Every spring, the main vegetable I look forward to buying at the farmers market is asparagus. On the opening day of the Woodstock Farmers Market, I wandered from stall to stall, smelling the freshly baked bread and tasting homemade coconut granola. As I came to the stalls selling their first spring harvest, I bypassed the rhubarb (although I later went back and bought some) and immediately zeroed-in on those crisp green and purple stalks of asparagus.
Here in northwestern Illinois, early May still feels like winter, with a chance of frost and lows in the 30s at night. Colorful tulips just start to bloom, their stems somehow breaking through the still frozen earth, and white flower buds appear on the trees. As the grass transforms from brown to green, people across the state open their windows and sweep out the last vestiges of winter.
These signs give me hope that winter is over, but I am not convinced until I see the first fresh stalks of asparagus at the farmers market. Bringing them home that day was a small joy, and I knew that I wanted to create a fresh, bright dish that highlighted this iconic spring vegetable.
That evening, as I poured a glass of chilled pinot grigio, I gathered together my inspiration – asparagus, fresh from the farmers market, dandelion greens (although any green will do), garlic, and lemon. I happily stirred the risotto, sipping the wine and watching the rice slowly transform into this magnificently creamy dish. Sprinkling in the nutritional yeast (for a slight cheesy flavor) and sunflower seeds (for a little crunch), I knew that this risotto with asparagus and dandelion greens was the perfect dish for a warm spring evening.