Another weekend, another Sunday morning visit to the Marché Bastille, my new favorite market in Paris. Once again, we stocked up on gorgeous spring produce such as green and white asparagus (my first of the season, believe it or not!), zucchini, grape tomatoes, strawberries, dill, mint and rhubarb. This time, we also discovered a great stand selling Portuguese and Italian products. Luis was happy to talk to the vendors in Portuguese, and I was happy to discover that they were selling cheap vinho verde (the young, almost sparkly "green" wine for which Portugal is famous) and some interesting cheeses, such as a pecorino with chili flakes that I couldn't resist.
With all of this goodness in tow, I knew that a fresh, seasonal risotto (the classic Italian rice dish, for anyone who doesn't know) would have to be prepared ASAP. I've already waxed poetic about risotto before. Despite all the time spent behind the stove and the endless stirring, risotto is one of my favorite things to make. I find the preparation to be oddly soothing and calming. Perhaps there's something comforting about the constant stirring. Or maybe it's because I never cease to be amazed at how innocous-looking arborio rice releases its starch and and transforms into such a soft, soupy texture when cooked. Or, the more likely explanation, perhaps it's just because risotto is well, so damn good!
I used the tangy, sprightly Casal Garcia vinho verde that we found at the market in this risotto, but any dry, fruit white (Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, etc.) will do. Such a wine makes for the perfect drink to accompany this risotto with all of its spring flavors, and you can bet that our Casal Garcia disappeared almost as quickly as the risotto!
Feel free to substitute whatever seasonal vegetables you happen to find. The fresher and more spring-like, the better!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, halved lengthways and chopped (half-moon shapes)
8 stalks asparagus, ends trimmed and chopped into large pieces
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry, fruity white wine (be sure to drink the rest!)
4 cups vegetable broth (reduced-sodium if you are using the canned kind)
1 cup grape tomato halves
Zest of one lemonGrated parmesan (I used the pecorino with chili flakes from the market)
Freshly ground black pepper
1. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over low heat. Once it is warm, add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is transculent.
2. Stir in the zucchini and asparagus, increase heat to medium and saute until the vegetables just begin to soften, about 7-8 minutes.
3. Add the arborio rice and mix well.
4. Pour in the wine. Stir well.
5. Add the broth about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Continue to stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed before each new addition. Continue this process until the rice is cooked and no broth remains (about 20-25 minutes).
7. Top each serving with grated parmesan and freshly ground black pepper, as desired.