Miraculous Rice-less Risotto with Ramps and Asparagus

asparagusrisotto

I had no sooner returned to Denmark from Kauai, than had to turn right around, head to the airport and get on a plane to the Netherlands. Last weekend I was teaching my Green Goodness cooking classes in Amsterdam to celebrate spring and all verdant edibles. The icing on the cake was being invited by chef Schilo van Coevorden at the Conservatorium Hotel to collaborate on a tasting menu for his restaurant, Tunes. After working together in his spectacular kitchen, we came up with three dishes that would comprise the backbone for the tasting menu, as well as the meal served at the official launch and press event.

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My favorite dish of all was a rice-less risotto. Chef Schilo is very much into taking seasonal vegetables and making “rice” out of them, simply by cutting them into grain-sized pieces. I had done this before at my raw food restaurant, but I had never tried cooking it before. Intrigued, we set out to make rice from white asparagus with a green sauce from blanched green asparagus and nettle. Combined with caramelized shallots, olive oil and some sheep’s milk cheese, it was a creative, light take on one of my favorite comfort foods.

Since I have an undying passion for wild leeks, also known as ramps, I chose to use those instead of the nettles in my version of the sauce. Ramps are popping up all throughout the forest floor here in Denmark, so they are an in-season treat that I love to forage for. Because they are from the leek family, ramps have an unmistakable allium flavour – stronger than cultivated leeks, but milder than garlic. You can use the whole part of the plant, but I like using just the leaves (easier to harvest!) in pesto, chopped up into salads, or folded into eggs. In this recipe, use just the leaves and save the little white bulbs for grilling, or use in place of onions or shallots in cooked dishes.

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The Power of Spring Foods
This time of year we are entering new nutrient territory! That means fresh, seasonal foods with a whole host of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that we haven’t been exposed to over the long winter months.

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Ramps contain quercetin, a plant pigment (flavanoid) that not-so-coincidentally helps combat seasonal allergies. It also acts as a powerful anti-oxidant, combating damaging free radicals that cause disease. Quercetin is anti-inflammatory, so it particularly helpful for arthritis and asthma sufferers. For anyone wishing to improve heart health and prevent atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and circulation problems, include quercetin-containing foods in your diet (including onions, cruciferous vegetables, berries, and many nuts and seeds).

Asparagus, both white and green varieties, contain vitamin K. This family of chemically related substances collectively allows your blood to clot normally, protects your bones from fracture and postmenopausal bone loss, helps prevent calcification of the arteries, and provides possible protection against liver and prostate cancer. Research continues to evaluate the possibilities of vitamin K’s role in protecting against oxidative damage, regulating the body’s inflammatory response, and how it supports the brain and nervous system.

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62 comments

  1. Anouk

    I just made this for the first time with vegan parmezan cheese made of nutritional yeast and cashews. It was FANTASTIC! What a great recipe! Will definately be making this more often while asparages are in season. A big thank you for the inspiration!

  2. Alison

    Is there something I could use as a substitute for cheese? Maybe a cashew cheese? This looks delicious but I am not currently eating dairy.
    Thanks!

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  11. Sonia

    Just made a modified version with swede (as I couldn’t source white asparagus) and also added sicilian green olives. It was a hit with the fam, as were your brownies, so a massive thank you!

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  13. Iren

    Oh, that looks fantastic! Could I also do a riceless saffron risotto? Hmm, but I will try it out tomorrow, sounds delicious!
    Love from Iren, who just made a raw chocolate bar for the first time…

  14. Erin Rose Stout

    I bought a sweet little green onion shredder in Japan last month. It has four sharp blades on a handle. I’m sure it would be the perfect tool to slice the asparagus into long strips. I’ll try it, maybe you will have to plan a Japan trip!

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  21. GL

    Hi, I really want to try this recipe, however cannot find white asparagus anywhere! Could it work with green asparagus for the “rice”? I know it won’t look the same, but I’ve never had white asparagus so not sure if it’ll taste completely different to what it’s supposed to.

  22. kw

    Sarah

    I have been trying to change over my pantry to more grains and seeds. I have lots of moths in our kitchen that I am trying to keep out of our food. Could you please tell me where you got your glassware that you keep grains in. I was watching your perfect quinoa video and at the beginning you have jars with gentle looking clasps…that the big clunky ones I have seen before. Any thoughts? Thanks and I love your blog posts.
    kw

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  24. anna

    it is probably delicious. Still, you can’t call it risotto without rice. Risotto means rice in Italian so it virtually has no meaning. It’s like saying pasta without pasta, apple pie without apples, potato chips without potatoes and so on.

