Wildflowers, Easter, asparagus — and primavera — oh my!


Though there may still be a chill in the air and possible snow in the forecast, signs of spring are showing up all around here in Caviano, in southern Switzerland near the Italian border.

Little wild flowers are popping ou

Risotto primavera

1 cup Arborio rice

1 cup white wine

3 cups chicken broth

2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ shallot, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup carrots, small diced

1-2 cups asparagus, chopped

½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Handful fresh basil, chopped

Salt and pepper

Combine olive oil and butter in saucepan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and shallot. Sauté until fragrant. Add the rice and toast a bit. Add wine and stir.Once the rice has absorbed the wine, add the carrots and begin adding the broth a cup at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid. Continue stirring.Once you have added 2 cups of broth, add the asparagus. Add the last cup of broth, and taste. The rice should be soft, with just a slight bite to it. If it’s too al dente, add ½ a cup of broth and allow to absorb. The rice should be soft and creamy by now. Remove the rice from the heat. Add cheese and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well and serve immediately.

t white, yellow and blue along sidewalks and in fields overlooking Lago Maggiore.

Brightly colored foil-wrapped Easter candies can be found in shops and markets, and one of my favorite spring vegetables — asparagus — has made its premier debut.

Though I am thousands of miles from home visiting family in the shadow of the Swiss Alps, the signs are similar to what’s in Walla Walla. The words used maybe different, but the symbols are the same. Fiori is flowers, Pasqua is Easter and asparagi is asparagus.

All mean spring is on its way.

While pondering the content of this article, I browsed my Walla Walla connections and see that the Edwards family farm now has local asparagus available.

Michael and Rachel Kline of the Walla Walla Bread Company ventured out and picked their own first asparagus of the season. How lucky the Valley is to have such wonderful opportunities!

Asparagus is delicious not only made into risotto, but also pureed in soup, blanched and served with butter and lemon, grilled, baked with parmesan and olive oil, or even eaten raw. I like to shave the spears into thin raw ribbons, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. It’s spectacular!

Last year, Damon Burke of Salumiere Cesario on Main Street in Walla Walla suggested we start a festival for asparagus, like we do for the onion. What a wonderful idea. Our delicious amazing produce should be highlighted.

Though the idea may not soon come to fruition, we can each do our part and support our local farmers still growing asparagus by buying local and eating lots of it while it’s still available in the short growing window.

This week I am cooking for my Swiss-Italian family a traditional spring dish: risotto primavera.

Bright and fresh, with carrots, asparagus and basil, it makes a lovely accompaniment to baked whole white fish, bought from a local fisherman caught fresh today.

He calls the fish corégone, and though I am not able to find the American equivalent in my translator, I think trout would be a good substitute.

Enjoy! Salut!

Walla Walla chef and nutritionist Melissa Davis and her family are traveling in Europe, backpacking, cooking and working on organic farms. Their adventure can be followed at www.freerangeadventures.wordpress.com


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