...on the deck. In March! For the second time this week!
We actually could have eaten on the deck four out of the five evenings this week, but two of them I was just too tired and cranky to cook. Standardized testing often does that to teachers (and their students). But enough of that nonsense, because mostly, this has been a great week. Temperatures have been at least in the 70's this week, and nights have been in the 50's. I know it won't last throughout March, or, well, it shouldn't last throughout March, so I've been spending as much time outside as possible.
There are many things popping their adorable heads up all over the garden. The sorrel is probably a week away from being able to start (sparingly) harvest it, chives are gangbusters, and mint, marjoram, and oregano and their ruffly little selves are appearing everywhere. Because that's what they do, which is a whole 'nother story.
A few heads of escarole over-wintered, along with some collards and two kinds of kale. The Blue Vates Kale that I harvested last December by cutting them at the stalk near the soil line are leafing out again. (Sometimes it pays to be lazy and not pull stalks.) The greens are all still too small to pick, but they're on their way.
I've planted peas and fava beans--the favas are new this spring, so I'm keeping my proverbial fingers crossed, because I LOVE fava beans. If they're a success, I'll be a happy gal. In the kitchen window, I've started more collards, broccoli rabe, spinach, basil, tomatoes, and ground cherries--they're new this year, too. I've planted zucchini seeds, but they're still hibernating. Or, perhaps, I am going to add another year to my seemingly complete inability to grow the little stinkers. For now, I choose to go with hibernating.
With all this green stuff everywhere, I was craving a spring risotto. I pulled the last sad leeks from the refrigerator, dug out some frozen peas, snipped some chives and mint, crisped some prosciutto, and yum.
I used to be afraid of risotto, along with yeast breads and pie crusts. But unlike motorcycles, you can eat these things, so they're fears I wanted to conquer. I'm still not always brilliant at bread, but I'm really comfortable with the other two these days. And risotto is worth getting comfortable with, because that creamy deliciousness, achieved without using cream, is wonderful. A spring risotto, in my head, anyway, is a cross between earthy and green. The leeks gave me earthy, the peas gave me a cross between the two, and the mint and chives provided the straight-up green. I added a little lemon zest at the end, and it perked things right up. Served with some grilled shrimp doused in lemon juice, dinner was the perfect blend of spring's green and its lightness.
Pea, Leek, and Prosciutto Risotto
1 tbsp olive oil
2 small leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced into half moons and well-washed
1 cup risotto rice (I used Carnaroli, because it's what I had)
1/4 c dry white wine or dry vermouth
3-4 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, or even water (I had 3 cups in the fridge, and added 1 c water)
salt and pepper to taste
3/4-1 cup frozen peas, not defrosted
1 tbsp + 2 tsp chopped fresh chives
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1/4-1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano**
zest of a lemon
crispy prosciutto, optional*
1. Bring the broth/water to a simmer. Keep warm.
2. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the leek and a small pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until very soft. Reduce the heat if browning too quickly. Stir in the rice, and cook, stirring, until the outer edges of the rice grains begin to look somewhat translucent. Add the wine or vermouth, and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid is absorbed.
3. Add one cup of the warm liquid to the rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed, but the pan still looks a little "creamy." Add another cup of the liquid, and repeat. At this point, I begin adding the liquid in half-cup increments; tonight's risotto used just over 3 cups of the liquid to reach the creamy-but-with-a-hint-of-a-bite I like in my risotto. This whole process should take less than 20 minutes. Have a tasting spoon so you can start checking for done-ness after your third cup of liquid. As the risotto begins approaching your preferred consistency, add the peas and 1 tbsp of chives, and stir through.
4. When the risotto consistency is where you like it, turn off the heat and stir in the 2 tsp chives, the mint, the cheese, and the lemon zest. Crumble over the crispy prosciutto, if using. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
3 slices prosciutto
Heat your oven or toaster oven to 350. Make a "nest" or mound of each piece of prosciutto on a baking sheet, and bake until crispy, anywhere from 7-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it, as it can go quickly as it gets near its state of perfect crispness.
*Leave off the prosciutto and use vegetable broth, and the risotto is vegetarian.
**Also leave out the parmigiano reggiano to delight the vegans in your life.