green pea risotto

This is such an elegant one-dish meal that looks and tastes like a lot of work went into it. Risotto isn’t as intimidating as it seems; and once you’ve mastered the recipe, it’s hard not to dream up a thousand variations for the relatively blank slate of buttery rice and cheese. I feel like risotto is a dish more often ordered out then cooked up at home, but I’ve had some really mediocre risotto at some really good restaurants. Perhaps this paradox exits because the ideal risotto requires something readily available to the home chef yet hard to come by in a busy restaurant kitchen: twenty minutes of undivided attention.

The only other requirements are constantly simmering liquid and a flat wooden spoon. The other elements can be altered according to your whim. But what about Arborio rice—imported from Italy and sold at some markets for upwards of five dollars a bag—you ask? If you give your risotto the proper attention, any starchy short-grain rice will do. My pick is Valencia rice, known for it’s starring role in paella. Sushi rice and certain short grain American varieties would also work well.

Risotto is cooked by the constant addition of simmering broth (vegetable or chicken) to rice in a wide flat pan until the rice is al dente and the broth is absorbed. The risotto pictured gets its beautiful green color by substituting the last cup of liquid with a purée of broth and sweet petit peas. It is finished with a pat of butter and a generous portion of grated parmiggiano. Before serving, I topped each portion with shaved romano and summer basil from mom’s garden.

Other additions to this dish are best cooked on the side and added at the end along with the grated cheese. Some tried and true ideas include crimini mushrooms sautéed in olive oil and butter, blanched asparagus and/or zucchini cut into pea-sized pieces, and of course, whole peas, either fresh or frozen. My preferred topping for risotto is a sunny-side-up egg. The marriage of creamy yolk and sharp cheesy rice creates a luxuriously rich vegetarian meal that would satisfy even the most carnivorous appetite.

Recipe after the jump.

Green Pea Risotto

Ingredients:

5 cups organic vegetable or chicken broth
1 small onion, diced
1½ cups Valencia rice (or similar rice)
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
¾ cups fresh or frozen peas
½ cup grated parmiggiano cheese
salt and pepper

To top it off:
parmiggiano or romano cheese, shaved
basil chiffonade

Bring broth to a boil in saucepan. Turn heat to low to maintain a simmer.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook onion in 1½ tbsp butter and olive oil. When onion is translucent, add rice and toast in pan for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of broth and stir constantly with flat-bottomed wooden spoon until liquid is absorbed. Continue adding liquid 1 large ladleful at a time until each addition is absorbed and ½ to 1 cup of liquid remains.

In blender or mini-food processor, combine remaining broth and peas to create pea purée. Add to cooking rice and stir until absorbed. When liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked, remove from heat and stir in last 1½ tbsp butter and grated parmiggiano. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with shaved cheese and basil, try any of the aforementioned additions, or get creative.

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