Pea and Mushroom Risotto

I love garden peas and presently it’s their moment. I love the way they squeak between my fingers after I’ve washed them. Each time I split open a waxy shiny pod, I feel like I’m discovering treasure. Theirs is also, in my opinion, the most soothing shade of pale green.

While I love to eat them in a salad, I really enjoy them in a rich mushroomy risotto. Spring peas have such a sweet, clean, bright taste, they lift the flavour of what can be an otherwise heavy earthy dish. It’s the perfect counterbalance that brings sunshine to the forest floor.

Below is my recipe. Feel free to swap the rice for farro which is actually what I intended to use, but didn’t have enough of for last night’s supper. The nuttiness is delicious, but either way it’s a tasty dish. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do listening to The Three Tenors. 

Ingredients:

150 g garden peas, shelled

150 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

50 g dried porcini mushrooms

750 ml chicken stock

250 ml boiling water

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 c Carnaroli rice or farro

1/2 c dry Oloroso sherry (or a light dry white wine if you don’t want such a rich taste)

a bunch of thyme, chopped

flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano

olive oil

unsalted butter

 

Method: 

Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in the boiling water. I place mine in a large mug and cover them with a plate. Leave them for at least 30 minutes to fully rehydrate.

Blanche the peas in salted water for 3 minutes. Rinse them under cold water to stop their cooking and to keep their color. Drain them and set them aside.

Heat some olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Saute the sliced chestnut mushrooms. When they are almost done, add a tablespoon of chopped thyme. Set them aside.

Drain the porcini mushrooms, but save the liquid. Put this mushroom liquor into a small saucepan with the chicken stock. Simmer on low.

Add a bit more olive oil and butter to the saucepan to saute the onion. When the onion becomes translucent, add the minced garlic and 2 tablespoons of chopped thyme.

Add the 1 1/2 cups of rice or farro to the onion. Allow it to toast for a few minutes, before pouring over the sherry. Stir to avoid sticking. When the liquid has evaporated, add a ladleful of stock. Stir and cook until the liquid disappears. Repeat this until the stock has been used up and the risotto is ready. If you need more liquid, use dry white wine.

When the risotto is finished, take it off the heat. Season to taste. Then stir in the mushrooms, peas, cheese and a tablespoon of parsley. Pour yourself a glass of your favourite wine and you’re all set for supper.

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Spaghetti and Meatballs

Sometimes I like to tease my hair and wear form-fitting dresses with full skirts.  Sometimes I like to put a little cleavage on display and wear lipstick that’s a little too loud.  Just like Cher’s character, Mrs. Flax, in the movie Mermaids.  And sometimes, I like to make spaghetti and meatballs when I’m dressed this way.  Below is my recipe.

Authentic Italian it is not.  But nor does it try to be.  This version is Italian American to its core and tastes best with a Rat Pack soundtrack. Or maybe some Louis Prima.  It’s a dish as saucy as Rosemary Clooney and as meaty as Dean Martin.  It’s what I imagine Joe DiMaggio ordered at Dominick’s after a lover’s quarrel with Marilyn.  It’s the kind of meal my dreams are made of.  I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients for the sauce:

4 cans of crushed tomatoes

5 chopped garlic cloves

1 minced salted anchovy

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 cup dry white wine

olive oil

salt to taste

Method for the sauce:

Heat a tablespoon  of olive oil in a large saucepan over low-medium heat.  Add the garlic, anchovy, and red pepper flakes.  Sauté for about 30 seconds then add the crushed tomatoes and wine.  Bring to a near boil then let simmer for about an hour.  Stir every so often to avoid the sauce sticking to the pan.  Season to taste.

Ingredients for the meatballs: 

500 grams ground veal (that’s approximately 1.1 pounds)

300 grams ground pork (0.66 pounds)

2 slices of toast that have been turned into breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano + some extra

3 minced garlic cloves

1 small onion, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 large egg

¼ cup fresh chopped flat leaf parsley + some extra

¼ cup fresh chopped basil + some extra

olive oil

salt and pepper

Method for the meatballs:

Sauté the onion and garlic with the red pepper flakes.  When they cool, add them to a bowl with everything else.  Mix with your hands until everything has been thoroughly incorporated.  Now wet your hands under the tap.  Seriously.  I find that having wet hands helps when rolling meatballs.  Or even matzo balls, but I digress.  Roll the meat into balls and set aside.  Size wise, smaller is better though I always make some large ones as well–I’m greedy.  Next, you need to brown the meatballs in a skillet.  Don’t cook them all the way through.  Once they’ve been browned, drop them into your simmering sauce and leave for a half hour.

Finally, make your spaghetti/linguine/whatever pasta your heart desires.  Drain then mix with some sauce.  Serve with meatballs and top with more cheese and fresh herbs.