Over the weekend, I discovered the delicate flavors of light green asperges sauvages or wild asparagus. I thought I had tried wild asparagus before, but was pleasantly surprised to find something new. (As you may recall, I recently tried cooking white asparagus for the first time too.)
When I initially heard about wild asparagus appearing at our marché, I figured it resembled the thin stalks of asparagus growing on the family farm in Minnesota. However, this petite asparagus looks more like tender, green wheat. While at Migros on Saturday sans mes enfants, I stumbled upon several bunches of wild asparagus while I was bagging up my sweet potatoes. I was already planning on saffron for dinner, and this seemed like an appropriate accompaniment.
Cooking Wild Asparagus
The wild asparagus I bought was grown in France. Unlike the more typical green asparagus I’m familiar with, asperges sauvages is a wildflower grown from bulbs that’s native to the Pyrenees (scientific name: Ornithogalum pyrenaicum).
To prepare the asparagus, I boiled it in shallow water with a little olive oil, lemon juice and salt. It only took about 5 minutes. You want to keep them a little crisp. My sons weren’t huge fans, but I thought it was great. A wonderful springtime treat.
Swiss Saffron Risotto
Saffron grows in the Swiss canton of Valais, and it’s harvested in the fall. I looked for Swiss saffron in the grocery stores and our local markets, but the powdered stuff I’ve been using comes from Iran. (For more info on harvesting saffron in Switzerland, check out this 2008 video from swissinfo.ch.)
And so, my saffron cooking experiments continue… Just last week, I made saffron bread or “Cuchaule.” Then this Saturday I tried saffron risotto—a traditional Ticino dish often served with Luganighe sausage. My husband found Luganighe at a local Italian market here in Suisse-Romande, but the sausage contained lactose, so we had to skip it. Also, while the market didn’t carry Swiss risotto, the clerk sold my husband an Italian risotto he said was even better than the Swiss stuff (but he may have been a little biased…).
For the saffron risotto, I used an easy recipe from my Swiss cookbook and just skipped/replaced the dairy. I served it with my wild asparagus and honey mustard chicken. The streamlined risotto recipe appears below, but if you have a favorite way to prepare risotto, just make it as usual and throw in a pinch of saffron before serving.
Dairy-Free Saffron Risotto
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups risotto
3/4 cup white wine
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
a pinch of saffron (powdered)
salt and pepper
1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender.
2. Stir in risotto and cook for a few minutes until it’s translucent. Then, add wine and cook until completely absorbed.
3. Gradually mix in broth, stirring almost constantly, about 1 cup at a time until completely absorbed.
4. Once the risotto is tender, remove from heat and stir in the saffron, along with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
I’m working on another bread recipe for Friday, this time from Suisse-Romande. As always, thanks for your helpful feedback and support. Hope you’re having a good week so far!