Asparagus Risotto with Garlic Scape Broth

Savory Recipes, Spring • 15 Jun 2015

We just returned from a California coastal drive, sweeping gracefully and languidly along the lip of the earth, on the precipice of chasmal cliffs, so breathtaking in their intrepid stature, their vertigo-inducing confidence. I feel the heart-jabbing grandiosity while standing on the zenith of Big Sur, my feet inches from a several thousand feet drop, fear and awe merging in a spiritual whirlpool.

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My husband and I have not seen the Pacific coast sprawl since we lived in LA as a younger, untethered couple, before we were married, before our son. It felt freeing to do the trip as a family, though there was no telling how my son would fare on the drive, if he would experience caustic motion sickness triggered by the weaving, serpentine roads or if boredom would reign supreme, the beauty of the towering landscape lost on his young mind.

The long drive was storybook idyllic, and we drove, windows down, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, Led Zeppelin blasting, losing ourselves in adventure, the smell of sand and sea, flowers and salt converging in the rushing air. Not once were we met with complaints, and I was wowed by my son’s impressive, even envious, stamina. Each departure brought tears, sadness to leave these new places behind. Goodbyes are never easy. He didn’t want to be sad; it is a terrible thing to be sad on vacation. But it is a terrible thing to be five and to have to bid farewell these magical places, places that possess an air of mystery, enigmatic in their newness. Someday he will realize that saying goodbye is never easy, and returning home is bittersweet, especially after such a soul stirring adventure.

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Returning home, we cried a bit. Familiarity, though comforting, can be maddening in its unceremonious bluntness. Mundane familial intimacy felt like failure. I watched my son search for bits of red dirt and sand, and his fleeting wanderlust, trapped in his light-up shoes, hunting for a little remaining morsel of adventure.

What could I do but cook, bring life back home, appreciate our Northeast spring, eat together, be together, appreciate being in the now. Time to wipe away the clusters of daydream pooled around the edges of our eyes. Time to do a bit of work regrouping, settling into comfort, reckon with reality, jettison the angst. Come home.

With that in mind, I made risotto. What is slow and tedious in motion, is big in comfort; a big pot of togetherness. It had to work, this witch’s brew. I used many of the fresh vegetables procured at my town’s first annual farmer’s market. I must admit it was good to return to a bounty of local produce: tender, thin strands of grass-green asparagus, little blushing bouquets of sweet and slightly bitter turnips, a mess of tangled pea shoots. Garlic scapes went into a pot with water, garlic, thyme and a bay leaf. Simmered for an hour until light and aromatic, it made a light, lovely broth for risotto.

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The key to a good risotto is to simmer and stir. Stir and simmer. Never look away. Cooking slowly and patiently and methodically. Add a singular ladle-full of liquid, stirring consistently, allowing the rice to absorb each drop of liquid before adding the next bit. A strong arm is required, and a bit of persistence. The movement releases the starches, yielding a thick, rich, creamy rice.

The end result is a smooth, shiny rice, so buttery, so comforting. The vegetables taste of late spring in the northeast, the greenness from the asparagus reminiscent of the full, leaf-covered trees and freshly cut grass. Comfort food- the essence of home.

Asparagus Risotto with Garlic Scape Broth

1 pound asparagus
4 cups garlic broth (recipe below)
1/2 large yellow or white onion, finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups Arborio Rice
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt to taste

1. Bring salted water to boil in a large sauté pan. Wash the asparagus and snap off the tough bottoms. Cut into 2-inch pieces, separating the tips and the stalks. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Boil stalks for 2 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. Immediately transfer to ice bath for 1 minute. Remove and set aside. Repeat the process with the asparagus tips, although boil for 1 minute. Keep the cooking water.

2. Add asparagus stalks and a few tablespoons of water to a blender of food processor and blend until smooth.

3. Keep garlic broth warm in a saucepan. Add oil and butter to a large heavy-bottom pot over medium heat. When butter is melted and bubbly, add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat. Next add the wine and cook, mixing continuously, until fully absorbed. Add one ladle or cup of broth at a time, allowing the liquid to absorb before adding more. Constantly stir the rice, cooking about 20-25 minutes, until al dente.

4. Add asparagus puree, lemon zest, Parmigiano and salt and lemon juice to taste. Divide rice among bowls and top with asparagus stalks and any additional greens or any additional farmers market veggies such as sautéed baby turnips, radishes, pea shoots, microgreens or lightly sautéed garlic scapes.

Yield: Serves 6 as a starter or light meal.

Garlic Broth:
8 cups water
1 head of garlic, peeled, cloves smashed
1 cup roughly chopped garlic scapes
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sprig fresh thyme
Salt to taste

1. Place first 6 ingredients in a large pot over high heat. Bring to a boil and simmer, over medium-low heat, for an hour. Strain and discard solids. Add salt to taste.

2. For the risotto, keep garlic broth warm over medium-low heat. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Yield: 4-5 cups broth

One Response

  1. Mira

    This sounds and looks so delicious . When garlic scapes become available in my area it is a given that I will make this recipe.

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