Springing into Farmers Markets with Asparagus Scape Risotto

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I know the calendar tells us that spring arrives with the equinox in late March, and the old saying claims that robins are the harbingers of spring.

But for me, spring arrives when the farmers markets start showcasing nature’s early bounty — this week it was asparagus and garlic scapes from the Food Trust’s Headhouse Farmers Market, and dinner that night reflected it. Asparagus scape risotto was on the menu.

Asparagus is wonderful right now; pick the tender, pencil-thin stalks when you can. Scapes, those chive-like blades of green mild garlic flavor, are here and gone, so get them while you can. This dish starts vegan, but can easily include cheese for a dairy meal or chicken/beef broth and/or meat if desired.

Risotto can be a bit labor-intensive because it involves constant stirring, but if you have the time and inclination, it is spectacular.

Spring Risotto

Serves 4 generously

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup garlic scapes, chopped

½ onion, chopped

½ teaspoon salt

Generous amount of fresh ground pepper

1 cup Arborio rice (sometimes call “risotto rice”)

1 bunch asparagus, stems removed, and cut into 1-inch pieces

3-4 cups vegetable broth

1-2 cups white wine

In a medium saucepan, heat the broth and wine to boil, then lower to simmer. This needs to continue simmering for entire cooking process.

In another sturdy saucepan, (2-quart or larger), heat the oil with the scapes, salt and pepper. When fragrant, add the rice and sauté until each grain is coated and shiny.

Add 1 cup of hot broth and stir until it is absorbed. Add another cup, along with the asparagus, and continue this process until all the broth is used and the rice is cooked. Rice is done when it is “al dente.” Test it by biting into a grain; there should be a micro-crunch at the very middle. If this is not the case after all the liquid is used, heat more broth and repeat the process, adding ½ cups until the rice is al dente.

Serve immediately.