Jamie Oliver's Risotto with Lemon and Mint

It finally feels like Florida after an extended period of cool weather, things have really warmed up. Many people like to cook inside in the winter and outside during the summer, but somehow when it’s hot and humid, being inside with the AC on sounds like a better choice to me.

That said, I did grill outside last week. I made delicious bourbon pineapple shrimp kabobs, http://seafood.betterrecipes.com/bourbon-pineapple-shrimp-kabobs.html a salad with sweet cantaloupe, ripe avocado and strawberries on a bed of baby spinach with a sherry vinaigrette (http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/strawberry_melon_avocado_salad.html ) and for dessert, island coconut bread with pineapple coconut ice cream on top (yes, it was as good as it sounds!)

As for cooking indoors; my mother gave me a bunch of fresh asparagus the other day. I had planned on making a cream of asparagus soup, but at the last minute I changed my mind and decided to make an asparagus risotto. Now I would like to say, I came up with the ingredients on my own but I am more of a cook than a chef. I leave the details to the chefs. My chosen chef for this meal was Jamie Oliver.

I have watched Jamie Oliver on the Food Network and although I like the fact that he cooks a lot of fresh veggies, I have never been particularly interested in his creations. Recently though, he caught my attention with his new show, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” http://www.jamieoliver.com/campaigns/jamies-food-revolution.

Jamie’s mission is to help Americans get away from the processed food and snacks that contribute to our health and obesity problems and to reconnect with “real food”. Now this is a novel concept and one that I fully support.

Check out Jamie’s Food Revolution show when you can. It may motivate you to cook. I was amazed what the kids he spoke to had been eating and disturbed by the fact they couldn’t recognize common vegetables. Sadly, it has become a processed food nation.

I saw an online recipe for Risotto with Asparagus, Lemon and Mint by Jamie Oliver, so I decided to try it out. Here is a link to the original recipe http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/risotto/asparagus-mint-and-lemon-risotto. The dish was perfect for a spring meal. The lemon and mint made it light and flavorful.

I made my own adjustments to the recipe. I guess I am too lazy to clean so many dirty dishes (Or, let’s just say, I don’t enjoy dishwashing. I would prefer to go for a long walk if given the opportunity!). I adjusted amounts to make enough for 2 people (or one with leftovers).

Here is how I made this:

One bunch of asparagus weighing about 10 oz chopped into small pieces (probably about 8 oz after breaking off the woody stems.)

1 stick of celery diced

1 small onion diced

1 clove of garlic smashed but not chopped

1 tbl each olive oil and butter (yes, you need the butter flavor)

1 pat of butter (I know, how much butter is that? It’s a pat of butter, wing it!)

1 cup of arborio rice (actually I bought sushi rice at Whole Foods and used that instead)

2 ½ cups chicken like broth warmed in the microwave (used because I am a non meat eater. Chicken or a good vegetable broth would work too.) More as needed.

½ cup white wine (Save the rest to drink, so make it a wine you enjoy, You will be happy and frisky when the dish is done.)

½ to 1 tablespoon of minced fresh mint

Zest from ½ a lemon and lemon juice from it to taste.

¼- ½ cup finely grated parmesan (more for garnish)

Salt and pepper each to taste.

Melt the butter over medium heat and add in the olive oil. Sauté’ the celery, onion and garlic clove in the oil butter mixture until the onion is translucent. Remove the garlic. Stir in the rice and sauté like you would for pilaf. Keep stirring so you just lightly toast it without burning it or having it stick to the pan. Add pepper and a little salt, and then spoon in a ladle full of the broth mixed with the wine. Cook, stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Continue stirring and adding broth/wine mixture until the rice is al dente.

Once al dente add about ½ cup more of the broth mixture and the asparagus. I used pencil thin asparagus so if yours is thicker you may want to do this step just before the rice is al dente. You may need more broth so keep an eye on it. Continue cooking while stirring gently until the rice is just done and the asparagus is lightly cooked. Add more broth if needed to cook the asparagus and rice properly but being careful not to overcook it or it will be gluey.

Take the risotto off the heat. Add the zest, parmesan and lemon juice. Mix in the fresh mint. Adjust the seasoning and add a pat of butter.

(At this point, I also mixed in a little fresh baby spinach. The rice was hot enough to wilt it. This wasn’t really necessary for the flavor, I just wanted to use what I had on hand.)

Get out a big bowl and your utensils. Sprinkle some extra parmesan on top. Pour yourself a small glass of the leftover white wine (or one for you, one for your partner, friend or whoever is eating this with you) and chow down.

I really enjoyed eating this risotto. For me this was a meal, but you might want to stir in some pieces of whole cooked shrimp to make this more substantial or use it as a side dish to a nice piece of cooked fish.

I hope you will try this recipe. I used to think risotto was difficult to make. You do have to watch it and stir constantly but it isn’t a difficult recipe.