Palate: zesty vegan risotto

| 06 Mar 2012 | 03:45

I can’t claim it was the moral high ground that got me off meat. No, my own journey towards a plant based, conscious diet began at age seven, with an unforgettable outing to the Kingsbridge, Bronx neighborhood delicatessen with my grandpa.

Number 15’s order: “a halfa pound of tongue please.” Coming face to face with that formidable elongated, bristly stump. That terrifying organ would play the leading role in ensuing nightmares: raging bovines, tongues in hand chasing me mercilessly through Poe Park. It was enough, in due course, to turn me vegetarian.

Old habits die hard, of course – and in fact, 10 years of haunting farmers markets and experimenting in the kitchen have taught me that they don’t have to die at all. Eating more consciously doesn’t have to mean giving up your favorite comfort food. I can imitate just about all my grandmother’s familiar recipes with the artful use of fresh herbs, spices, local produce, a dash of lemon.

Exhibit A: a satisfying but light risotto.

Asparagus, Shitake Mushroom, Quinoa Risotto

Start to Finish 30 minutes Vegan

Serves 3 to 4 Ingredients ½ pound asparagus

2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons Earth Balance Margarine

6 ounce shitake mushrooms, sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly milled pepper

1/3 cup finely minced shallot

1 cup quinoa ½ cup white wine

3 cups homemade vegetable stock, heated

1 teaspoon lemon zest 1/8 cup chopped parsley

Method Blanch asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces and set aside.

In a small skillet heat 1 tablespoon each of Earth Balance and olive oil.

Add the mushrooms and sauté until browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper, turn off the heat and set aside.

Heat the remaining Earth Balance and olive oil in a large skillet. Add the shallots and cook on medium heat to soften. Add the quinoa, stir to coat and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer until completely absorbed. Add 1 cup of stock, cover and simmer until absorbed.

Uncover and begin adding stock ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly until each addition is absorbed. About halfway through, add the mushrooms and asparagus. When the quinoa is nearly finished cooking, stir in the lemon zest, parsley and season with salt and pepper.