After a literal and metaphorical winter, it’s good to feel the earth stirring again. The trees are timidly revealing new leaves, and our oaks have begun their annual blizzard of yellow pollen. We’ve been sleeping with the windows open, roused each morning by the clamor of songbirds. Back home, the tulip fields are in full regalia, though it’s too warm for bulbs here.
I can’t help but feel a sort of awakening, too–call it hope, or cautious enthusiasm, or a renewing of the will. Whatever its name, it’s welcome to stay as long as it likes. I’m done hibernating.
On a walk last week, I picked (er, clandestinely tore off) a flowering branch, and look! Even though the flowers are dying, it started putting out leaves. There’s a lesson there somewhere, I’m sure.
In hopes of having a garden this year, our windows are cluttered with egg cartons full of potting soil and tiny sprouts. I love them as only a mother can. Each morning’s watering ritual brings new surprises (“Look, a new leaf! A fourth parsley plant!”). I croon and cluck over them like a newborn, fearing for the day when I have to put them outside. Growing things is good for the soul.
In the spirit of nature throwing off her winter mantle, I thought we’d do something with spring vegetables this week. Though the grocery store is filling up with chocolate rabbits and easter eggs, the balmy weather has me craving light, fresh meals loaded with herbs.
Fortunately, the produce fast has ended, and we’re finally starting to see some new things at the market: strawberries, peas, spring onions, broccoli, herbs, and tiny sweet carrots. I’m already losing my mind over the prospect of strawberry picking.
In the interest of not boring you with a Bubba-esque ode to all the strawberry things I want to make, let’s talk about peas.
First, eeee! Aren’t peas such happy things? Freshly shelled English peas fall into the almost-too-cute-to-eat category. Almost.
Fresh peas have more in common flavor-wise with snap peas than that mushy cafeteria flavor you’re probably accustomed to. All they need is a light steaming (and maybe a big spoonful of pesto), or a quick saute. Here, they provide happy bursts of color and flavor in a simple risotto.
Whip this up and enjoy in the lengthening days and the promise of summer. I paired with a very cold glass of fruity viognier, which did beautiful things with the mint and the peas’ delicate sweetness. If you can, enjoy this al fresco, with a toast to new beginnings.
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 oz. shallots, finely diced
- 1 c. rice
- 1/4 c. dry white wine
- 4 c. mushroom or chicken stock, kept warm in a pan on the back burner
- salt and pepper
- 6 oz. shelled fresh peas
- 2 Tbsp. chopped mint leaves
- 3 oz. chevre
- Heat olive oil in your preferred pot over medium-low heat (I use a 6-qt. Le Creuset cast iron pan). When warmed, add shallots and cook gently until they begin to turn translucent but don't quite brown, 5-7 minutes.
- Increase heat to medium and add the rice, 1/2 tsp. of salt, and pepper to taste. Stir for a minute to coat the grains in oil, and then add the wine and simmer for another minute.
- Now begin adding the stock: Begin by ladling in one cup. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer and stir occasionally to keep the rice from sticking as it absorbs the liquid. Once it has absorbed most of the liquid, add a half-cup more and keep stirring gently. [Your goal is to keep the rice from sticking but not to beat all the starch out it, which will make your risotto gummy.] Aim to have 3 c. of the stock mostly absorbed by this method over the course of 15 minutes.
- When you have a cup of stock left, pour it in with the peas. Cook uncovered for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Give it a final stir, put the lid on, and cook undisturbed for 2 minutes. This will help to make the finished product creamy and simultaneously cook the peas. When this time has elapsed, remove the lid and gently fold in the chevre and chopped mint. Taste and adjust for seasoning.