All About the Veg! is a new recipe column where Best of Vegan contributor Seiran Sinjari breaks down one amazing plant at a time. In today’s column, she explores the wonders of asparagus and shares her recipe for Vegan Creamy Lemony Asparagus Risotto.
Spring is here, which also means that asparagus season is here! Something I look forward to every year, those first beautiful spring asparagus. They are absolutely delicious and we really don’t have to overcomplicate things here (if we don’t want to that is). A simple seasoning like cracked black pepper, salt, olive oil and maybe lemon will get you far and will also let this beautiful vegetable rightfully shine on its own.
A micro lesson on asparagus before we jump to the recipe: asparagus comes in three colors, green, white and purple. Green and purple asparagus are similar in flavor and texture while white asparagus is quite different in both flavor and texture compared to the former two. Today we’re cooking with green asparagus, perhaps the most familiar one.
Green asparagus can be prepared in many different ways; they can be grilled, roasted, pan-fried or seared, blanched, steamed or simmered. Just be careful not to overcook them, we still want a little crunch to them.
Today’s recipe is a vegan Creamy Lemony Asparagus Risotto and we’re preparing our asparagus two ways. The top part will be pan-seared while the rest will cook with the risotto. And we’re making this asparagus risotto the Italian way, how my Italian friend taught me to cook risotto, by slowly adding the stock one ladle at a time and keeping the core of the rice grain slightly hard.
To gently infuse the creamy asparagus risotto with lemon, we’re cooking our vegetable stock with lemon halves instead of adding lemon straight to the risotto. This way the flavors will tie together beautifully and more harmonized. You can also do this even if you’re using pre-made vegetable stock, I’ll let you know how in the recipe below, so let’s get started!
- 400 g green asparagus
- 350 g Arborio rice, or other short grain rice suitable for risotto)
- 1 ½ liter vegetable stock (you might not need to use all of it depending on the rice)
- 1 small organic lemon, halved (for the vegetable stock)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot or ½ white onion, finely chopped
- zest from 1 small organic lemon
- 50 g grated vegan parmesan, plus more to top with
- 2 tbsp vegan butter
- salt & pepper to taste
- optional: 50 ml vegan heavy cream such as oat cream for cooking (adds extra creaminess)
- Trim asparagus by cutting or snapping off the hard and woody ends. If they are thick with a tough skin, also peel the lower part with a vegetable peeler.
- Slice the asparagus in thin rounds leaving the top spear (around 4-5 cm / 2”) and slicing the top spears in half lengthwise. Keep the rounds and top parts separated.
- When cooking the vegetable stock, add the halved lemon for the last 30 minutes then strain the stock and keep warm/simmering while cooking the risotto. Also taste and adjust saltiness of the stock so you don’t have to add more salt while cooking the risotto. If using pre-made vegetable stock, bring the stock to a simmer, add the lemon halves and let simmer for 30 minutes before removing them, also adjust saltiness.
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan, add onions and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add another tbsp olive oil to the pan and add the rice. Toast it (without burning it) while frequently stirring for 2-4 minutes or until the grains turn translucent. Then add the sliced asparagus rounds and stir.
- Add 2 ladles of the warm/simmering stock and let rice cook over medium high heat until almost all liquid has evaporated before adding another ladle of stock.
- Repeat with one ladle of warm/simmering stock at a time until the rice is creamy but the core of the rice grain still is slightly hard. That’s when the risotto is done. Try to avoid stirring too much and just stir the risotto occasionally. This whole process should take around 17-19 minutes.
- While the risotto is cooking heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and quickly sear the top spears of the asparagus (just until they start to brown) with some salt and freshly cracked pepper. Remove from heat and set to the side.
- Remove risotto from heat and stir in butter, vegan parmesan, vegan heavy cream (if using) and lemon zest. If you want it creamier you can also add some more stock and stir.
- Plate the risotto, top with the seared asparagus, vegan parmesan, freshly cracked black pepper and some more lemon zest too if you want. Serve immediately!
Find more of Seiran’s recipes at @legallyplantbased.
Recipe and photography by Seiran Sinjari.
PIN/SAVE/SHARE THIS ARTICLE