In my garden I still have collards, Swiss chard, kale, red Romaine lettuce and Chinese cabbage.

I have the tomatoes, squash, eggplant, okra and peppers planted and still have beans, dill, corn and basil to go-maybe this afternoon! The star, right now is asparagus. I plant purple passion asparagus and am rewarded each year with loads of plump, juicy spears from the middle of April until the first of June. Needless to say, I am always looking for a recipe to use it and recently found one I want to share with you. If you don’t have your own asparagus bed, it is in season now and inexpensive in the stores.
Risotto hails from Italy and is made with short grain Arborio rice. This is a hands-on dish that requires watching and stirring and it can have all sorts of additions. It is well worth the effort as it yields a creamy dish that you can’t get your fill of. When I cooked for a wealthy family in Ireland, risotto was frequently on the menu as a starter dish. The deal was everyone had to be seated at the table to be served as soon as it came off the stove. This is not a dish that holds over or is good warmed in the microwave. Eat it as soon as it is done and eat all of it-not a problem!
Since asparagus is plentiful now and since I have leftover ham from Easter, I have substituted ham for prosciutto but you can take your pick. And this does not have to be a starter course. You can use it as a side dish or a main dish if your family doesn’t mind not having tons of meat on the table. Salad is wonderful as a crisp addition to a meal where risotto is the star.

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 cup minced, cooked ham or 3 oz. prosciutto, diced
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cups dry Arborio rice
1/2 dry white wine
6-7 cups low-sodium chicken broth, warmed
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss the asparagus in the oil, season with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes or until crunchy-tender. Set aside.
Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a saute’ pan over medium heat. (If you are using prosciutto, now is the time to fry until crispy and drain on paper towels. Set aside.) Add rice to the saute’ pan and cook until each grain of rice is coated in oil and transparent. This should take about 3 minutes. Stir in wine and cook until absorbed. Add 1 cup broth, stir until all the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth in 1-cup increments, cooking until it’s absorbed before adding the next addition and until the risotto is done. (If you like it al dente, you may stop when it reaches that stage. I am too much of a country woman to like crunchy rice!) When rice is done, gently stir in the ham, remaining butter, asparagus and Parmesan. (If you are using prosciutto, top the dish with it. Do not stir in as it will become soggy.) Serve immediately, preferably in warmed bowls. Pass more Parmesan if you wish. (Makes about 8 cups)

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