A Spring Risotto

This time last week, I was celebrating the contents of my fridge, which were overwhelmingly green -- chard, leeks, buttery lettuce, green garlic -- and locally grown. It's such a pleasure to welcome spring vegetables back to the farmer's market scene, a parade of greenery that is crisp, bright and full of promise.

Risotto gets a spring makeover, with leeks and green garlic. (Kim O'Donnel)

And the show just keeps getting better and more beautiful. Joining the gorgeous green lineup this weekend were local asparagus, spinach and all kinds of herbs, such as tarragon, chervil, chives, dill and thyme.

Risotto, as I mentioned last week, is a great way to experiment with spring's new arrivals. Taking a cue from "Local Flavors" by Deborah Madison, I spring-a-fied a pot of risotto, with leeks and green garlic, a zesty pair from the allium family.

Lest you worry about having onion or garlic breath, these early vegetables, particularly when cooked in butter and white wine, are mellow and moderately piquant. The addition of lemon zest just before serving does a great job of lifting the flavors, particularly when cheese is incorporated.

Other spring-like possibilities for this dish include asparagus tips, green peas, and any of those aforementioned herbs.

By the way, you can make your own stock on the spot -- take the darker part of one leek, add a few whole, peeled cloves of garlic and add water. If that's all you have, that's fine. You'll have a much better tasting stock than any you can buy at the store. Bring up to a boil, then cook at a simmer for at least 30 minutes.

One last note: Whichever cooking liquid you decide to use, temperature is absolutely paramount. Liquid must be warm, on the stove, simmering. The rice reacts sluggishly to anything but.

Leek and Green Garlic Risotto
Adapted from "Local Flavors" by Deborah Madison

Green Garlic and Leeks:
4 medium leeks, white parts only
3 large heads green garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste

6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup chopped chervil or parsley, and/or leftover green garlic tops
Zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Quarter leeks lengthwise, cut them crosswise into 1/4-inch slices, and wash well. Remove any tough papery husks from garlic, then finely chop bulbs.

Melt butter in a saute pan. Add leeks and garlic, stir to coat, then add wine and cook over medium-low heat until leeks are tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside while you cook the rice.

Have stock simmering on the stove. Melt butter in a wide soup pot over medium heat. Add rice and cook, stirring for 1 minute.

Pour in wine and simmer until it is absorbed, then add 2 cups of the stock. Simmer until it has been absorbed, then raise heat to medium and begin adding stock 1/2 cup at a time. Stir energetically and continue adding liquid after each addition is absorbed. Rice is done when tender with a slight bite, about 35 minutes. Stir in leeks, cheese and herbs.

Taste for salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Makes four servings, and terrific leftovers.

By Kim ODonnel |  April 30, 2007; 11:02 AM ET Dinner Tonight , Farmers Markets , Spring Produce
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I made a butternut squash (I know, wrong season) and pea risotto last night for the first time. It was quite good.

I've heard that risotto doesn't reheat well and you should make fritters or risotto patties out of them. Do you happen to have a recipe/method for making either one?

Posted by: Leftovers? | April 30, 2007 12:09 PM

Leftovers, I've been reheating risotto since I made it a few days ago. Reheated risotto is not even close to what comes right out of the pot, but that's okay in my book. It still tastes wonderful, just has a different texture. To make patties, you can form into balls and roll in bread crumbs, and pan fry in oil for a few minutes on each side. Flip gently and carefully.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 30, 2007 12:21 PM

Any substitutes for green garlic where it's not available?

Posted by: love all risotto | April 30, 2007 12:36 PM

Can one carmelize a bunch of onions and mushrooms and freeze for later use?

We are big fans and use often but sometimes don't have time to make it.


Posted by: laurel md | April 30, 2007 12:37 PM

Hi Kim and all,

In the interest of broadening cooking horizons, I was wondering, could these ingredients (plus maybe peas, asparagus tips, or summer squash) be made into a pilaf instead of a risotto? How would rice selection (long grain, wild?) and cooking method/time vary?


Posted by: Perhaps Pilaf? | April 30, 2007 12:38 PM

Oh, green garlic is my favorite spring treat. Biked to the Dupont market yesterday and for dinner sauteed green garlic, cut with scissors to about 1/2", plus fresh tarragon given the same treatment, in grapeseed oil, added a pat of butter, a smear of highly concentrated chicken stock, and some salt and pepper. Used this to top pasta. Unbelieveable.

Posted by: Sass | April 30, 2007 1:21 PM

How fast should the risotto being simmering while you are adding liquid? It always takes me more liquid and more time than called for in any risotto recipe.

Posted by: Risotto issues | April 30, 2007 3:15 PM

Love all, If green garlic isn't available, you could try garlic chives or a diced shallot.
Laurel, Yes to making caramelized onions in advance, but not frozen. Keep in fridge for up to a week.
Risotto issues, Keep fire on medium, 1/2 cup at a time. The amounts in above recipe do work.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 30, 2007 3:20 PM

I have been cooking for 40 years or so. But what is "green garlic?" In Seattle we have a number of Whole Foods Markets, plus the Pike Street Market and many farmers' markets. Have I just missed the boat on green garlic by not asking for it?

Posted by: Judith Cox | April 30, 2007 9:18 PM

go here for a picture:

As I mentioned in last week's blog (which is linked at top of page), green garlic, aka garlic scallions, is the young garlic plant in pre-bulb stage.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 30, 2007 9:40 PM

I'm eating the fabulous leftovers as I type. This was a great and easy recipe. I used fresh asparagus from the farmers market instead of the green garlic. The only changes I'd make are to use a little less lemon (I found it really overpowers the dish) and either smaller or fewer leeks (I had 4 large ones).

Posted by: healthyg | May 4, 2007 12:44 PM

I made this last night with green garlic and ramps and it was delicious!! A couple of questions--wine and butter appear twice in your recipe. Should I have divided the amounts you list in the beginning? I think I added more of each, but I didn't think too much wine or butter was a bad thing. Also, I assumed the wine should be a drier one, so I added sauvignon blanc. Does wine variety matter?

I really enjoyed this and it didn't take as long to make as I thought it would. For those at home: don't be afraid to add the salt and pepper. It needed more seasoning (possibly because my broth was the low salt variety). Thanks for this. Keep those farmers market recipes coming. It's good to know what to do with some of these veggies!

Posted by: Risotto novice | May 9, 2007 8:58 AM

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