And here, my friends, is where my life comes full circle.

If you can believe it…everything I’ve ever done, stood for, studied, devoted myself to. Is embodied in this dish.

Strange where coincidences absolute and utter kismet can take us, no?


I was destined for medicine, became entranced with food, and ended up here at the crossroads.  Not knowing what to answer when someone asks me, “So, what do you think you’re going to go into?”

Them referring to wide array of medical specialties.

Me thinking in terms of butter and flour and sugar and kale.

Debating whether or not to answer with “professional cake batter taster!!”, which is my one true ambition in life.  (By which I mean, um.  Caterer.)  Or to just go the predictable route. Ah, yes.  Emergency medicine.  That’s something people can nod their heads approvingly at.

As it turns out, I don’t have to choose.  And I owe that realization all to the delicious green herbalicious slurry below.



In Bengali, it refers to a seasoning of spices and/or herbs (in this case) that has been tempered in ghee or oil or butter (or both) and is then added the end of cooking to a curry or dal or sambar.  (Or, um, risotto, if you are an Italian girl who truly believes she was Indian in a previous life.)

In hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies worldwide, it is an antihypertensive medication.

Now if one measly five letter, two syllable word can contain within it two such disparate meanings while still turning out to be SO. DELICIOUS.

…why can’t I?

I’m still not going to know what to say when people ask, but it’s clear now that I don’t have to choose.

Thanks, risotto. I owe ya one.



I don’t really feel like I have much to say today other than that last week I ate too much chocolate and peanut butter and felt just about awful for it.  But this week is a chance to start again.

Eat big bowls of green.

And not sweat it.

Which is not the same as “not sweating“.  Because sweating is something I wholeheartedly recommend, for at least forty-five minutes.  Every day.  Ever and anon.

This is life.  There are going to be challenges.  But we. You. I. Are going to overcome them.  And that’s part of the fun.  Right?


Asparagus and Green Pea Risotto with Fresh Herb Tarka
Serves 6, adapted from Masala Farm


For the Tarka

    • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
    • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
    • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
    • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh chives
    • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

For the Risotto

  • 2 lb asparagus
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts sliced thinly
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 10 oz fresh or frozen green peas



  1. To make the tarka: Melt the butter in a medium small frying pan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil, basil, rosemary, chives, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Turn off the heat and set aside.
  2. To make the risotto: Cut off the dead ends of the asparagus and put them in a large soup pot, along with 12 cups of water.  Add 1 tsp salt and the 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the broth is fragrant, about 25 minutes.  Strain the broth into a clean pot.  Place back on the stove and cover to keep warm.
  3. Slice the trimmed asparagus spears on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces, leaving the tips whole, and place both in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  4. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.  Add 1 tsp freshly ground pepper and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the onion, leeks and 1/2 tsp salt.  Cook until they are softened, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.  Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the grains are opaque, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium and add 1 cup of the broth.  Cook the risotto, stirring constantly, until the liquid is mostly absorbed.  Add another cup and repeat.  The rice will probably require about 2 minutes of cooking between each addition.
  5. Once 5 cups of liquid have been added to the risotto, ad in the asparagus, peas and remaining 1/2 tsp salt.  Keep adding broth as previously described.  The risotto is done when the rice is creamy (NOT MUSHY!), the grains are plump yet separate, and the rice is al dente.  This should take another 3-5 additions of broth.  Turn off the heat.  Add the tarka and 2 tbsp risotto.  Stir to combine.  Season with salt to taste.  Serve garnished with basil and parmigiano-reggiano.


You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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86 Responses to Asparagus and Green Pea Risotto with Fresh Herb Tarka {}

  1. Can we be professional cake batter testers together?!

  2. Simply Life says:

    ha, love this! I still don’t know how you do all this fabulous cooking, writing AND studying!

  3. Professional cake batter tester sounds good to me! I am in need of a new, good, dish like this one. And most importantly, I have the stuff to make this!

  4. Johanna GGG says:

    I think I need to get to know tarka – sounds like a great addition to risotto. I find it interesting hearing about your dilemma about what you are going to be when you grow up. There are doctors who cure people with laughter – there must be doctors who cure people with baking!

