And here, my friends, is where my life comes full circle.
If you can believe it...everything I've ever done, stood for, studied, devoted myself to. Is embodied in this dish.
I was destined for medicine, became entranced with food, and ended up here at the crossroads. Not knowing what to answer when someone asks me, "So, what do you think you're going to go into?"
Them referring to wide array of medical specialties.
Me thinking in terms of butter and flour and sugar and kale.
Debating whether or not to answer with "professional cake batter taster!!", which is my one true ambition in life. (By which I mean, um. Caterer.) Or to just go the predictable route. Ah, yes. Emergency medicine. That's something people can nod their heads approvingly at.
As it turns out, I don't have to choose. And I owe that realization all to the delicious green herbalicious slurry below.
In Bengali, it refers to a seasoning of spices and/or herbs (in this case) that has been tempered in ghee or oil or butter (or both) and is then added the end of cooking to a curry or dal or sambar. (Or, um, risotto, if you are an Italian girl who truly believes she was Indian in a previous life.)
In hospitals, doctor's offices, and pharmacies worldwide, it is an antihypertensive medication.
Now if one measly five letter, two syllable word can contain within it two such disparate meanings while still turning out to be SO. DELICIOUS.
...why can't I?
I'm still not going to know what to say when people ask, but it's clear now that I don't have to choose.
Thanks, risotto. I owe ya one.
Eat big bowls of green.
And not sweat it.
Which is not the same as "not sweating". Because sweating is something I wholeheartedly recommend, for at least forty-five minutes. Every day. Ever and anon.
This is life. There are going to be challenges. But we. You. I. Are going to overcome them. And that's part of the fun. Right?
Asparagus and Green Pea Risotto with Fresh Herb Tarka
Serves 6, adapted from Masala Farm
- For the Tarka
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp finely chopped fresh chives
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 lb asparagus
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 3 leeks, white and light green parts sliced thinly
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 10 oz fresh or frozen green peas
For the Risotto
- To make the tarka: Melt the butter in a medium small frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, basil, rosemary, chives, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- To make the risotto: Cut off the dead ends of the asparagus and put them in a large soup pot, along with 12 cups of water. Add 1 tsp salt and the 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the broth is fragrant, about 25 minutes. Strain the broth into a clean pot. Place back on the stove and cover to keep warm.
- Slice the trimmed asparagus spears on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces, leaving the tips whole, and place both in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp freshly ground pepper and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the onion, leeks and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook until they are softened, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the grains are opaque, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add 1 cup of the broth. Cook the risotto, stirring constantly, until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Add another cup and repeat. The rice will probably require about 2 minutes of cooking between each addition.
- Once 5 cups of liquid have been added to the risotto, ad in the asparagus, peas and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Keep adding broth as previously described. The risotto is done when the rice is creamy (NOT MUSHY!), the grains are plump yet separate, and the rice is al dente. This should take another 3-5 additions of broth. Turn off the heat. Add the tarka and 2 tbsp risotto. Stir to combine. Season with salt to taste. Serve garnished with basil and parmigiano-reggiano.