Thursday, May 31, 2007

Day 152: Parmesan-Asparagus Risotto

Workouts. . .
40 min. bike ride

Lately, I haven’t been feeling well. To be honest, it’s not something I’m super-comfortable talking about. I was raised to feel poop shame. I could spend years tracing it back, in fact, but instead I’m just going to say I don’t feel well and hope everyone can follow along. Today, I’m, you know, not feeling well and (having time to think) started wondering whether the 5# box of fresh strawberries I’ve been eating from twice daily had anything to do with the situation. I have a history of overindulging on fruit, particularly when I have lived through a winter of hothouse produce that pales in comparison to the real thing, faux fruit, if you will. For the past four days, I’ve grabbed several to-go handfuls of six fragrant, ripe strawberries, where two will fill a palm, and eaten them during my breaks at work. The first day, I also drank a triple espresso drink, something I haven’t done in ages, and so I attributed the intestinal fatigue to that culprit, most likely also a factor. However, day two through four, still the ongoing discomfort persists, sans espresso. I am wondering whether these lovely berries were grown in devil soil or perhaps I am paranoid following the weird pet food recalls. I will keep monitoring progress until the second half of my flat of berries has been consumed. It’s really the only way I’ll know the truth.

As great as I’ve been feeling today, I almost passed on cooking dinner, but after my fruitful trip to Whole Foods and a 1# stack of asparagus I accidentally purchased for $4 (yes, $4! —I should have paid better attention), I absolutely HAD to use them while crisply fresh. I also used my bulk rice purchase, a quarter of the price of the pre-packed Arborio, and some nice white onions. (Completely unrelated to this recipe and therefore relegated to parenthesis, I grabbed several handfuls of something called “Sesame & Nut Mix” in the bulk aisle, and this has turned out to be an amazing new snack for me.)

Parmesan-Asparagus Risotto
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 stalk celery, minced
1 large carrot, minced
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. Arborio rice
1/2 c. white wine
8-10 c. vegetable broth
1# asparagus, trimmed & cut into 1” pieces
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 c. grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

Fair warning: If you haven’t made risotto before, please don’t start unless you have a good 30 minutes to stir this pan. In a 4 qt (or larger) saucepan, heat the butter and oil until hot over medium-high heat. Sauté the celery, carrot, onion and garlic until slightly soft, about 3-4 minutes. While you are doing this, warm the vegetable broth in the microwave (or using another pan) to have ready. The warmer the stock, the faster this goes. Add the rice to the vegetables sautéing and cook until the butter and oil are mostly absorbed, about 2 minutes more, then add the white wine, stirring briskly to combine. Add the vegetable broth a cup at a time, stirring slowly and continuously until each addition is absorbed before adding another cup. When you’re about halfway through the broth, add the asparagus into the rice. Continue adding broth as usual. Taste the rice to see how ready it is, if there’s still a hardness inside the grain, you’ll need the extra broth. If it’s quite tender with a nice bite, add the lemon juice and parmesan, stirring to combine. Salt and pepper to taste. Now take the pan off the heat and cover it. Let it sit while you set the table or for about 5 minutes — this is my secret to creamy risotto and a good way to finish steaming the rice. Eat while it’s good and hot, with a baguette if you’ve got it!

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