Crafted by southeastern Australia's Casella Wines, each Lucky Penny offering is a blend of three grape varietals. First on my radar is the Lucky Penny White made from 65% Chardonnay, 20% Viognier, and 15% Pinot Grigio. This combination denotes the flavours of pear and honey with a touch of apricot. The blend achieves the perfect balance of crisp, fresh fruit flavour with a creamy well rounded mouth feel. Approachable, unpretentious and bursting with flavour, the company invites you to discover Lucky Penny, which is a thoroughly enjoyable wine experience.
This young and unique white blend inspired me to create one of my favourite comforting Spring dishes. This was the perfect opportunity to incorporate some of the Australian wine I was lucky enough to receive both as an important ingredient and as an accompaniment. What's my Spring comfort food you ask? That Italian classic...risotto. Italy's most famous rice dish, is enjoyed the world over. It's utterly delicious and nutritious, versatile and economical and the best part it can be prepared in only 20 minutes. Making a good risotto is rather like riding a bicycle. It takes a little bit of practice to begin with, and a certain amount of concentration thereafter. Risottos are very sensitive to timing, so there is nothing better than one made in your home kitchen. The dish is simple to prepare so there is no need to be intimidated by this classic dish.
To make my infamous Spring risotto come alive you require a triad of essential ingredients....fiddleheads, asparagus and Spring leeks. After a morning to trip to one of our local farmers markets I was inspired to rework my old standby recipe not only by using the Lucky Penny wines in the preparation of the dish but by incorporating a "new-to-me ingredient" I came across that would replace the usual leeks and garlic in my risotto with young garlic. Garlic may be available year-round, but the season for young garlic is terribly short, only a few weeks in spring and early summer. I was charmed by this garlic nipped before it has reached adulthood and conveying spring in all its senses. Young garlic looks exactly like scallions but has a sweet, fresh garlic taste and a juiciness you always guessed garlic must possess at some point in its development. The moment I arrived home I sliced them, stalk and all, and scattered them raw over a salad of locally grown butter lettuce. This is the taste of Spring!
My next find was fiddlehead ferns so young and new that they haven't yet "unfurled" and opened their leaves. Their end is still curled in a tight spiral, ready to unroll as the sun warms them and they gather strength and size. This spiral shape reminds many people of the end of a violin, hence the name "Fiddlehead." The flavour? It has been described as similar to green beans with a hint of artichoke. But descriptions do not begin to capture the flavour. You must try them to know the wonderful flavour and delightful crunch and snap of fiddleheads. A word of warning though fiddlehead ferns have a toxin that can cause stomach aches when eaten raw. This recipe lightly cooks them, leaving them with a toothsome crunch. The health department recommends cooking them for longer (10 to 15 minutes); but I have never had a problem eating them lightly sauteed, but those without an iron stomach may wish to add the fiddleheads earlier in the risotto process.
Of course asparagus to me is the first true sign of Spring and plays a key role in the success of my infamous Spring risotto. We are blessed here in the valley to have many local producers of this member of the lily family. Did you know that asparagus was first cultivated about 2500 years ago in Greece? The name is a Greek word, meaning stalk or shoot. Asparagus is available year round but it’s peak season runs from February through June. Thus, it is one of the earliest harbingers of Spring and an indispensable commodity
in my Spring menus.
With wine from Australia, fiddleheads foraged from the forest floors of British Colmbia, local asparagus from the valley and recipe and rice from Italy this risotto is definitely a celebration of the world over. Raise a glass of Lucky Penny wine and enjoy rich and generous aromas and flavours with a touch of luck!
**Spring Lemon Risotto with Asparagus, Fiddlehead Ferns and Young Garlic**
recipe from the More Than Burnt Toast Kitchen
- 1 1/2 cups fiddlehead ferns
- 1 1/2 cups asparagus tips
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large young garlic washed well and sliced thinly(If young garlic is not available you can use leeks and add 1 clove minced garlic)
- 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- approximately 5 1/2 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock
- zest of 1 large lemon
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2. Blanch both the asparagus and fiddlehead ferns for about 2 minutes, until bright green, then plunge into the ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
3. Bring the broth to a simmer, then cover and keep warm over medium-low heat.
4. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the sliced young garlic, and saute until tender and almost translucent -- about 5 minutes.
5. Add rice, and stir until grains are translucent at their edges but still opaque in the center, about 3 minutes. Add wine, and stir until liquid is almost completely absorbed. Add the warm stock one cup at a time, stirring until rice has absorbed nearly all of the liquid before adding the next cup.
6. When rice is almost done, which takes about 15 minutes, stir in the blanched and drained vegetables and the lemon zest. Stir in the last 1/2 cup of stock, then add the cheese and remaining butter.
7. The final product should be creamy and tender, and the vegetables cooked but with an existing crunch. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6
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