Inspired by a stroll through Santa Monica farmers’ market when it was heaving with citrus and asparagus, this is a seasonal treat which deserved the freshest ingredients you can find. Don’t worry if you can’t find a Meyer lemon, the regular kind will do. But if you can, its flavour is remarkable, lifting this risotto to another level.
500g Arborio rice
the juice of half a Meyer lemon
the grated zest of one Meyer lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
300ml vegetable or chicken stock
½ onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped finely
2 teaspoons butter
75ml white vermouth
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan, plus extra for the table
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
Put the stock in a saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer. Keep it there, just quivering.
Heat a griddle pan until you can really feel the heat rising off it when your hand’s about 6 inches above it.
Wash and trim the asparagus. Dry it well, then roll it in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season it with a little salt and pepper and sprinkle with the fresh thyme.
Griddle the asparagus, turning occasionally until it’s nicely cooked — about 5 minutes. You’ll know when it’s done — it will be nicely soft, with elegant black char lines on it. Remove from the heat and set aside. When it’s cooled a bit, cut it into bite size pieces.
Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy based pan and sauté the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes until they soften slightly. Add the rice and stir until all the rice is evenly coated in oil. Add the vermouth and keep stirring. Add the stock a ladle full at a time. Stir, stir, stir. Have a sip of wine. Stir and add stock as needed. You want to end up with a creamy risotto which still has a little bite left in the rice. It should take about 20 minutes, but keep checking. All batches of rice are different.
When you are happy with the rice, add the lemon juice, lemon zest, asparagus, parmesan and parsley. Stir together, and add the salt and pepper to taste.
Serve garnished with a little extra parsley and some parmesan on the side for folks to add. Add a green salad and a glass of crisp, grassy Tocai Friulano, and you have a perfect supper.