Verdant Vegetarian: Risotto Primavera with Snow Peas and Fennel

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Salty Parmesan and a touch of lemon juice set off the sweetness of fennel and snow peas in this spring risotto recipe.
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Sweet fennel, salty Parmesan and tart lemon marry beautifully in this risotto dish.

Risotto Primavera with Snow Peas and Fennel
Serves 6 to 8

Risotto is made with fat-grained arborio rice, which is best cooked with the lid off and frequent stirring. The resulting texture is firm but creamy. In this recipe, the sweetness of fennel and snow peas is set off by salty Parmesan and a touch of lemon juice.

6 cups hot vegetable stock or 5 cups stock and 1 cup dry white wine
1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion or leeks, chopped
1 cup fennel bulb, coarsely chopped
2 cups arborio rice
3/4 pound snow peas
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups Parmesan, freshly grated
1/2 cup fennel sprigs, minced
1/2 cup Italian parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Fresh-ground black pepper

1. Bring the stock to a simmer, reduce the heat, and keep it hot.

2. In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion or leeks and sauté about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped fennel bulb and stir another minute. Add the rice and stir well to coat evenly.

3. Sauté, stirring a few minutes, until the grains turn chalky white. Carefully add about 1/2 cup of the hot stock and stir well. As the rice begins to dry out, add another 1/2 cup of stock, cooking over medium-low heat. Continue this procedure, stirring to prevent the rice from sticking, adding stock in small amounts as necessary.

4. Cut the snow peas diagonally in half; add them and garlic after about 15 minutes. Cook risotto another 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Toward the end of cooking, when the rice is just about done, add salt to taste, then mix in 1 cup of the Parmesan, minced fennel sprigs, parsley, and lemon juice. Continue stirring. (Note: You may not use all the stock, depending on cooking time.)

6. Taste for doneness after 25 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper and the remaining Parmesan. Risotto should be al dente. Serve immediately.

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