When I first started working here, one of the most exciting things for me was learning how asparagus grows. To catch the asparagus growing recently, I set up a time-lapse camera in the garden to capture a photo every 30 seconds. In just two days, the asparagus pops up through the soil and is ready to be harvested. It’s exciting to watch food grow right before your eyes.
Because asparagus grows so quickly, I always wondered why it is so expensive. Turns out that it takes an asparagus plant five to six years to reach maturity and produce at its fullest. It is definitely worth the wait, though, because asparagus plants can live for 15 to 20 years. Asparagus plants like to be fertilized twice a year, once in the spring before the spears emerge and once again after the last harvest. They do best in nice loose soil and full sun.
If you have the opportunity, try to eat asparagus as fresh as possible, it never tastes as sweet as it does on the day it is harvested. If you have the time, stop by the Wine Center, have a glass of wine and watch the asparagus grow.
Meyer Lemon Risotto with Asparagus & Mascarpone Cheese
Serve with Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay
Serves 8 entrée or 12 appetizer portions
- 1 lb. asparagus
- 2 Tbsp. rice oil (or other neutral flavored oil)
- ½ yellow onion, diced small
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- ½ cup white wine, such as Chardonnay
- 7 cups chicken stock (or water)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 Meyer lemons, zested and juiced
- 6 fresh lemon thyme sprigs, picked and chopped
- 1 bunch chives, minced
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- ¼ cup mascarpone cheese
- Kosher salt
- White pepper
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Chop asparagus into 1-inch pieces, discarding the woody bottoms. Blanch for 1 minute and then place in ice water to refresh. Set aside.
- Place a wide 4-quart pot over medium-high heat and add oil. Once the oil begins to smoke, add the onions and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continually to avoid browning. Add the rice and toast until translucent and just barely starting to brown. Add wine, stir and cook until dry. Add 2 cups of chicken stock and the bay leaf, stirring often until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this step twice, using 2 cups of stock at each addition. This should take approximately 20 minutes.
- Add the remaining cup of stock and begin to stir rapidly. Add the asparagus and stir for 1 minute. Add the lemon zest, half of the lemon juice, thyme, half of the chives, butter and mascarpone cheese. Stir for 2 additional minutes until the risotto becomes very creamy. Season to taste with salt, pepper and the remaining lemon juice if needed. Remove the bay leaf, serve and garnish with remaining chives and parmesan cheese.