There’s something to be said of the season’s first downpour that makes one want to scurry to the kitchen to stir up a potful of something warm, something soothing, something..delicious. The pattering of those raindrops provides a perfect acoustic setting for the brisk movements that lead up to a well-nurtured bowlful of comfort, and the mist of petrichor rising from the earth seems, quite competently, to complement the shafts of aromatic vapors stemming from the stovetop. What results, as on this occasion, is a creamy, thyme-tickled, subtly flavored Arborio rice creation, packed with pecks of veggies and topped with a soft pat of butter and fluffy curls of cheeses. Sitting by the window, watching those puddles fill up as the gurgling little streams leave behind their dying echoes in the abating downpour..biting into the chewy goodness of risotto in between dainty sips of a crisp Chardonnay, it is rather easy, in a moment’s notice, for one to lose oneself in the ebullience of a classic Pavarotti bravura passage playing in the background, and imagining being somewhere in the rustic folds of Torino, surrounded by the magnificence of the Alps..
Risotto with Asparagus, Peas and Pearl Onions
- ½ Bunch asparagus, trimmed and chopped – about 2 cups
- Approximately 4-5 cups vegetable/chicken stock
- ½ Cup frozen pearl onions
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Onion, chopped
- 2 Garlic pods, minced
- Salt to taste
- ½ Teaspoon dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh thyme
- ½ Teaspoon crushed red chillies
- ¼ Teaspoon pepper
- 1¼ Cup Arborio rice
- 1 Cup frozen peas, defrosted and cooked if needed
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- ¼ Cup Parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
- 1 Tablespoon cream cheese
- A few basil leaves, sliced thin
Put the stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the chopped asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the frozen pearl onions to the stock and let it continue to simmer on low heat.
Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook on low heat until they soften. Now add the salt, crushed red chillies, thyme and pepper and cook for a few seconds. Add the rice to the pot and toast for 2 minutes, stirring to mix everything together. Keep the heat medium-low and pour in ½ cup of the stock (with the onions). Cook the rice, uncovered, stirring often. As the liquid gets absorbed by the rice, keep adding more, ½ cup at a time. Continue to stir often. When the rice is almost cooked, stir in the peas. The risotto is done when the rice is tender and creamy, but not mushy.
Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the asparagus, butter, cheeses and basil.
Garnish with basil leaves and shards of Parmesan cheese. Serve as a main dish with a zesty side of fresh basil pesto or pair with grilled chicken, sautéed shrimp or halved hard boiled eggs.