23 May 2009

Some of my Favorite Spring Things (Part 1 of 2)

Asparagus. How I love asparagus.

During its peak, the flavor says pure springtime sunshine. I love the early spring farmers' markets where I am eagerly anticipating anything locally grown that is green - usually asparagus is the first green vegetable to show up in my market bag. I know that asparagus is available year round, but I genuinely believe that this is a vegetable that both tastes better and has a better texture when purchased locally and in season. Besides, it is radically less expensive when it is purchased in the spring from a farmer who grew it in a neighboring community, which means I can eat that much more of it!

The first time I saw asparagus at the market this spring, I purchased several pounds because I was feeling greedy and excited for spring. My first batch was roasted in a hot oven, after being drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. After inhaling the roasted asparagus, I wanted to make something more unusual and also utilize some pantry/freezer ingredients that I have had on hand for awhile. I had some delicious locally made sweet Italian chicken sausage and some dehydrated wild mushrooms to be used, and I noticed a large bag of Arborio rice that had been sitting around longer than I care to remember. Immediately a plan started to form in my mind for a springtime risotto with asparagus, mushrooms and chicken sausage. Of course, I turned to google, which did not let me down. I was directed to a lovely website called Simply Recipes and Elise's wonderfully written recipe for Italian Sausage and Mushroom Risotto.

Her recipe did not call for asparagus, but I immediately knew that the green vegetable would enhance the dish and make it a tiny bit healthier. Of course anytime I add a vegetable to a rich, starchy meal, I feel slightly less guilty about eating seconds! I did make a couple changes based on what I had on hand, such as subbing dried mushrooms for fresh (I rehydrated them in a mixture of boiling chicken stock and Marsala wine - another substitution because I didn't have any Madeira wine on hand). I added the reconstituted mushrooms to the onion and rice mixture instead of the sausage mixture. Also, I blanched the asparagus in salted, boiling water before stirring it into the risotto at the very end of cooking. Finally, I skipped the addition of parmesan or asiago cheese at the end, and instead stirred in about 1/2 cup of heavy cream (also local!) that I had in my refrigerator.

Instead of posting a recipe, I highly recommend visiting Elise's website at Simply Recipes to check out her instructions - then you, too, can make adjustments based on what you have on hand.

1 comment:

HoneyB said...

This sounds delicious and the green color really adds to the dish's appeal!