Spring Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto

Spring is in the air… and on the shelves at the Calgary Farmers’ Market! May is the month for greens, fiddleheads, peppers, rhubarb, zucchini, greenhouse crops… and of course – asparagus!

We thought we would highlight this spring favourite in a simple risotto dish. You can always leave the mushrooms out if they’re not your favourite, or substitute another seasonal veggie in their place.

Risotto1Market Sourced Ingredients:

3 tbsp good olive oil from Soffritto

1 cup arborio rice from La Cucina

4 small shallots, diced from Cherry Pit

1 clove garlic, minced from Cherry Pit

10 oz mushrooms, sliced (whatever kind you like!) from Blush Lane

1/2 lb asparagus spears, cut into 2 inch pieces from Innisfail Growers

Freshly grated parmesan from Fresh DELIcious

1 tsp lemon zest from Blush Lane

Other Ingredients:

1 ½ tbsp butter

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

½ cup white wine

handful chopped chives

Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

This recipe requires a little bit of separate prep for the main ingredients, but then it all comes together in one pot for the grand finale!

Risotto2First, you’ll need to heat the stock up in a small pot. Once hot, turn the heat off and set the stock aside until needed. I used a nice homemade chicken stock from my freezer, but you can always pick up delicious stock from the Stock and Sauce Co. at the market!

While the stock is warming, heat a pan with half the olive oil and sauté the mushrooms. Get the mushrooms nice and brown and delicious, and then remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat the remainder of the olive oil in a large pot, add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the rice and allow to toast slightly. Now you can add your minced garlic and cook for 1 minutes. At this point, add the wine and give everything a good stir until the liquid is almost entirely evaporated.

The key to a good risotto is to add liquid gradually, and keep cooking it down before you add more. So start with about 1 cup of hot stock, add it to the mixture, reduce the heat and stir. Continue to stir every couple of minutes while it reduces. Add more stock as needed, about a cup at a time. The rice will absorb all the delicious stock as you go and develop that signature creamy texture that risotto is known for.

While you’re waiting and stirring, chop the asparagus into bite sized pieces, grate the parmesan, and zest the lemon. Set everything aside until needed.

Risotto4When you’ve added all the stock, and there is still some liquid in the pot, add the asparagus pieces so they have time to cook. Once the asparagus and the rice are cooked to your liking (add a bit of water if you run out of stock), add the cooked mushrooms, chives, lemon zest, butter and parmesan and fold in to the mixture. All that’s left to do now is to season the risotto with salt and pepper as required.

This asparagus mushroom risotto could be served as a side dish, but it’s perfect on its own as well. The asparagus season is short, so get your fill while you still can at the Calgary Farmers’ Market!

Simple Asparagus Soup

It’s that wonderful time of year when fresh, local produce really starts rolling in at the market! One of the most anticipated seasonal ingredients making an appearance right now is Edgar Farms‘ asparagus (available at Innisfail Growers).

Unlike many Alberta grown veggies, asparagus is a perennial plant (meaning that it lives for many years, so does not need to be replanted in the spring). Asparagus can be harvested for only a few short weeks each spring, and picking is always completed by the end of June. This allows the plant to store up nutrients to make it through the winter.  Edgar Farms has created an innovative way to harvest asparagus efficiently. See them in action in this video.

Asparagus can be enjoyed in many ways and while often viewed as a great side or compliment to a meal, asparagus is the star of the show in this simple soup recipe.

Asparagus x2

Market Sourced Ingredients

Serves 6

Simple Asparagus Soup

2 bundles of asparagus from Innisfail Growers

1 medium onion from The Cherry Pit

3 cloves of garlic from The Cherry Pit

6 cups of chicken (or veggie) stock from The Stock and Sauce Co.

Butter or olive oil

Salt and pepper

Optional garnishes:

Parmesan cheese from Fresh DELIcious

OR

Fresh mint from Terra Farms

OR

Fresh lemon & dill

Ingredients

Roughly chop your onions, garlic and asparagus. No need to get fancy since it will all be going into the blender eventually.

Heat up the butter or olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté for about 5 minutes until tender. Add the asparagus and chicken (or veggie) stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until asparagus is cooked. When all ingredients are soft, remove from the stove and puree in a blender (making sure to allow steam to escape through the lid).  When the desired texture has been achieved, pour back into a clean pot and heat through. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Simple as that!

You can enjoy the soup right away or add a simple garnish for some extra flavour. Choose a garnish that you enjoy like mint, lemon and dill, or Parmesan cheese.

Soup x3

My personal favourite was the lemon and dill variation. Just add a splash of fresh squeezed lemon juice and a sprig of dill for an energizing twist. Try the mint if you’re looking for something a little different and refreshing, and you can never go wrong with Parmesan cheese! This soup is super versatile and with slight variations can meet the needs and tastes of everyone in your family.

