Chef Sarah Fioroni, from Fattoria Poggio Alloro (Laurel Hill Farm) in Italy, showed us how to make this saffron risotto during her Flower Show culinary demonstration, sponsored by Organic Gardening. Subtly flavored and full of fresh vegetables, this dish is straight from her family’s organic farm/resort in the Tuscan hills.
Saffron Risotto with Spring Vegetables
Makes 8 servings
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup diced red onion
2 cups diced zucchini
2 cups sliced fresh asparagus spears, woody ends discarded
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups water
4 cups vegetable broth
½ teaspoon saffron
4 cups Arborio rice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed, 14-inch sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is wilted and transparent, about five minutes. Add the zucchini and asparagus, stirring to blend well. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 25 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add ½ cup of water as vegetables are cooking. Combine another one cup of the water with the vegetable broth and saffron in a heavy-bottomed, three-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat until hot, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Stir the rice into the vegetable mixture. Increase heat to medium-high and sauté for one minute, then add 1⁄3 of the vegetable broth mixture. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice absorbs the broth. Add one cup of the water, and stir until it is absorbed. Continue to add broth and water, alternately, cooking and stirring, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid between each addition. When the rice becomes creamy, add the broth and water more sparingly, or the rice will become mushy. Cook until rice is creamy but still al dente, about 25 to 30 minutes total. Stir in the butter and scatter a little Parmesan cheese over the top, if desired. (Don’t add too much of the cheese, or it will overpower the delicious taste of the saffron.)