Into the second week, the reality that our CSA (community supported agriculture) farm is inevitably going to give us a few things that we have no flipping idea about and/or far more of something than we know what to do with has hit hard. Garlic scapes? Never heard of them. Sorrel? Isn’t that a horse color? Lemon balm? Um yeah, I got nothing.
So a book I often go to first is From Asparagus to Zucchini: A guide to cooking farm-fresh season produce. (Please buy it locally if you can.) It doesn’t have every possible vegetable or herb under the sun, but it’s been quite useful to me over the years. It has an overview of each vegetable, cooking & storage tips, and a page (or two or three) of recipes to try.
I decided to try out Asparagus Risotto Cakes today, except it tasted sooooo good coming off the stove that I decided to cut the recipe short. “We’re eating this for dinner AS IS.”
If you have some fresh asparagus on hand, I highly recommend you try making it. Just remember, like all risotto recipes, once you get started you can.not.stop.stirring until the meal is done. Stir, stir, stir, stir, stir and then stir some more. Therefore it’s essential that you get everything prepped and ready-to-go beforehand.
Cakes, adapted from p. 19 of the aforementioned book
- 1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup finely chopped onions
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic (I used garlic scapes*)
- 1 1/2 cup arborio rice
- 1 pinch saffron threads, crushed
- 3/4 cup white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
- 6 cups chicken stock, hot (keep an extra 2 cups stock on hand, ready to be warmed, in case the rice looks like it’ll need a bit more liquid)
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I had Parmigiano-Reggiano on hand)
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- salt and pepper
Steam asparagus in colander over large pot of boiling water for 4-5 minutes. Rinse in cold water, cut thick stalks in half, chop into small (~1/4″ length) pieces.
Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat, add onions and cook until transparent. Add garlic, cook 1 minute longer. Add rice, stir 2 minutes. Add saffron and wine. Simmer hard, stirring, until liquid is reduced by half.
Add the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until well absorbed each time. Half way through the stock, add some salt. Continue adding the stock, stirring until all the stock is absorbed and the rice begins to clump. It’ll take longer than usual for risotto.
Add butter, cheese, lemon juice, asparagus, pepper, and more salt if desired. Serve immediately.
*Garlic scapes are ancillary stalks removed as garlic is growing, to direct more energy to the bulb. Your farmer’s market might have them in stock early in the season. They can be used in place of garlic in recipes, salads, sauces, etc. I tossed the scapes in the food processor, chopped them fine, and plan to freeze the extras in small ice cube sized sections for future use.