Do opposites attract in the kitchen the way they do in life? Based on the way asparagus—fresh, crunchy, and green—and mushrooms—earthy, woodsy, and soft—get on in this risotto, you’d have to answer yes. These two ingredients complement each other naturally, without calling attention to their union. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but every mouthful is a study in perfect balance, and I haven’t even mentioned the creamy rice yet.
Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces white button mushrooms, very thinly sliced
¹⁄8 teaspoon coarse salt
6 spears jumbo asparagus, ends trimmed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ medium-size Spanish onion, minced
²⁄³ cup risotto rice (see facing page)
¼ cup dry white wine
About 3 cups store-bought low-sodium chicken broth, simmering in a pot on a back burner
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the mushrooms and scatter the salt over them. Arrange the mushroom slices on a rimmed baking sheet without crowding and bake until slightly shriveled and darkened around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate and carefully pour off any liquid on the baking sheet into a small bowl and set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Cook the asparagus in the boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes.
4. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water. Use tongs to remove the asparagus from the pot and transfer it to the ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the color. Once the asparagus has cooled, drain it and cut it into 1-inch, diagonal pieces. Set the asparagus aside.
5. Melt the butter in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the rice, stir to coat it with butter and oil, and cook for about 4 minutes. Add the white wine, bring it to a boil, and cook, stirring, until it evaporates nearly completely.
6. Ladle 1 cup of simmering chicken broth into the pot with the rice and cook, stirring, until it is nearly absorbed. Add the reserved mushroom liquid, if any, to the rice and stir. Continue to add broth in ½-cup increments, stirring the rice constantly. When you are down to the last cup or so, add the broth in smaller increments until the rice is softened but still a bit al dente (you may not need all of the broth or you may need to supplement it with more broth or water). This step should take about 18 minutes altogether.
7. Gently stir the asparagus, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, and chives into the risotto. Divide the risotto among 6 dinner plates or wide, shallow bowls and serve.
Variations and suggestions: To add another counterpoint of texture and flavor, scatter 1 tablespoon of toasted pine nuts over each serving of risotto.
Garlic-roasted Pork Loin with Salsa Verde
This vaguely Latin dish features slow-roasted pork that’s been larded with garlic. As the meat cooks, the garlic “melts” and transmits its flavor throughout the loin. The result is a succulent, aromatic meat achieved with very little work. The slightly spicy salsa verde, made with cilantro, serrano pepper, and lemon juice, is the perfect complement for the intensity of the pork. If you have leftovers, very thin slices make one of the best sandwiches.
1½ pounds boneless pork loin
4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground
¾ cup Salsa Verde (page 319)
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2. Using the tip of a sharp, thin-bladed knife, make small ½ inch–deep slits all over the pork loin. Using the blade of the knife as a guide, slide a garlic sliver into each slit. Rub the olive oil all over the pork and season it with the salt and pepper.
3. Preheat a roasting pan or large, heavy-bottomed ovenproof skillet in the oven for 10 minutes.
4. Put the pork in the hot roasting pan and roast until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the center of the loin reads 140°F, 35 to 40 minutes. Every 10 minutes or so give the loin a quarter turn to ensure even browning.
5. Transfer the pork to a cutting board, cover it with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve the loin crosswise into 8 slices and put 2 slices on each of 4 dinner plates. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the Salsa Verde over the pork on each plate and serve.
Shrimp shumai are small dumplings that are a mainstay of any dim sum menu. I’ve always loved ordering them in Chinatown, and I also appreciate their ease of preparation at home because the filling does not need to be cooked before the dumplings are assembled.
(Makes 16 dumplings; serves 4)
8 ounces shrimp (about 8 large shrimp), peeled and deveined, coarsely chopped
¼ cup chopped napa cabbage
¼ cup coarsely chopped scallion greens
½ teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon Asian (dark) sesame oil
¼ teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
16 wonton wrappers
1. To make the filling, put the shrimp, cabbage, scallion, garlic, sesame oil, and soy sauce in a bowl and stir together gently.
2. Divide the filling evenly among the wrappers. Dampen your finger with a little water and run it around the edge of the wrapper. Pull the wrapper up over the filling, gathering the edges together, and crimp around the top to seal the edges together neatly and firmly. Repeat with the remaining wrappers.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the shumai in the boiling water until they float, 5 to 6 minutes, or steam them, without crowding, in a bamboo steaming basket set over boiling water, 6 to 8 minutes. Arrange the shumai on a serving platter or plate and serve.
Variations and suggestions:
You can vary the shumai by adding minced cilantro or replacing the shrimp with crumbled turkey sausage.
You can also make summer rolls based on this recipe. To do this you will need four 9-inch round rice paper wrappers. Cut the shrimp into larger pieces and cook them in a tablespoon of olive oil in a large, nonstick pan over medium heat, along with a thinly sliced clove of garlic, just until the shrimp turns firm and pink, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp mixture to a bowl and toss them with the cabbage, scallion, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Stir in ½ teaspoon of distilled white vinegar. Let the filling rest while you prepare the rice wrappers: Fill a large, wide-mouthed bowl with warm water. Working with one wrapper at a time, soak it until soft and pliable. Fill the wrappers and roll them up, tucking in the ends to encase the filling as you roll, and then serve the summer rolls.