Fresh Pea Risotto...It's Not Too Late

The season for fresh peas is upon us and almost over.  I am hoping to harvest bushels and bushels of peas next week on the farm.  I LOVE fresh peas.  We planted Sugar Snaps as opposed to English peas.  I love both and I should really plant both; I love that you can eat pod and all with the Sugar Snap Peas, although I end up shelling them to freeze the majority of the harvest.  Maybe next year I will try both types and see which is more appealing.  One thing is certain, my thumb nails will be stained green from shelling next week.  No matter how hard I scrub, it refuses to come clean.  I even have tried scrub brushes and soaps from work (I am an operating room nurse) and I still have emerald green nails.  Maybe no one will notice.  If you see me and I have green fingernails...just walk on by...really!!!

I love making fresh pea risotto with my peas.  I look forward to it all spring.  I know risotto sounds daunting and really scary; aren't only chefs supposed to know the secrets of risotto???  It really isn't bad or that time consuming. Send the kids out to play for a half hour, and you will impress your family with lovely creamy rice for dinner packed with bursts of fresh pea flavor.  I add a little lemon zest to really pack a punch of flavor into the dish.  Mint is also fantastic in this, it is bright and fresh and I love it, but you can opt for parsley if that makes you happy.

A few things about this recipe.  You will need Arborio Rice.  It is a special kind of rice that you can easily find at most grocery stores.  The thing that is special about it is it's ability to release starch which is what makes the rice creamy.  Make sure that you follow the directions for adding liquid to the rice.  Absorbing liquid slowly is the magic that makes the rice release the starch.  I know the recipe calls for white wine.  It really adds depth to the recipe...BUT...if you don't want to use it, just substitute it for the same amount of chicken stock.  If you are game for the wine, use a really good one...the kind that you add a cup to the recipe and a little to your glass at the same time to enjoy while you cook up a storm (and listen to your favorite opera if you are me).


1 cup shelled peas (about 1 pound unshelled)
3 cups chicken stock or broth 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (or substitute more chicken broth)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup grated Parmesan + more for serving
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley (or mint if you prefer)
Salt and pepper to taste

Serves 6 (or 4 + leftovers)

Shell your peas and bring two cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the peas and cook for one minute, until bright green. Drain and plunge peas into ice water to cool; drain again.

Bring your chicken stock to a simmer in the same saucepan. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan (the wider the better) over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for five minutes or so, until translucent (but NOT brown!). Add the rice and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the grains are coated with oil and have nearly turned completely white (this step is a little can burn in a second so don't leave). Toasting the rice at this stage gives it that nice firm bite that makes risotto such a study in textures: creamy and al dente all at once.

Add in the white wine and stir until the liquid has nearly all evaporated. Begin adding the stock, one 1/2 cup-full at a time, letting all of the stock absorb before adding more. Continue adding more stock, stirring frequently (but not constantly!), until all of the stock has been added. The whole absorption process takes around 18 minutes.

The rice should look creamy and tender at this point. Stir in the peas, lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, butter, and parsley, and season with salt and pepper.

Cover and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes, and serve immediately. I like to bring a hunk of Parmesan to the table with a grater, so everyone can grate a little extra cheese over their risotto.

This is a fantastic way to celebrate your peas.  Give it a try!!!  Enjoy!


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