  5. Some weeks are just meant to be dedicated to chocolate!

  6. I love the idea of being a professional cake batter tester! YES, please! Kudos to you for doing ALL that you do. I am continually impressed. 😉

  7. Lynn says:

    I think it is wonderful that you are so gifted – you’ll be the doctor who cooks fabulous food, just like now!

    I wish you could mail me some of that risotto – I never want to do all that constant stirring. 🙂 It looks delicious though and would be worth it.

  8. Ben says:

    Food is the path you must take, embrace it, EMBRACE IT! hehe, or at least keep cooking things like this and we’ll nod our heads approvingly.

  9. Cara says:

    Whenever a blog post title includes a word I’ve never heard, there’s an automatic read through in detail. Thanks for the lesson!

    And know that you will figure out your true path, as I did, and you will own it, embrace it, and love it. There are awesome things in your future, it’s quite obvious 🙂

  10. Amy says:

    I made my favorite veggie spring couscous “salad” last night for dinner. It had loads of asparagus in it. My pee still stink this morning. TMI? And…your parents may never speak to you again if you ditch emergency medicine. But professional cake batter taster? Dude. Dream job!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Ha, butter and flour and sugar and kale– pretty much encompasses my diet.

  12. Megan says:

    Tarka sounds like a wonderful mixture of herbs. I’d love to try it in a pasta dish.

  13. I’m drooling over the tarka…mmmmm

  14. Danielle says:

    You would be a great cake batter tester! This looks so good!

  15. This looks so fresh and flavourful!

  16. Sarah says:

    professional cake batter tester? count me in! this risotto is beautiful, joanne!

  17. I need to try making risotto again, I really was happy with how it came out the first time. And there’s something about peas that just says SPRING! to me 🙂

  18. Nina says:

    The risotto is beautiful Joanne….nice combo:)

  19. Shannon says:

    never heard of tarka, but it seems fitting for this dish! i’d love a big plate tonight… hmm, i do have asparagus at home 😉 and an open can of coconut milk. perhaps that could swing in some risotto. or i’d jsut have to make it rice pudding 🙂

    ps- you should totally try macarons! they were totally worth it 🙂

  20. This is the perfect spring dish! so pretty and bright!

  21. Pam says:

    I want to be a professional cake batter taster…or onion ring taster would be great too. I could go on and on.

    The risotto looks like a perfect dish for spring! It looks beautiful and delicious.

  22. Margarita says:

    There will always be times when we falter and indulge… that’s why we have tomorrows and laters to redeem ourselves. This is a great redemption dish and I would gladly eat this everyday after a week of eating too much bad stuff.

  23. Sometimes it’s scary how we are on the same page. I just made almost the same thing 4 days ago. I was craving asparagus and pea risotto. I ended up using quinoa instead and it totally hit the spot.

  24. Mo 'Betta says:

    mmmmm, risotto! Love it, minus the peas 🙂 And let’s not talk about how much chocolate I consume on a weekly basis…or the fact that my family can’t stay well long enough for me to make it to the gym on any regular basis. (but that’s just an excuse since I have a very large treadmill upstairs…)

  25. Pam says:

    Totally love the sound of the tarka.

  26. Jenna says:

    You could start your own business/Dr. office called “The Natural Medicine of Cooking” (or something) and both treat patients and also teach cooking lessons (as part of treatment). There are so many health problems rooted in diet, why not start a new kind of Dr’s office?

  27. Kristen says:

    I’ve never heard of Tarka before, but I’ve probably eaten it because I looooooove Indian food. It seems super easy to make so I’ll have to try it!

  28. Lora says:

    Emergency Medicine – My hubby as well. Love this healthy dish. It’s good to eat it before testing cake batter.

  29. Shana says:

    You crack me up. I love reading your posts. And thanks for yet another fabulous recipe!

  30. Jenn Kendall says:

    that tarka sounds super delicious with all those fresh herbs! and that risotto with asparagus and peas is just perfect for springtime, awesome recipe!

