After all the fat oxtails we pigged out on last night, leftover oxtail soup for lunch (and Mary insisted on making biscuits for breakfast this chilly morning), we were ready for something almost-vegetarian for a light dinner tonight.
My solution: A risotto, meatless except for chicken broth as the cooking medium, featuring a melange of just about everything green I could find in the fridge. It worked out very well, earning a permanent place in the rotation. This procedure looks complicated, but assuming you've mastered the basic risotto technique, it's really not.
Set aside 1 1/2 cups arborio rice. Slice 3 or four garlic cloves very thin.
Chop and place in a bowl: 1/2 sweet onion, 1 large shallot, the white part of 3 scallions, 4 stalks celery, including the tender "heart" portion with leaves, and 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed.
Chop and place in a separate bowl: 1/4 cup each of scallions (green part), basil leaves and Italian flat-leaf parsley, with a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Simmer about 1/2 cup of fresh asparagus spears in 2 cups water with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 smashed garlic cloves for five minutes. Drain (reserving water and discarding garlic) and cut the spears into 1/2-inch lengths. Set aside.
Measure out and set aside 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter.
Bring to the simmer 4 cups of rich chicken broth.
In a large, heavy saucepan over a high flame, heat 1 tablespoon good olive oil until it's very hot, then sautee the sliced garlic until it starts to brown. Add the onion, shallot, scallion, celery and jalapeno mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are soft. (Add a little water if necessary to keep the vegs from sticking). Stir in the arborio rice and continue stirring until it's warm.
Reduce heat to medium. Add 1 cup chicken broth and stir, following the basic procedure for risotto, adding a little bit of liquid at a time, stirring constantly, adding more liquid as it reduces. Add liquid 1/2 cup at a time, alternating between chicken broth and the reserved asparagus liquid. After about 15 minutes, when the rice starts to soften, stir in the reserved asparagus pieces, and continue as above. After about 25 minutes, the rice should be almost done, soft but al dente, surrounded with a creamy liquid. As the last addition of liquid reduces, stir in the chopped green scallions, parsley and basil, then turn off heat and stir in butter and cheese. Check for seasoning, and serve.
All the green vegetables and the cheese made this a great match for a rich, somewhat oaky California Sauvignon Blanc, which offered just enough of a green herbaceous quality to play nicely off the asparagus and celery.