Bored with the same old winter vegetables? Well, let me introduce you to a very memorable winter risotto, which for me, is made with a new vegetable. A saffron-salsify risotto. Salsify what? Yeah, I too was also among those people who didn’t know what salsify is, let alone what to do with it! I had never ever seen it in Canada. But due to it’s “popularity” (okay, popular is a relative term here) in Germany and other countries here on the continent, it made its way to my list of “must-try vegetables”… going on a number of years now. So I finally gave it a try. And guess what? As I have been told many times, it really is winter’s gift, one that is a little like white asparagus. Delicious.
Salsify – does it taste like oysters, asparagus or artichoke?
Granted, salsify doesn’t look very appealing, but I finally picked some up at my local farmer’s market. Yes, it looks like a bunch of old sticks, but actually when you wash off all the dirt and peel away it’s dark bark-like skin (plus there are a little bit of sticky fluids, like sap, to watch out for), you’ll find a creamy slighty sweet flesh. A flesh that is sometimes described as tasting like a combination of oysters, asparagus, and artichoke. Or a cross between artichoke and celeriac (celery root). Even others will say it’s taste faintly resembles that of an oyster and nothing more. Whereas, I would say it resembles that flavor of white asparagus mixed with sweet parsnip. Opinions are widely divided! Have you tried salsify? What do you think?
A simple super delicious saffron-salsify risotto recipe
This recipe found me because a) I have been craving risotto lately (actually rice in general — what a weird craving, I thought people crave chocolate or things like that) b) these sticks called salsify have been staring at me ever since I brought them home, reminding me to shorten my “must-try vegetables list” c) all those rumours of salsify tasting like asparagus inspired me to make a wintery risotto that resembles a spring asparagus risotto. And Adding speckles of prosciutto and saffron was me getting fancy. And I tell you, this risotto tasted fancy. Loved it.
Saffron-Salsify Risotto (Schwarzwurzel-Risotto)
- 500 g black salsify (Schwarzwurzel), washed, peeled and stalks sliced thinly on a sharp angle (once peeled, soak in water and lemon juice – see note below)
- 750 ml chicken broth
- 250 ml water
- 1 fat pinch saffron threads
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 80 g Prosciutto di Parma, chopped
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 2-3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 1/4 cups arborio risotto rice (250 g)
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 3/4 cup dry white wine (185 ml)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 30 g freshly grated parmesan cheese (about 1/3 cup)
- flat-leaf parsley, to garnish (optional)
- In a medium saucepan, bring the broth, water, and saffron to a simmer over medium. Reduce the heat to low and cover.
- In a wide skillet or a wide saucepan, heat the olive oil, over medium to medium-high. Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the shallots, garlic and thinly sliced salsify (Schwarzwurzel). Cook, stirring often, until the shallot softens, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the rice; stir 1 minute and season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and stir until almost evaporated, 1-2 minutes.
- Add the broth mixture, about 1 cup (250 ml) at a time, stirring between additions, until almost absorbed. This should take about 18-20 minutes for al dente risotto. Slowly adding hot broth to arborio rice helps release the starch, giving this saffron-salsify risotto a silky, creamy texture.
- To finish, stir in the butter, then the cheese and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
- Salsify turns brown quickly after peeling. To prevent browning, transfer the peeled stalk immediately to a bowl of cold water with 2 teaspoons lemon juice. I do this with the entire root, and then slice them when ready to use. You can also slice the stalks right away and soak them in lemon-water.
- For this saffron-salsify risotto recipe, I like my vegetables a little al dente, so I slice them in about 2-2,5 cm pieces, if you prefer your vegetables quite soft, then slice the salsify even thinner, so that it cooks a little faster. Keep in mind though, I have been told not overcook it otherwise you could end up with a stringy mush. Is this true? Ever experienced this?
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