  31. Never heard of tarka but it looks fantastic, what a delicious risotto!

  32. Guru Uru says:

    What a wonderful take on risotto – I bet the flavours work deliciously well together 😀
    Great photos!

    Choc Chip Uru

  33. Juliana says:

    Wow Joanne, this risotto looks great…I never heard of tarka…but from the ingredients list I already liking it 🙂
    Thanks for this flavorful dish.
    Hope you are having a great week!

  34. Laura says:

    I am so hungry just looking at this amazing risotto! I make an asparagus risotto, but have never tried adding peas to it or chives. I absolutely can’t wait to make this. My mouth is watering just thinking about it 🙂

  35. Beautiful Beautiful Risotto…
    I love the idea of Tarka, You know tarka is actually an north indian ( specifically Punjabi) word, used all over India… Some also call tarka as Bhagaar… The idea remain the same, temper spices, herbs or even jalapeño/ onion … to add another layer of seasoning as well as aroma to the dish…
    I love how u have used this in risotto… how beautifully creative..

  36. Can u believe we both left comment on each other blog at same time… 😉

  37. I’ve never heard of Tarka, but it sounds more appetizing as a risotto ingredient than medicine! Great idea!

  38. The spice tempering at the end of Indian dishes definitely gives the wow flavours.. I love how you incorporated it into an Italian dish!

    And you’re right: each week is a chance to start anew! Bring on the veggies! 🙂

  39. Saguna says:

    Serendipitous- I love this. And I JUST happen to have all these things stashed away in my fridge at the moment… Again, fate.

  40. I love Indian and Italian food. I detest asparagus (and brussels sprouts too).

  41. Risotto, peas…yum. So springy!

  42. Reeni says:

    I need this tarka in my life ASAP! I love the fusion with the risotto! Cake batter tester – I’ve considered the same profession! Hee-hee. Maybe we can work side-by-side.

  43. elly says:

    Hmm, I’ve never heard of tarka, but what is not to love about it? Sounds great, and I looooooooove asparagus risotto. Love love.

  44. oh my! i havent heard to tarka before… but i am in love with recent parka trends 😀

    this is so scrumptious!

  45. Katie says:

    What a delightful sounding risotto. Don’t be in a hurry to decide what you want to do specifically. You’ll have to do it for a long time, so it’s worth taking the time to make sure it’s right.

  46. Oh, once again I love you, Joanne. 🙂 It is a glorious thing to be able to be MANY things at once. Such knowledge hit me for the first time recently and it cheered me immensely. 🙂 So today I am happily a farmer and goat girl and writer and blog builder and business starter and whatever else happens to come my way. 🙂 I’m so glad you get to embrace and wear all your hats too. 🙂

  47. Natalie says:

    I love how you found a way to put a new spin on risotto which seems to always have the same ingredients .. And I’m sure you’ll be successful in whatever you choose to do later!

  48. You’re an awesome cook and you’re going to be such an amazing doctor. I tried the med school route – went through pre-med during ucla undergrad, went through princeton review MCAT prep classes, and then I realized that this just wasn’t right for me. So I went into public health, which made me a lot happier. Going through that nightmare of a process, I commend you for coming so far. And making such fabulous risotto of course 🙂

  49. vianney says:

    cake batter tester~ my little girl’s dream… love this dish!!

  50. Mary says:

    What a great post, Joanne. The risotto is over the topand I am sure it is delcious. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  51. That Tarka sounds heavenly!

  52. I’ve never heard of tarka, but now that I know about it, it sounds delicious…and calming. 🙂 Good luck figuring out what you really want to do. You wouldn’t be the first person to start upon a dedicated path only to discover their passion lies elsewhere!

  53. Asparagus and risotto are a match made in heaven…… but what a bloody great idea to add a Tarka….

  54. Hotly Spiced says:

    That’s a fabulous looking risotto and emergency medicine? Does that mean you work like one of those characters in ER? You must be so busy and work such long hours it’s incredible you have time to cook let alone blog! xx

  55. Asmita says:

    Wow, I love this risotto. Looks so inviting!

