Archive for May, 2011

May: Asparagus Barley “Risotto”

About a year ago I decided to start eating as locally as possible. I stopped buying bananas, I started buying apples from Washington (not Chile), and I haven’t eaten asparagus in something like 300 days.

But the time has come, my friends, for those precious little shoots of purple/green goodness to come up out of their miry depths to greet the sun–and my mouth–with pride. Asparagus is such a proud vegetable, isn’t it? So straight and tall, never caught without a crown, keeping watch over the rest of the garden… Inspiring, to be sure.

So I’ve been eating as much asparagus as I can get my hands on: roasting it, steaming it, blanching it, boiling it, shaving it, chopping it, and folding it into this delicious barley risotto dish when I couldn’t think of anything else to do.

I lightly sautéed one leek in a tablespoon of olive oil and removed it from the pan before starting the risotto. Cooked the barley using  a vegetable stock that I make and keep on hand, ladling it into the pan as the grains drank it up. Was generous with the salt and pepper and fresh thyme, added a squeeze of lemon, pressed in a clove of garlic, and folded in some homemade ricotta . I chopped eight stalks of asparagus and blanched them so they were crisp and tender right before tossing into the risotto, and then poached a couple of eggs in the leftover green water. Topped the whole thing with fresh ground pepper and chopped scallions–and there you go!

So simple, so hearty, so asparagussy…

So I’ve learned my lesson: to keep myself from deprivation when asparagus season concludes in a few weeks, I have taken to buying extra bunches from my farmers market to fill up my freezer–and I would like to experiment with pickling spears in the near future.

But for now, long live these steady watchmen! May they always rule in my kitchen (in May, at least).