In yoga, we’re supposed to let our combative thoughts leave the sanctuary. However, as I’m standing in the tadasana pose, thoughts of food bring comfort as well. Such thoughts are relaxing, right? During the last class, I planned a dinner of buttery, roast potatoes with a dollop of thick yogurt served with Harissa spiced Brazilian Collard Greens mixed with chickpeas. When a particular dish is craved, it’s my body recommending an ingredient that has a certain vitamin or nutrient it needs immediately. During that dripping wet bikram class, my body was begging for good fats and carbohydrates (carbs). After all, I was waking up quite early to run a few miles the next day. I love when my body needs plenty of carbs. The media and crazy diet plans have made people unnecessarily scared of carbs, but I embrace them wholeheartedly. Eating excessive carbs are one of the joys about maintaining a regular cardio workout, because they’re an essential energy boost.
A few weeks ago, a Minted Meyer Lemon Risotto with White Asparagus was made. It’s a citrusy and creamy recipe full of lovely carbs. Plus, I wanted to experiment with cooking with white asparagus. I quickly learned of its delicate behavior. To softly drop these pallid stalks on the kitchen counter means they will break. Farmers grow white asparagus by placing dirt on top of the stalks to prevent them from turning spring green. Adding mint leaves to the risotto is a “wildcard” ingredient, for basil at this time of year is quite expensive.
Since we’re talking about seasonal produce, the citrus season is almost over in California, which explains the reason for making this recipe with meyer lemons. It’s a romantic citrus with a touch of floral, orange, and lemon notes. They’re inexpensive around December until early spring. To allow another citrus season to pass without using them would’ve been a bit disappointing. This winter, cara cara and blood oranges were used in salads.
There’s a bodega around the corner from the yoga studio making freshly squeezed orange juice. Walking towards the bodega is the opposite direction from a shop serving doughnuts made from scratch, and those are the bad carbs. A tall cup of freshly squeezed orange juice and a big heaping bowl of Minted Meyer Lemon Risotto with White Asparagus happily energize a lovely day. Namaste.
Minted Meyer Lemon Risotto with White Asparagus
1 lb. white asparagus
1/2 cup fresh spring onion bulbs, discard green and diced
2 celery stalks, diced; adding chop celery leaves with the mint is optional
2 cloves of garlic; minced
1 cup arborio rice
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter (optional)
Sea salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
A pinch of red pepper; to taste
A generous dash of celery seed
1/2 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
2 to 2-1/4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
The juice and zest of 1 to 2 meyer lemons; to taste (be careful, too much juice obscures the mint)*
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh mint; minced plus more for garnish
1. Be careful when handling white asparagus, because it is very delicate. If white asparagus is thick, use a vegetable peeler to remove tough outer skin (the part before the blossoming part). Chop and discard about one inch of the bottom stem. Chop the rest of the asparagus into one-inch pieces. Steam or blanch white asparagus pieces over boiling water for about 2 minutes. Remove from the pot and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking. Place aside.
2. Heat and cover chicken stock over medium heat to a boil. Turn off heat and cover. Place aside.
3. Over medium temperature, heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Place onions and celery to cook until onions are transparent for about a few minutes. Add salt, fresh black pepper, crushed red pepper, celery seed, and garlic. Stir for 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir for about a couple minutes.
4. Add the wine and a bay leaf. Stir until the liquid has evaporated. Ladle a 1/2 cup of warm chicken stock into the rice. Stir until the liquid has evaporated. Repeat this step until all the chicken stock has evaporated (Note: I only used 2 cups of chicken stock for an al dente taste. Add another 1/4 cup if desired). Adjust seasonings after 1-1/2 cups of chicken stock is added (any combination of salt, fresh black pepper, and celery seed).
5. Add the meyer lemon juice to the rice and cook until the liquid has evaporated.
6. Add the white asparagus, mint, and meyer lemon zest to the rice. Sprinkle in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. When the ingredients are heated thoroughly, it is ready to serve.
7. Spoon into individual bowls. Garnish with fresh mint.
*Note: If meyer lemons are unavailable, use regular lemons, or try experimenting with limes.