By Dianne Bunis

It's time to add something new and healthy to your diet, and asparagus, the first vegetable of the season, is loaded with nutrients -- vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. It's also a rich source of glutathione, know to help break down carcinogens and help protect against certain forms of cancer.

This recipe is easy on the heart, with no butter or cream, plus a reduced amount of grated cheese. The garlic, shallots, wine, vegetables and broth meld together for a rich taste, without the artery-clogging ingredients.

Whether thick or thin, select a fresh bunch of asparagus that is bright green and firm. It's always best to cook asparagus the day it was bought, but it can be stored for up to five days in the refrigerator -- stand the bunch in a bowl filled with an inch of water.

Asparagus-mushroom risotto

1 pound fresh asparagus, washed and cut on bias, 2" long

1/2 cup organic button mushrooms, washed and sliced

4 cups organic vegetable broth

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp shallots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese

1 tbsp parsley, dried

In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the asparagus and mushrooms until the asparagus is bright green and slightly tender, about three to four minutes; do not overcook. Remove pan from heat.

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the garlic and shallots, about two minutes. Add the Arborio rice and cook, stirring constantly, for about two to three minutes. Lower heat to medium, add the wine and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, two minutes. With the lid off, add the broth 1/4 cup at a time, stirring occasionally and waiting until it is absorbed before adding more. Once the broth is completely absorbed in the risotto, add the asparagus and mushrooms with juice and gently stir in the grated cheese. Season with pepper, garnish with parsley and serve.

Buon appetito!