  25. Thess - greenattraction.net

    Wow, what a dish! This looks sooo good!! I do believe I have never tried ramps before, and I love to try out new things, so this inspired me a lot! Rice-free risotto is such a good idea! Oh, and I have to say you look so beautiful in that picture 🙂

  26. Jasmin

    that sounds divine! i go and collect the ramps (we call it Bärlauch, which translates to “bear leek”) in the nearby forrest. the only thing you got to be careful about is to not mistake them for lilies of the valley, because they’re leaves look very much alike and they are poisonous. but i think they wouldn’t smell that “garlicky”, does someone know?

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  28. Chantelle@themarketbasket

    Love the sound of this, I’ve never seen ramps here in Australia and white asparagus like what you’ve featured are also very rare. I love the idea behind it all though and look forward to substituting with other vegetables for a healthy alternative to risotto. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Sasha

    Another gorgeous recipe Sarah (with photos to boot)!

    As a fellow Canadian living in Europe, I’ve been trying to wrap my head over whether or not wild garlic is the same as wild leeks. Germans are obsessed with Bärlauch which translates into English as wild garlic or bear’s garlic. I’m afraid that I left Canada before everyone went wild over ramps (wild leeks) and so I couldn’t put my taste buds’ memory to the test. However, after a little research I learned that the two are actually different species.

    Wild garlic is Allium tricoccum and wild leeks are allium ursinum. Their leaves are nearly identical, but the two have different coloured stems with the former having white stems (like in your photos) and the latter having a purple/pink hued stem. You are much more knowledgeable about edible plants than I am so let me know if this rings true!

  30. Hannah

    This looks lovely and I’ve recently heard (UK folk) that white asparagus is being cultivated in Herefordshire and will be available in supermarkets for the first time this year!
    Have you got any recommendations for a salty-creamy alternative to the cheese for vegan cooks?

  31. The Travelling Chopsticks

    Recently I have embarked on a low carb diet – to see if this is something for me. Last week I made rice out of cauliflower and was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed the results! Risotto is my absolute comfort food, and although I do not think I can get my hands on ramp or white asparagus here in Mexico – you have definitely encourage me to be more adventurous with what vegies can be ‘riced’! Thank you 🙂

  32. Nina

    Oh, you call that “wild leeks”? Here in the UK it’s known as wild garlic, and if anyone can’t find it in the woods near them, Riverford sometimes have it for delivery with their veg boxes. Delicious stuff, and this recipe looks wonderful – white asparagus is a bit hard to come by here, though.

  33. Meg

    Wow, this looks and sounds incredible. It’s winter hear in Australia, I wonder if it will work as well with cauliflower and broccoli? Any other winter veg substitutions would be greatly appreciated!

  34. Kristina

    Genius! Asparagus with asparagus on top – my favourite vegetables! I have no fear of an overdose when it comes to these beauties, I could even eat them for breakfast…

  35. Anne

    Ooh, I adore asparagus. It’s impossible to find white asparagus here in the States (Americans just don’t “get” it, I guess) so I’ll have to find a substitute… any suggestions? I’m leaning towards parsnip.

  36. Sophia

    I love the sound of this – I have been experimenting with rice-less risottos quite a bit (to have something lighter to eat on still-cold spring evenings) – the two most successful recipes so far were a chickpea risotto and a cannelini bean risotto. Both the chickpeas and the beans tasted wonderful after being prepared the same way as a traditional risotto but I have yet to make a risotto using your technique of cutting a vegetable into grain-sized chunks – very intriguing (and the photos look delicious!).

  37. A tasty love story

    Oh my, this is absolutely brillant! I love that you’ve made a riceless risotto with a new vegetable, one I never would have imagined using! It is different and dashling – definitely need to try this, and luckily I have a forrest completely stuffed with rams, right in my back yard!!

  38. Valerie {all mussed up}

    Much to the chagrin of my Dutch friends I’m still a white asparagus virgin, but this tricksy preparation looks like a lot of fun. I am a bit surprised, though…I would have expected an orange-hued dish for the coronation of our new king last week! (:

  39. alua

    Just lovely.

    Sadly white asparagus is nearly impossible to get hold of here in London – no one grows it (I work for the farmers’ market so I’ve inquired widely). I did once see it a local deli, imported from France. Will have to check if they’ve got it again, because I would love to give this recipe a try.

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