Recipes Gone Wild: Dan Valen’s Risotto with Asparagus, Leeks, and Shell Peas

Rainy days and Mondays…sigh… Let us consider today’s weather as an answer to yesterday’s summer-y heat and a reminder that it’s still spring, friends. I only wish I liked my raincoat more. In other news, Recipes Gone Wild is about to go on summer vacation! But in case you still want a little cooking inspiration, worry not. We at Greenpointers will still be putting up lots of recipes in the coming months! So anyway… I attended my first BBQ of the year the other weekend, where I ran into my neighbor and friend Dan. He’s been promising for weeks to send me his risotto recipe, and surprise, surprise– he came through! Loaded with fresh green veg (I’ve been watching Jamie Oliver lately and that’s what he calls vegetables), this recipe is insanely delicious and will knock the socks off of you and whoever is lucky enough to dine with you!  And if you run into Dan (perhaps at one of the local beer shops), I’m sure he can give you some great ideas on what beverage to pair with this dish. 

I asked Dan to tell me how this recipe came about, and he said:

There are a couple things– spring cleaning (unloading the arborio rice from the cupboard), keeping it seasonal (spring garlic, peas, asparagus), and wanting to cook Italian foods! One of my friends’ family has a farm in Tuscany there where they grow, harvest, and press their own olives into olive oil. For my birthday a couple weeks ago, he gave me a bottle of olive oil from the farm so I’ve been on a huge Italian food cooking kick as a result. The rest sort of fell into place.

Without further ado, here’s how to make amazing risotto!

Dan Valen’s Risotto with Asparagus, Leeks, and Shell Peas
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
1-2 cups de-shelled shell peas, snap peas… or if you’re desperate, frozen peas
1-2 cups asparagus tips and middle pieces (cut into 1″ pieces)

3 tablespoons butter, divided
3 gulps extra-virgin olive oil

2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced thin
2 scallions or spring garlic, white parts only, washed and minced
1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups arborio rice

1/2-3/4 cup dry white wine
5-6 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock (I prefer chicken here)
zest of 1 large lemon, juice of half of it
1/2-3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:
The fresh vegetables (first group) should be prepped first– boil a medium-sized pot and have a bowl of ice water at the ready for blanching. Wash and chop the vegetables and blanch the asparagus and peas for 1-2 minutes until bright green, then plunge into the ice water bowl to stop the cooking, drain, and set aside.

Put the broth in a small sauce pan over low heat and keep it rolling, off to the side.

In a large, heavy pan (I use my 12 1/2″ cast iron skillet), heat the oil and half the butter over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, scallions, and garlic and sauté until tender and/or translucent.

Add the rice and stir until the grains are translucent-ish and starting to pop, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until the liquid is almost completely absorbed (but make sure your rice isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. Turn down the heat and begin to add the warm stock by the ladle-ful, stirring until the rice has almost completely absorbed the liquid.

Once you’re more or less out of the liquid and the rice is almost done (should be ~15-20 minutes), add the vegetables, cheese, last of the butter, lemon zest, and juice from half the lemon. Stir in the last bit of the stock and prepare to serve.

Cook’s Note: The risotto should be thick and creamy and I usually toss a bit of additional grated parmesan on top with some fresh cracked pepper and a splash of super tasty extra virgin olive oil. Also… if you have you leftovers for later, risotto with a poached egg on top makes a fantastic (and hearty) breakfast.

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Here’s a big THANK YOU to Dan for sending this excellent recipe!

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg

 

About Libby V

Libby VanderPloeg lives and makes work in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She grew up in Michigan on the edge of the Great Lakes dunes, and has lived in Chicago, New York, and Stockholm. Her work comes out of her deep affinity for storytelling, music, letterforms, printed ephemera, and wildlife. None of these works could have been made without the world's finest brioche and several good, strong cups of coffee.

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