What grows together goes together. Vegetables and herbs that are in season at the same time often make great companions. I especially like fresh French tarragon from my garden paired with asparagus or leeks. This risotto – put together quickly on a rainy Friday night – combined stock from last weekend’s roast chicken with fat end-of-winter leeks from the farmer’s market and fresh spring asparagus that I picked myself at a local farm. It was a satisfying meal that offered the warm comfort still needed in mid-spring and introduced the fresh vegetables and herbs of the season.
Olive oil and/or butter (about 1 tbsp combined)
1 c Arborio rice
¼ c white wine
4-5 c chicken or vegetable stock
8 stalks asparagus
2 large sprigs tarragon, chopped, a few whole leaves reserved
¼ c grated Parmesan cheese (or to taste)
Salt to taste
Warm the stock or broth. Thoroughly clean the leek and cut the white and light green part lengthwise, then crosswise into slivers, Sauté the leek in the oil and/or butter over medium-low heat until it starts to turn translucent but do not let it brown. Add the rice and stir to coat, cooking until the surface of the grains turns white. Add the wine and stir to allow it to evaporate and also instill the ingredients with flavor. Add 1/3 cup of warm liquid, adjusting the heat to so that the liquid just simmers and stir until it is absorbed. When the liquid is absorbed, add another 1/3 cup, wait until it’s absorbed, stirring occasionally, and then repeat until the rice is tender but still al dente. This process will take about 20-25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the asparagus in boiling water until al dente. Drain and cut into 1-inch lengths. Add a little salt and a few sprinkles of olive oil
When the risotto is cooked, add the chopped tarragon and the asparagus and let it sit for a minute or so. Add the grated cheese, taste for salt and adjust as needed. Garnish with reserved tarragon leaves.