensions regular havartis only dream of, while remaining quite a mild cheese. The shallot browned a little bit while I wasn't paying attention, but it ended up adding a really nice little bit of caramelized flavor to the risotto. I may do it on purpose next time.

Spinach and havarti risotto
2 shallots, cut into small dice (about 1/4 cup)
3 tbsp.-ish olive oil
3/4 cup Arborio rice (brown rice takes forever, trust me)
4 cups vegetable stock
lots of spinach, along the lines of 6 cups before it's cooked maybe, washed well, stems removed, and ripped into 2" or so pieces
3/4 cup grated havarti cheese
sea salt + fresh grated pepper to taste

Heat vegetable stock to a boil in a saucepan; turn down to a simmer. Heat olive oil over medium in a heavy-bottomed saucepan (small Dutch oven works great too, especially for showing off that you have a small Dutch oven), add shallots, and cook until completely softened. (Optional: get distracted reading a book so that a tiny amount of them brown a little bit.)

Add about one cup of stock and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently but not necessarily every single second, until almost all the stock is dissolved. Continue adding one cup of stock at a time until it's all gone and the rice is softened to desired consistency. (If you run out of stock, just add a little water - no need to open another container of stock just to splash in 1/2 cup or so.) Remove from heat, add cheese, salt, and pepper to taste, stir, and cover.

Set your vegetable steamer up in the pan you used for the stock; add water, and steam spinach until completely wilted, just a few minutes. Squeeze spinach with tongs, remove to cutting board, and chop; add spinach to risotto. Stir in about two tbsp. of delicious pasture-fed cultured butter and serve to yourself and two lucky friends along with some wonderful local asparagus. Or, if you are flying solo, eat as much as you want then let the rest cool before spooning it into two plastic containers, and you've got lunch sorted for the next two days! Lucky you.


Ann said...

Awesome! We have asparagus risotto lined up to post about too... it's definitely that time of the year. As for the scapes... they make a nice risotto.. and they also make good pesto!

Haley said...

We would like to feature this recipe on our blog. Please email if interested. Thanks :)