Don’t forget; local asparagus is only available until the end of June! Enjoy this easy meal before the asparagus is gone. Come down to the Calgary Farmers’ Market to pick up your ingredients today!

Grey Cup Grub

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, even though our local Stampeders weren’t able to pull out a win last weekend, that we’re all pretty excited for the Grey Cup around here.  Call us football fans or food fans or… both!

Whether you’re hosting your friends or heading to a party, you wouldn’t want to fumble on the opening kickoff and show up without food, right?  And with everyone else rushing to the frozen snack aisle like a possessed linebacker… *ahem* we mean flocking to the grocery stores last minute to stand in long lines, we’d like to share some of the incredible (and tasty) things you can find right here in one stop.  Ready?  Huddle up, we’ll be your Grey Cup party quarterback.

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Whether your guests have the appetite of an offensive lineman or punter, who doesn’t like a meatball sub?  With Spragg’s Meat Shop carrying some of the best ready-to-go meatballs around, this is an easy throw-’em-in-the-crockpot and slap-’em-in-a-bun (from Yum Bakery of course) meal for the game.

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Looking for something a little on the lighter side for a delicate wide receiver?  Prawns with cocktail sauce is a huge crowd pleaser and Blu Seafood has some incredible treats from the sea.  In addition to the best tasting prawns we’ve had (in our land-locked region), they also have some excellent crab cakes, salmon burgers, and seafood brochettes that are party-ready with very little prep.

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More of a meat-lover, kill-the-running-back, kind of defensive lineman?  Silver Sage Beef prepares a killer burger (slider and full-sized), they do up a damn good chili, and if you prefer beef in your subs, they also have prepped meatballs.  Not a bad selection.

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And what’s a Canadian party without a Caeser? Edgar Farms (part of Innisfail Growers Co-operative) is famous for their asparagus; we wait, not-so-patiently, for it to arrive on the shelves every June and Elna Edgar makes some mean pickles.  What’s better than a spear of pickled asparagus poking out of the signature drink Canadians love so much?  Nothin’.

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We know not everyone who has ever dawned shoulder pads and a helmet is a big ol’ meat lover, so why not offer them a lighter, equally delicious option?  Kin Sushi has a great selection of ready-made combos and they take larger orders for platter.  They also make a killer miso soup to warm everyone up.

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While we’re talking about healthy alternatives to your Grey Cup party, Cherry Pit has an impressive, and tasty, selection of ready-made salads, roasting vegetables, and made-to-order platters that will suit just about anyone’s dietary preferences or restrictions.

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You may be hosting friends and family in your home for the big game, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some great bar-style snacks at their fingertips.  Going Nuts has a massive selection of nuts of all kinds and flavors that will keep them coming back for more.

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We’re not sure we’ve ever been to a party of any kind that doesn’t have at least one dip as part of the snack/appetizer buffet.  The Stock & Sauce Co. has a vast and varied selection of dips from pâté  to pesto, tapenade to tasty dips, even a chocolate mousse that’s incredible on strawberries, these certainly won’t disappoint your guests.

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If you want a more traditional party spread, nachos or as mainstay as you can get when it comes to sporting events.  Los Chilitos Taqueria makes salsa and chips fresh daily and are quite addictive if we do say so ourselves.

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We’re on a dip roll, we’re not stopping now!  2 Greek Gals has you covered for bruschetta, antipasto, traditional Greek fare like melitzanosalata and tzatziki and some pretty martini-perfect olives for the women that are watching the game with the men.

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Martinis for the women, wings for the men?  Not a bad trade.  Wild Fire Wings has an extensive menu of hot-to-take-home or take-and-bake wings from the common buffalo to the not-so-common dill pickle or garlic & parm.  They use organic Sunworks Farms chicken and they have a buy 3lbs, get 1lb free deal.  Say wha?!  Touchdown!

Meat & Cheese Collage

If you’re hosting a slightly more sophisticated crowd that prefers wine and cheese with their long bombs and 50 yards running plays, Fresh DELIcious offers a selection of import and local cheese and meat that could give any large deli a run for its money.  And they often have Thursday deals, so don’t count them out of your Grey Cup shopping.

Vegan_Citrus_Spare_RIbs[1]

And while we’re challenging you not to leave any market stone unturned… we think you should try to slip in these vegan spare ribs from Hearts Choices.  Lighter than a full meat platter, and just as tasty, we think most people would be hard pressed to point out the vegan option in your party spread.

So there you have it!  A dozen quick and easy, one-stop shopping pick ups right here at the market and a drink garnish too!  So whaddya say?  Skip the long grocery lines and visit our vendors for a Grey Cup party that’s unlike all the rest.