Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stalks and Stems – April 19, 2012

I had a fabulous time at my friend Mary’s 50th birthday party this past weekend.  My contribution was asparagus spears wrapped with beef marinated in balsamic vinegar and grilled for 10 minutes.  However, to make the appetizers pretty, I used the ends leaving me with a pile of asparagus stems.  Luckily, I found this great recipe adapted from Mario Batali’s asparagus risotto and made it later in the week:

Asparagus Risotto

2 cups asparagus stems cut in one inch pieces
4 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 T. olive oil
3 T. butter
1/3 onion or shallot, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add half the asparagus stalks and cook until quite soft, at least 5 minutes. Rinse quickly under cold water. Put cooked asparagus in a blender or food processor and add just enough water to puree until smooth; set aside.

Put stock in a medium saucepan over low. Put oil and 1 T. butter in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add onion, stirring until soft, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine, stir, and let liquid bubble away. Add a large pinch of salt. Add warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring occasionally. Each time stock has just about evaporated, add more.

After about 15 minutes, add remaining asparagus pieces, continuing to add stock when necessary. In 5 minutes, begin tasting rice. You want it to be tender but with a bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes total to reach this stage. When it does, stir in 1/2 cup asparagus puree. Remove skillet from heat, add remaining butter and stir briskly. Add Parmesan and stir briskly, then taste and adjust seasoning. Risotto should be slightly soupy. Serve immediately.

Making great food from asparagus stems also reminds me of another favorite recipe very useful in the Spring when green veggies are growing.  Amazingly, you’d never think this was broccoli unless you knew.  The idea came from a Rachel Ray magazine and seemed crazy but is now one of my favorite snacks:

Broccoli Stem Refrigerator Pickles

3 broccoli stalks sliced into rings
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tsp. salt
2 T. rice wine vinegar (or more to taste)
2 packets Splenda
½ tsp. sesame oil (or more to taste)
Pinch red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in refrigerator over night and enjoy!

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