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Lemony Asparagus Risotto

 While I sit down to compose this post about one of my favorite veggies of the season - asparagus, I was enjoying another favorite spring veggie - the artichoke. My wonderful CSA, Suzie’s Farm, provided not 1 but 2 gorgeous artichokes in my last share, & you better believe I’m not sharing! I’m inspired. Will there be an “artichoke risotto” recipe coming soon? You betcha, but until then, I am excited to be able to share this with you lovely readers…       

Making a risotto for the family has become my new spring holiday tradition. What’s not to love about this rich & creamy dish? When made well, I can easily sneak this by those who are weary of my vegan tendencies (mostly my boisterous adolescent carnivorous cousins). Rest assured cousins, there is no absolutely no tofu in this!

Over the years I’ve made tried & true risotto recipes from Giada de Laurentiis to Tal Ronnen, & it was time to try another new recipe. This year’s pick? The "Lemony Asparagus Risotto" from Vegan Holiday Kitchen’s Easter chapter, fittingly. 

Quite obviously, I adore asparagus. It’s one of those vegetables I crave relentlessly come springtime. Simply roasted in the oven with sea salt & a squeeze of lemon, steamed & smothered in lemon-cashew cream sauce, or folded into a rich risotto, I’ll take asparagus any way I can get it. Which is why this dish was so appealing. It just screamed springtime. The other main flavoring components are just as fresh & springy - spinach, parsley & oh-so-bright lemon juice & zest. Yum.        

Now for a very special treat! Vegan Holiday Kitchen author & creator of this risotto, Nava Atlas, so kindly allowed me to share her recipe with you! So here it is…

"Lemony Asparagus Risotto" by Nava Atlas from Vegan Holiday Kitchen.

(recipe published with permission from the author)

  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 32-oz carton vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 10-12 ounces fresh slender asparagus
  • 2 good handfuls of baby spinach or baby arugula leaves (we used spinach)
  • 1/2 minced fresh parsley
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. organic lemon zest (optional, but highly recommended) 
  • Salt & freshly ground paper to taste
  • Grated vegan mozzarella cheese for topping, optional (Daiya is particularly good with this)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine rice with the broth, 2 cups of water, the oil, & garlic in a deep 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Cover & bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of additional water when you stir for the second time, then add 1 more cup water when you stir for the third time. 
  3. Just after the third stirring, trim about 1/2 an inch from the bottoms of the asparagus spears, & cut them into 1-inch lengths. Place in a skillet or sauce pan with a small amount of water & steam, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat, until bright green & tender crisp. Add the spinach; cover & steam just until it’s wilted. 
  4. After an hour, the rice should have a tender & creamy texture. Remove from the oven & stir in the asparagus & spinach mixture, followed by the remaining ingredients. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve. Pass around grated cheese for topping, if desired.

***Now, before I get to how utterly awesome this risotto turned out, let me first explain why I feared a near disaster. I cooked this recipe for the 1st time in my family’s mountain home, which is at a very high altitude. In addition, we cooked another dish in the oven simultaneously. For those reasons, I assume, it took considerably longer than an hour for the rice to absorb the liquid. I was a bit worried that the liquid would never absorb, but luckily, & eventually, it did! Cooking at high altitude or not, my recommendation is to heat the broth & additional water prior to adding it to the casserole dish to ensure quicker cooking.  

I’m happy to tell you that with enough patience, love, & dedicated stirring, this turned out beautifully & adorned our holiday table with the rest of our Easter feast. This risotto was ultimately more moist & creamy than any previous recipes I’d made. And baking it in the oven, as opposed to continuously stirring over the stove meant I could visit more with the family, enjoy a glass of wine, & hover over my cashew goat cheese log! 

Speaking of wine… 

  

Bonterra’s Chardonnay paired particularly well with the risotto. The wine’s crisp apple & refreshing citrus undertones complemented the risotto’s richness & zesty flavors.  

Oh, & I too recommend that final addition of heavenly Daiya mozzarella sprinkled into your bowl. It adds to the already creamy, savory, decadence of this dish! 

I hope you enjoy creating this in your own kitchen. It would be perfect on a warm spring evening with a crisp glass of wine. I also encourage you to pick up a copy of Vegan Holiday Kitchen if you haven’t already. The book covers the bulk of the holidays from Thanksgiving to Independence Day, offering festive seasonal recipes & menu ideas that will spark new traditions in your household. 

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