Spring Garden Risotto

This risotto is a celebration of the best of spring's bounty, hence the name: Spring Garden Risotto.

I was inspired by a spring garden and the contrast between all the vibrant colors of the blooming flowers and the rich greens beneath them.

This risotto has my two favorite spring ingredients: ramps and morels.

Ramps are a wild leek that have a mild oniony/garlicky flavor and an aroma that is intoxicating.

Morels are my second favorite mushroom after porcini and you can find them fresh during the spring (although I use dried morels in this recipe).

This recipe is perfect for entertaining because you can make a big batch in one pot and it is a very impressive show-stopper. You can also cook it partially in advance cool it on a baking sheet and finish it to order so you're not slaving over it when guests are over.

Also, the flowers are edible and oh-so-pretty.

First we begin with the ramps.

The glorious, glorious ramps:

I used both the greens and the whites of the ramps in different ways.

For the greens, prepare a pot of boiling water and an ice bath (a bowl of ice and water, about 50/50).

As the water comes to a boil, cut off the whites of the ramps and slice them into rings:

 Set those aside and chop off the greens of the ramps.

You can discard the purple stems, or save them for making vegetable stock (or you could just toss them in the stock your using when you heat it up to infuse it with some rampyness).

Once the water comes to a boil, take about a cup of it and use that to reconstitute (fancy culinary term for rehydrate) the dried morels. 

For the morels, although you could use fresh morels, in this recipe I prefer using dried because when you reconstitute them you end up with "morel liquor" which I like to use when cooking the risotto.

Plus, dried morels are cheaper and easier to find than fresh morels, so there's that.

You can place another bowl or something on top to weigh the morels down so that they are completely submerged in the hot water.

As the morels reconstitute, start working on the ramps.

Add the ramp greens to the boiling water and cook them for about 30 seconds.

Then immediately plunge them in the ice bath till they are cool to the touch.

TIP if You Don't Have Ice and it's Too Late to Get Some: If you didn't get your ice bath ready, now would be the time to scramble to put it together and if you just realized you don't have ice, panic! Panic and then curse a little, then take the ramp greens out because they've been in the water way too long by this point in your freakout.Try to cool them down instantly, under cold running water, then throw them in the freezer till they are cool to the touch. Hopefully you can preserve the bright green color. I'm trying to give you advice in the worst case scenario because I realize that people fuck up sometimes and I don't want you to give up because something went wrong. #nevergiveup)

Now you want to puree the ramp green with just enough oil to get them to actually purée until smooth-ish.

Use a flavorless oil like grapeseed, canola or neutral vegetable oil so that the ramp flavor shines through.

Then pass the purée through a fine mesh strainer and set that aside.

Replace the water in the blanching pot with your stock and heat that up on low.

In the meantime, sauté the ramp whites in some butter.

Sauté until translucent, slightly golden and super fragrant.

Pause and inhale the smell.

Then add the rice and toast it a little.

See all those brown bits at the bottom?

Those are known as fond or sucs and they are what Guy Fieri would call FLAVORTOWN. 

You want those off of the bottom of the pan and into your risotto, so adding liquid will "deglaze" them, or release them from the pan.

So, add some white wine to do that.

Inhale the fumes as it evaporates and enjoy the smell.

Stir and allow the wine to reduce till rice is almost dry.

As that happens, remove the morels from the soaking liquid, as you will use that liquid to cook the risotto.

Oh god.

Morel liquor.

Stir frequently until the liquid is absorbed. In the meantime, slice the morels into rings, and stir them into the risotto.

Now, use the stock to finish cooking the risotto, 1-2 ladles at a time, stirring frequently between each addition until the rice is al dente, or cooked to your liking.

While that happens, shred some parmesan cheese, as much as you like.

Use the real stuff if you can, Parmigiano-Reggiano with the rind that looks like the one above. 

Or grana padano is a good alternative, but please don't use the stuff in the green plastic container.

I won't judge you if you do though.

Not to your face.

Anyway, once the risotto is cooked, turn off the heat and add the ramp green puree, cheese and a pat of butter and stir them into the risotto until combined.

Taste and adjust if needed with salt, pepper, cheese, whatever you think it needs.

Then transfer to a plate, garnish with petals from edible flowers and eat immediately.

Incase you're wondering, I got the edible flowers from Sprouts but I think you can also find them at Whole Foods or at Farmer's Markets.

I love spring...

Just not the allergies.

*sneeze* 

 

RECIPE

Ingredients:

2-3 tbsp butter
about 6 cups chicken/veggie stock
1/2 cup dry arborio rice
1/4 cup dried/fresh morel mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine (something you would drink)
2-3 bunches ramps
grated parmesan reggiano cheese, to taste
grapeseed oil (or other flavorless oil), as needed
S&P, to taste

Directions:

Bring a pot of water to boil, this will be your "blanching pot".

In the meantime, cut off whites of ramps & slice into rings.

Discard the purple stems (or reserve for making stock) and set the green leaves aside.

Make an ice bath: bowl of ice & water.

Once the water is boiling, take about 1 cup of it and pour over morels (weigh down with another bowl, if necessary, you want the morels submerged in the hot water).

Add ramp greens to the remaining water in the blanching pot

Cook the ramp greens for about 30 seconds, then immediately plunge into the ice bath to preserve their bright green color.

Once the ramp greens have cooled, puree the greens with 1-2 tbsp of the oil and then pass through a fine mesh strainer and set aside

Empty the blanching pot and use to heat up the chicken stock.

In the meantime, melt 1-2 tbsp of butter in a pan and sauté the ramp whites until translucent and golden.

Pause, and enjoy the aroma.

Add the rice and toast in the butter for about a minute.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine, stir and cook till absorbed.

Separate the morels from the soaking liquid and use the liquid to cook the risotto. Stir and cook till absorbed.

Slice the morels into rings and add them to the risotto and stir.

Now begin adding a ladle or two of the stock to the risotto, stirring frequently after each addition until it is absorbed and repeat until the rice is cooked al dente or to your liking.

Once risotto is cooked to your liking, turn off the heat and add the parmesan cheese and remaining butter and stir vigorously into the risotto until combined.

Finally, add the green ramp puree and stir till combined, taste and adjust if needed.

Garnish with edible flowers and serve immediately.

Enjoy!