Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Yes, Peas!

A season of change is upon us. My rose bushes are in full bud, the peas are ready to harvest, and the days are longer and warmer and sunnier. I love this time of year--the time when I can open the windows and let in the breeze which smells of jasmine, cut grass and citrus blossoms. The birds feel it too and are a mass of righteous chirping in the trees (and pooping on my window box).

Spring is nature's way of extending her hand, offering up the promise of much bounty in the months ahead.

There's the promise of cooking and eating outdoors...of late bedtimes, and fireflies, and sandy toes. The promise of family time and leisure after so much hard work. And the promise of renewal and restoration after loss, heartache and tragedy.

The clustercuss of events in Japan has captivated my attention these past few days, as I'm sure it has yours. It is unfathomable that life and livelihood can be lost in an instant. And it has been an poignant reminder that life is all too short and all too fragile.

If you haven't already, please make a contribution to help the survivors of this horrific triple-punch of quake, tsunami, and nuclear catastrophe. And then, after you've made that donation, you must make this risotto which is for me, the paramount comfort dish.

This risotto is so rich and creamy, and each tender bite is chock full of the springtime tastes of wild arugula, leeks and home-grown peas. And it's topped with crispy bacon...need I say more? The recipe makes a lot (we are big fans of leftovers for lunch), and I will post a recipe tomorrow showing you how to make this leftover risotto, or any leftover risotto, into something really, really special.

Spring Pea, Leek and Arugula Risotto

Printable Recipe

Freshly picked peas, leeks and wild arugula are the stars in this creamy spring risotto. Risotto is very simple to make, though it does require one to stir the pot. I highly recommend that you turn on some music, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the process--pour, stir and simmer (and sip). Repeat.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Yield: serves 4 with leftovers


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup minced shallot
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups arborio rice
1 quart chicken stock, simmering (I heat mine in a pyrex pitcher in the microwave)
1 cup freshly shelled English peas
3 large handfuls of arugula, wild or otherwise.
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)


1. Heat butter and oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallot and leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add rice and stir until grains are coated with the oil and butter. Add the wine and simmer until it is almost completely absorbed.

3. Add one cup of warmed stock to the rice. Simmer gently, and stir occasionally, until broth is almost absorbed. Continue in this way, adding broth in one cup increments until all the broth has been used, and rice is tender and creamy. It should take around 20 minutes.

4. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir in the peas. The heat from the rice should cook them sufficiently. When the rice is done, stir in the arugula, one handful at a time, until it is wilted. Stir in the cheese and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary.

5. Serve the risotto immediately in wide bowls, topped with additional Parmesan cheese and crispy bacon if using.

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