Asparagus Risotto with Caramelized Leeks and Ricotta Salada

May 20, 2012 § 2 Comments

Asparagus Risotto with Caramelized Leeks and Ricotta Salada
Disclaimer: This risotto was made for Marx Foods’ Integrale Gauntlet. I was tasked with making one savory risotto dish (and two more dishes if I move on to the next challenges) with a box of Integrale Rice, courtesy of Marx Foods. This challenge will include a public poll which I will notify my readers of when it is up (5/29). Opinions here are my own.

I only have a couple of recipes on here involving rice because I just didn’t eat much of it until recently. I have always loved fluffy white rice, sticky sushi rice, aromatic basmati rice, but I avoid these processed varieties. And I simply wasn’t interested in brown rice. I enjoy so many other whole grains, so I didn’t worry about this aversion until earlier this year.

Asparagus Risotto with Caramelized Leeks and Ricotta Salada
When our pantry gets too cluttered, we try to avoid buying any more bulk items until we have cleared a bit of space. When this needed to be done a couple of months ago, I started making a meatless gumbo that was packed with a variety of beans (my Louisana-born-and-raised mother did not approve but it was tasty). I needed to serve it over something so I steamed some long-grain brown rice that somehow made its way into our pantry – I may have received it for free at work. After pulling the lid off of the perfectly steamed rice and taking in the nutty aroma, I fluffed it and enjoyed a bowl of rice that was simply dressed with a bit of the gumbo gravy. It was so perfect that I was suddenly a convert. Since then I have been stocking my pantry with a variety of rices, serving them with black bean soup, beside curried lentils and under roasted vegetables and poached eggs.

I mentioned this transition briefly in this post where I used sweet brown rice for the first time. That rice was a brown variety of sushi rice, so it made excellent rice balls because of their starch release. While sushi rice and risotto rice are not quite the same thing, they both need that quality. I haven’t ever seen a brown arborio rice – one of the more popular varieties of risotto rice – so I was really excited when I saw a brown risotto rice available from Marx Foods called Integrale Rice. It behaves just like any other risotto rice, but it is still whole. It also has the nutty flavor common in other whole grains. As someone who didn’t think risotto was possible without white rice, this is an awesome find. I honestly think this rice makes a tastier risotto than others because of the added complexity of flavor.

Asparagus Risotto with Caramelized Leeks and Ricotta Salada
For this risotto, I knew I wanted to simply showcase the availability of the season. I had some brightly flavored leeks that I decided to caramelize for a sweet, mellowed flavor. Asparagus was an obvious choice because it is simply everywhere right now. I prefer the crazy thin spears of asparagus for their delicate texture and bold flavor. It seems that these can only be found at the farmer’s market because grocery stores prefer the perfectly uniform, pinky-sized spears that you can find all year (but obviously not locally). The raw asparagus was pureed and stirred into the hot risotto. I decided to substitute the traditional parmesan with a ricotta salada as parmesan typically contributes a nutty flavor, but the already nutty brown rice needed a firm cheese that could stand up to the rice – something that could be grated – but with a creamy contrast.

The strongest flavor coming through is the distinct, grassy asparagus. The deeply sweet caramelized leeks melt away and come through in the background, alongside the squeaky, tangy ricotta salada. This is a completely satisfying risotto that doesn’t sacrifice anything in flavor. Serve it with a light protein and a green salad.

Asparagus Risotto with Caramelized Leeks and Ricotta Salada

Asparagus Risotto with Caramelized Leeks and Ricotta Salada:
serves 8

- 3/4 lb leeks, ends and tough dark portions discarded
- 2-3 tbsp butter
- 2 cups Integrale Rice or other Risotto Rice
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 4-5 cups hot stock (I used beef stock)
- 1 small bunch asparagus – 8 oz, roughly chopped and pureed in a food processor (alternatively, slice it very thinly)
- 1/4-1/2 lb ricotta salada, grated (or crumbled)

Slice leeks in half lenthwise and thinly slice each half. Place 1-2 tbsp butter in a heavy bottomed pot over low heat. Add leek, stir well and cover. Continue stirring every 5-10 minutes, more often as it continues to cook, for 30-45 minutes. Remove lid, raise heat to medium-high and add remaining butter. Add rice and stir well to coat every piece of rice in fat and deglaze the pot with white wine. Add stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and adding more liquid as the rice dries out. Begin tasting once you have used almost 4 cups of the stock and continues stirring, cooking, adding liquid and tasting until the rice is cooked through. Remove the pot from heat and stir in the pureed asparagus and ricotta salada. Serve immediately, garnish with extra cheese.

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