I was meal planning for the week and was looking for main courses when I came across an asparagus and fennel soup. Now, you might say…where is the fennel? Well, I saw this soup but figured it wasn’t prime season for asparagus, leeks, or fennel right now so I would wait. While I was at the grocery store I actually saw some good looking asparagus. When I went to cook it that night, I decided to look back at the soup recipe. I missed most of the key ingredients but decided to do my own version. It ended up so good that all of us loved it. Even the Chiplet kept asking for more, pointing at that bowl over his meat (his usual favorite part of a meal).
This is actually from the meal we had for Easter. I decided since we would be staying in to make a more complicated dinner. It ended up being really tasty and everyone was a fan. I will share the chicken recipe soon. For now, enjoy this risotto with lots of vegetables and warm weather flavors. If you are anxious about the fennel, well, I was, too. I have never cooked with it before, or even bought it before. I was worried it would be a strong flavor that we wouldn’t like, but we all did! On its own I think I would not be a big fan, but in the dish it worked perfectly. As for how to prepare it, read ahead.
I like that this dish is both a starchy course and full of our vegetables all in one. The Fudgelet did well picking up the little pieces to feed himself (he still prefers fingers mostly over utensils).
This was a recipe I partially sketched out ahead of time, and partially did in the moment. It was a nice, light dish that was filling but perfect for a warm day. If you don’t have asparagus, you could swap in a different vegetable such as broccoli. I would recommend steaming the broccoli first, then adding it in near the end.
One of my goals for this second year of blogging was for more side dishes. This dish can be a side dish, but it can also be a main course because the whole grain farro is quite filling and good as a main course (the eggs don’t hurt, either!). I got the main recipe from my grains class, and I made a few changes to better suit our palates. You can use quinoa or another grain in place of farro, but you would cook the grain differently in the first step. For the asparagus, you can swap in a different vegetable to go with whatever is in season at your grocery store. We are just finishing asparagus season, so I could use it, but you could easily use spinach, broccoli, or something else. We added parmesan in class, and I did for the first time I made this at home, but not since. It doesn’t work as well with the lightness of everything else. (And this is coming from a cheese-lover.)
I have had asparagus many ways. My dad was always great at grilling it, but we don’t have proper space to have a grill at our house, so we are stuck finding indoor methods. There is always steaming, but for some reason it had been failing us recently. Growing up, veggies for dinner included steaming them with our fancy electric steamer, frozen bags (usually the steamer ones) of veggies, salads, roasted veggies when we had roast chicken, and the occasional one-off dish like our “Spinach Hilda” (recipe maybe to come in the future–it was passed down from my great-grandmother, Hilda).
Anyway, if it is not one of the above recipes, or one that I find, I don’t really have much else to choose from. My husband is fairly picky about veggies and variety, so I typically let him handle it. He is usually a master steamer, but the asparagus hadn’t been coming out crunchy enough lately, so I was excited to find a new easy way to cook asparagus that allowed for crisp stalks. This comes from an America’s Test Kitchen technique. I was doubtful that it would work because I was worried it would dry out the asparagus or make them greasy, but not at all!