Begging for Spring

February 21, 2011

This is a La Niña year which in Seattle usually means cold and snow.  In the fall, there were dire predictions about how much of the white stuff we were going to get.  Randy and I even contemplated adding snow tires to our SUV just so we could get around.  Alas, what we have gotten is warmer than usual temps and lots and lots of rain.

Rain is nothing new in Seattle.  I grew up here and winter means rain around these parts.  Still, by the middle of February, I start to feel a little desperate.  Yes, the days are noticeably longer and I see a few pink blossoms on the cherry trees, but gray is still the color and going to the park means getting drenched.  I do my best to cook seasonally and I scoff at people who buy asparagus in November.  But I just needed me some green and so these (very beautiful, I must say) asparagus went into my cart.

As is often the case when I have a vegetable I want to feature but no specific plans, I made risotto.  Visions of lots of lemon and lemon thyme (which is still growing in my yard) were dancing in my head until I realized I had no lemons.  I’m not sure how that is possible, I always have lemons, but an adjustment had to be made.  What about orange?  It turns out that the zest of one orange grated into a pot of asparagus-y pea-y risotto brought winter and spring together deliciously.

A word about the method.  Until recently, I made risotto the traditional way – adding small amounts of broth into the rice and constantly stirring.  A few issues ago, Cook’s Illustrated tested out a different less hands-on way to make risotto and I have never looked back.

By the way, I am teaching a brunch class on Saturday, April 2nd and Sunday, April 3rd.  Come join me!

One Year Ago: Honey Roasted Pear Salad
Two Years Ago: Tom Yum Soup with Mushrooms and Tofu

Asparagus Risotto with Orange Pepper and Orange
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

5 cups vegetable broth
1 small bunch asparagus, about 1 pound, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tbsp. butter
1 large shallot, finely diced
2 garlic clove, minced
1 small orange bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1½ cups Arborio rice
Zest of 1 orange
½ cup dry white wine
¾ cup frozen peas, no need to thaw
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Turn heat to low.

Boil water in another medium saucepan.  Add a large pinch of salt and then stir in the asparagus.  Cook until just crisp-tender, about 3 minutes, then immediately transfer the asparagus to a ice water bath.  Allow to cool completely, then drain.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Melt the butter then add the shallots along with a large pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring constantly, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and orange bell pepper and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add the rice and stir well to coat with the fat and vegetables and also to toast it slightly.  Pour in the wine and stir constantly until the wine is absorbed.

Pour in most of the vegetable stock, holding back about 1 cup of it.  Stir the pot vigorously for 1 minute.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 15 minutes, stirring vigorously just twice.  Uncover and add the asparagus, peas, cheese, and herbs.  Give it a good stir and add a bit of stock at a time, stirring constantly, until the rice is al dente.  You want a decent amount of liquid in the risotto – not so enough that it is soup, but not dry either.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.


  1. I love a spring risotto with asparagus. And, now I have to try this method. I’ve never attempted this or a baked risotto, but I’m curious about both. The result looks fantastic!

    Comment by lisaiscooking — February 21, 2011 @ 7:29 pm

  2. Very interesting way to cook risotto – I’ve tried a baked risotto not too long ago, and in the past made it in a pressure cooker quite a few times (amazing, it is ready in 8 minutes, and has perfect texture)

    I will definitely try this method next time…

    hope Spring arrives soon for you! ;-)

    Comment by SallyBR — February 21, 2011 @ 11:11 pm

  3. I understand about the asparagus. sometimes a girl needs some green in her life. some green that isn’t brussels sprouts or broccoli that is. Some green that makes her pee smell weird. (Yup. I totally said it.)

    This seems like one beautiful dish and I love the idea of adding some orange to it! I’m going to have to try this method because most of the time I have NO time to sit there stirring risotto for an hour!

    Comment by Joanne — February 22, 2011 @ 12:37 am

  4. Risotto is my FAVORITE. I love the addition of the orange zest!!!

    Comment by leslie — February 22, 2011 @ 1:55 am

  5. How ironic that as I read this post, giant snowflakes are falling here in Seattle with 1-3 inches expected over the next 2 days Enjoy your Hawaiian vacation!

    Comment by DVS — February 23, 2011 @ 12:50 am

  6. Hi Dana!
    Your post makes me miss risotto desperately. (I was a fan of the pressure cooker method… if memory serves.)
    My dear children eat everything, EVERYTHING. My 5yo puts Chalula hot sauce on his eggs and is known at our favorite Italian restaurant as “the kid who wants extra spinach on his,” and my older son likes oysters, mussels, sushi and every other kind of food.
    Except risotto.
    Every 6 months I try to make risotto, and they push it around on their plates like I’m torturing them. “Rice isn’t supposed to be gooey,” they tell me.
    I could cook it just for me. Hmm…

    Comment by Julia's Child — February 25, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

  7. Can you believe I still find lovely asparagus at our farmer’s market in late summer (which it is here in SA)? Am so going to make this, and am particularly looking forward to a less hands-on risotto technique. Are you still coming to Cape Town? or have you been already?

    Robyn x

    Comment by Koek! — February 28, 2011 @ 10:25 am

  8. Yum! I can empathize with you about the weather- I live in Eugene, and although it’s not quite as cold here, it’s rainy nonstop. Maybe your risotto will cheer me up as well! :)

    Comment by Chelsea — February 28, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

  9. What a lovely blog, and great pictures. I could eat a plateful of your risotto right now.

    Comment by Sprinzette @ Ginger and Almonds — March 2, 2011 @ 8:59 pm

  10. I cooked this tonight.
    I entrusted my darling husband to pick up ingredients for it whilst at the markets on the weekend…
    Therefore I had to substitute baby spinach for parsley, red capsicum for orange capsicum, and spring onions for shallots. Also by some freak occurrence we had run out of fresh garlic (?!?) and had to use minced jar stuff instead.
    Whilst I would have preferred parsley over the baby spinach,and it was too cheesy for myself, it was still an amazing, epically tasty meal that we both devoured very gleefully… and are already looking forward to the leftovers for lunch over the next couple of days!
    Very yummy indeed.

    Comment by Sarah — March 14, 2011 @ 8:47 am

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