  56. daphne says:

    ooo.. so u r going into emergency med? That’s awesome!!

    And what a lovely risotto- so earthly flavours.

  57. Marcia says:

    Man I love risotto, and that herb mixture looks fabulous. Now that it’s spring it’s time to make more risotto. I am such a fan of goat cheese in mine though, and that’s off my menu for now.

  58. Alana says:

    Love this dish and I adore the photography, too. I want to throw all of the herbs in my risottos from now on!

  59. Though I haven’t tried risotto before, your dish looks so inviting and healthy!

  60. So when should I come over for dinner- is tomorrow night better than Saturday? Say 7:00? 🙂

  61. Cathleen says:

    This looks so tasty! I haven`t yet eaten breakfast, but I think I may just make this! 🙂

  62. That Girl says:

    I love it when worlds collide!

  63. Catherine says:

    Dear Joanne, Inspiring saying…thank you. The dish looks healthy and delicious, something I would dig into. Blessings dearest. Catherine xo

  64. SallyBR says:

    Glad to know the dinner invitations are open!

    I can make it tomorrow or Saturday, just say the time, and I’ll be there

    (I can take a sourdough loaf for you, and I promise to do the dishes….;-)

  65. Donna says:

    You would be the best Professional Cake Batter Tester EVER. Don’t give up the dream!

  66. Carolyn Jung says:

    Spring risotto with a multitude of herbs. Can’t get better than that to really taste the wonders of the season.

  67. Kristen says:

    You go girl! I can’t wait to see your business cards…cake tester, MD. And why the heck not?!

    Love the risotto…such a great bowl of deliciousness.

  68. Hannah says:

    I’ve decided that in order to properly embrace the season, I must dive into asparagus with abandon, and so I’ve been devouring it by the pound (quite literally.) Happy to have more inspiration for incorporating it into meals, while it’s still in its prime! I truly just can’t get enough of this simple veggie…

  69. beti says:

    I first tried risotto a few weeks ago, I thought that is was going to be bland and not tasty at all with a funny texture but it turned out delicious, almost like butter and I am now excited to make it, I would love to try your recipe

  70. Tarka means “grater” in my language, but definitely looks better 🙂

  71. Deborah says:

    Professional cake batter tester – now that’s a job I could get behind!!

  72. Absolutely gorgeous! I’d love to make this risotto and it’s in my to make list now.

  73. tigerfish says:

    I definitely love your spring on a plate! Also, thanks for introducing the word “tarka”. Sometimes I use the same method when I cook sambar/curry but I never really bother to find out if there is a word for tempering the spices :p

  74. I want to blow up your photo of the purple onion and frame it and put it above my bed. Is that wrong??? Anyway, it’s gorg.

  75. Foodycat says:

    I love the idea of a tarka – I particularly find with vegetarian food it benefits from a hit of extra goodness at the end. Like a gremolata added to osso bucco, to bring it back to your Italian roots.

  76. Kerstin says:

    What a lovely and healthy spring meal! I just bought a huge bunch of asparagus and can’t wait to enjoy it!

  77. Chris says:

    I just learned of a new term, tarka. And it’s one I like. It reminds me a little of South American chimmichurri (traditional, not Americanized) but not exactly. It sounds like a great condiment or marinade.

  78. Candace says:

    What a gorgeous recipe for spring! I have never heard of tarka before.

  79. Mary says:

    I’ve never heard of tarka either, but I now want to try it! This is a perfect dish for spring. Love it.

  80. JoJo says:

    I love the quote you posted!
    The looks great, it’s so beautiful with the greens 😀

  81. Claudia says:

    I love when life says “you don’t have to choose.” I also love this so much I am posting it everywhere and cooking it and eating it and… maybe … sharing it.

  82. You might be onto something with this professional cake batter testing career 🙂 And definitely with this risotto! I love it!

  83. Where has tarka been all my life?! 😉 Adding it risotto is brilliant.

  84. Nicole says:

    WOW That looks frickin amazing – yup, frickin!
    Gotta try it – and soon!

  85. Deborah B says:

    Did you mean 2 tbsp. of cheese in step 5?

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