Asparagus Risotto with Prosciutto

Any day now, ANY DAY NOW, we should be greeted with a true harbinger of spring—asparagus. They start out as tiny spears poking up through the soil in the spring and end in the fall as 5-9 foot tall, unruly, ferny bushes. Asparagus is a good source of Folic Acid and potassium. Around here, you should start seeing it on farm stands in the next few weeks. I think the best asparagus is picked early in the season, so get it while the getting’s good!

To get the most tender part of an asparagus stalk, hold it at both ends and bend. It should snap at the point separating the tender part from the part that tends to get a little tough. I use the tender spear tops for steaming, grilling, etc., and save the bottom part for soups. The longer asparagus sits around the tougher it gets, so farm-fresh local stalks (as always) will be your best bet.

Asparagus Risotto with Prosciutto
Serves 4

I had dinner at my friends Kristi and Illya’s a while back. Illya made the perfect risotto, it was so creamy and delicious that I imagined it was chock-full of butter and cream. It wasn’t. It didn’t have a lick of cream and only a dab of butter.

I had always heard how laborious and difficult risotto is to make. Illya assured me that it wasn’t and showed me how. He was right. Risotto is an easy, but impressive, dish to make. The variations are endless. One of my favorite, over-the-top rich risottos is Gorgonzola and mushrooms.

Arborio rice is traditionally used in risotto. Its high starch content gives it a beautiful creamy consistency. You may substitute other types of rice but you won’t get the same degree of creaminess.

Ingredients
1 pound tender asparagus (about 3 cups) cut into 1/2 inch-long pieces
5 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 pound Prosciutto chopped (La Quercia is my favorite brand)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt/pepper to taste

Method

  • Using a medium-large frying pan, sauté onions in olive oil until soft.
  • Add 2 cup of Arborio rice to the pan; toast the rice over medium-high heat for a few minutes.
  • Keep a pot/bowl of warm chicken/vegetable stock close by. Add a ladleful of stock to the pan with rice. Stir to keep the rice from sticking. Once the stock has been absorbed, add another ladleful. Keep repeating.
  • Meanwhile, steam asparagus for 5-7 minutes. Asparagus is done when the color is bright and vivid green.
  • Once about half of the stock is added, add the Prosciutto and steamed asparagus
  • Add the remaining stock as before, one ladle at a time. The rice should be tender but not mushy. If the rice is not tender, you can continue to add small amounts of water until the dish has a nice creamy consistency.
  • Add butter and cheese and stir well.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve risotto warm. Add a salad for a meal, or serve a smaller portion as a side dish.

Prosciutto Wrapped Fried Pickles

Otto from Ottos’ Market got me to try La Quercia Prosciutto Americano from Iowa. Not only does it hold it’s own against fancy imported Italian salumi, it’s made with humanely raised hogs without antibiotic, nitrates or nitrites.

This recipe uses coconut oil. The once shunned oil is now the new darling of the food world. Coconut oil is antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, an antioxidant and is, in fact, good for your heart.

Ingredients
2-3 tablespoon coconut oil (enough for about 1/8-1/4 inch of oil)
2 cup pickles (any type will do. Click here for a quick pickle recipe)
1/4 pound thinly sliced Proscuitto
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup wheat flour
1 egg
1 Tablespoon water
dash of salt

Method

  • Place egg and water in a bowl and whisk.
  • In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, flour and salt.
  • Wrap each pickle slice with Proscuitto.
  • Dip each Proscuitto wrapped pickle in the egg then dredge in the cornmeal mixture.
  • In a small sauté pan, melt coconut oil over medium- medium high heat. Keep temperature right below the oil’s smoking point.
  • Set each slice in the heated oil. Cook each side until golden brown.
  • Set on a paper towel-lined plate and let cool slightly before serving.