All my local grocery stores are selling asparagus now. They’re a great vegetable for anyone on a low sodium diet. Perfect steamed, sautéed in stir fries, and especially tasty when roasted in a bit of olive oil.
A while ago I found a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens magazine for asparagus risotto. Although I’ve always been intrigued by risotto, most recipes call for some sort of wine and/or inordinate amounts of Parmesan cheese. I never use wine in my cooking, and too much Parmesan cheese is a no-no when trying to eat & cook low sodium. The recipe clipping languished in my “To Try” files for almost two years before I finally got around to making it. I’m glad I did because it’s a wonderful dish.
The thing that sets it aside from other risotto recipes is the use of lemon -- both the zest and juice. That little bit of lemon goes a long way toward making the lower sodium version tasty. Here’s the recipe and my notes for making a lower sodium version:
Adapted from Better Homes & Garden
¾ lb. asparagus spears, trimmed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1½ cups sliced leeks
1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups NSA chicken broth
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used just 2-3 tablespoons)
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh parsley (The fresh herb adds a special zing; add more if you like)½ tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1 Tbsp. lemon juice (I used an additional Tbsp.)
¼ tsp. freshly ground course black pepper
Lemon slices (or thin wedges) and Lemon peel
Place asparagus in single layer on baking sheet. Brush or drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil; lightly sprinkle black pepper. (I lined the baking sheet with aluminum foil) Bake uncovered, in 450 degree oven about 10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Cool slightly. Cut two-thirds in 2-inch pieces; set aside all asparagus.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan cook leeks in remaining olive oil until tender. Stir in uncooked rice. Cook and stir over medium heat about 5 minutes or until rice begins to turn golden brown.
In another saucepan bring broth to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer. Carefully stir 1 cup of hot broth into rice mixture. Cook stirring frequently, over medium heat until liquid is absorbed. Then add ½ cup broth at a time, stirring frequently until broth is absorbed before adding more broth (about 22 minutes).
Stir in any remaining broth, cook and stir just until rice is tender and creamy.
Stir in asparagus pieces, cheese, parsley, lemon peel, lemon juice and pepper. Top with reserved asparagus spears, lemon slices, and peel. Each person can use the wedges to add an extra squeeze of lemon juice for even more flavor.
This risotto recipe can easily be adapted to other vegetables. I think green peas would work well, perhaps with a sprinkling of finely chopped mint as a garnish. Also, you could substitute sliced and sauteed mushrooms and/or green onions instead of the leeks. Finely minced garlic would be another great addition. The recipe provides a nice jumping off point for utilizing any fresh vegetable.