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Ramps + Morels + Asparagus = Spring Risotto

I was beginning to have farmers market withdrawal. We had three super busy weekends, two of them out of town, keeping me away from the Saturday markets that are now my best option. And I knew that some of my spring favorites were beginning to appear en masse. I needed to replenish some herbs that didn’t make it through the winter or the move, too (though my thyme was a trooper!).

spring veg

When Number 1 Sons posted a picture of my farmer friend Cal’s ramps for sale at the Alexandria market, I couldn’t stay away. I was obsessed with the foraged herb last year, which I used to make a garlicky-green wild pesto. Cal with Bigg Riggs Farms and several of the other farmers from West Virginia don’t grow the wild-growing ramps, but they do go a-hunting for them in the mountains, bringing their bounty to area farmers markets for a limited time. He says he’ll have them another couple weeks.

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Cal also had that cherished mushroom a la spring for sale: morels. I got both, convinced the $15 per pint price must be worth it, since that’s what everyone was charging and they’re only available dried the rest of the year. These spongy shrooms are also a foraged item and add an earthy meat flavor to meals. And then I had to get those perfectly thin asparagus.

It took me a couple days to get around to it (I mean, I had to make enchiladas on Cinco de Mayo), but I had in mind to work these spring ingredients into a risotto.

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Risotto — a dish I’ve always admired but tried very few times. Partly because I put it in the creamy pasta category that must be terrible for me because it tastes so good. Well, I’ve been doing research on the role of carbohydrates, which I have at times nearly banned from my diet, and this week, it’s all allowed. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m pregnant. It’s been all allowed for nearly six months now.

I remember watching Chopped while packing up our house in March (before we, sniff, cut the cable ties and got addicted to Suits and other Amazon Prime shows), and the judges snickered at this guy who tried to make risotto in 25 or 30 minutes, whatever the entree time allotment is. This did not cross my mind as I, after letting the morels soak, realized I needed to make this meal in even less time to make it to our evening meeting. Never mind that I wasn’t planning to use a pressure cooker, which didn’t work out well for Audrey Hepburn’s character in My Fair Lady anyway. I have this unreal notion that I can function outside of time… which is why I am often late.

My husband was then caught in traffic coming home from work, so I thought we’d need to scrap our plans for the evening and stay in (and gorge on risotto). But he wanted to try to make it, so I served the risotto (precious risotto!) in to-go containers… only to then decide that, no, we weren’t going to make it after all. It’s a good thing it still looks pretty in to-go containers. Portion controlled and everything!

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Risotto isn’t difficult to make, per se, it’s just a little less easy than throwing enchiladas in the oven for 30 minutes. It takes some attention and several small steps. I’ve never been one to follow recipes or directions well. Doing so has become much harder now that my pregnant brain has the attention span and memory of a flea. I read what I’m supposed to do next, walk across the small kitchen to the oven, and can no longer remember what I’m supposed to do next. It’s a wonder my efforts produced anything edible last night!

But this recipe was a success, the sort of weeknight venture that makes you feel like you really cooked something instead of just piling things into a pan and calling it a meal. I recommend making it at a more leisurely pace than I did, while rehashing your day with a loved one over the rest of that bottle of white wine. After spending a half day on the Anacostia River for a story, suborning my neck and doing my share of barefoot-and-pregnant speed cooking (my husband failed to notice and make this joke, so I couldn’t resist), I was absolutely conked out by 9 p.m. It may have been the carbs, but it was totally worth it.

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{ Spring Risotto with Ramps, Morels & Asparagus }

Adapted from FineCooking.com
Prep time: 10 min.
Cook time: 40 min.
Serves: 6, or two (hungry) people for dinner and lunch leftovers.

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup trimmed and roughly chopped ramps (save the bulbs for other uses)
  • 2 cups asparagus pieces (about 1 inch)
  • 7 cups homemade or reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I only ended up using about 5 cups)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion (about a whole, medium white onion)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cups short-grain risotto rice, such as arborio or carnaroli
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup dried morels, soaked in 2 cups hot water for 30 minutes and cut into 1/4-inch slices (strain and reserve the soaking liquid) (If using fresh morels, soak for less time and still reserve liquid)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Sliced pepperoni or other cured meat to add if you’re feeding someone who will say, “Where’s the meat?”
  • You’ll also need a medium sauté pan, a pot big enough to hold your broth and 4-quart straight-sided sauté pan. Using only two burners at once on the stovetop.

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In a medium sauté pan, heat the butter until foaming, then add the ramps and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and sauté another 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

Bring the broth almost to a boil in a large pot. Reduce the heat to very low; the broth should stay hot but not simmer.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy 3- to 4-quart straight-sided sauté pan at least 10 inches wide or in a similar-sized Dutch oven. Add the onion and 1/2 tsp. salt, and cook slowly, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup water, lower the heat to medium low, and continue cooking until the water is completely gone and the onion is soft and glistening but not browned, another 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the rice to the pan and raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly, to coat the rice with the oil, about 3 minutes. Toasted rice should still be white and glistening, but you should hear a clicking sound when you stir it.

Pour in the 1 cup of wine and cook, stirring constantly, until it’s mostly absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir the mushrooms and their soaking liquid into the rice, and cook, stirring, until the liquid is mostly absorbed.

Ladle in 1-1/2 to 2 cups broth to barely cover the rice and stir constantly. Add another 1/2 tsp. salt, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and keep stirring. When all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is dry enough that your stirring spoon leaves a trail showing the bottom of the pot, ladle in another cup of broth, again stirring until it’s all absorbed (this happens faster than you might think). Continue adding broth in 1-cup increments, always stirring, until the rice is nearly but not fully al dente; this is usually 12 to 16 minutes after the first addition of liquid.

When the risotto is a few minutes away from al dente, stir in the sautéed ramps and asparagus. Add sliced pepperoni if using.

After you’ve added 5 cups of liquid, (16 to 20 minutes from the first liquid addition), taste the rice to determine if it’s al dente and pleasantly creamy. If it is, remove it immediately from the heat. Otherwise, let it cook a little longer, incorporating more broth. Gently stir in the cheese and parsley and serve immediately.

rospttp bote

Viola! A fancy sounding weeknight dinner that’s really not that difficult if you just keep stirring.

Cheers,
W

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Comments
3 Responses to “Ramps + Morels + Asparagus = Spring Risotto”
  1. alifemoment says:

    It looks really nice !!! 🙂

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