Spring Peas – early & late

One thing to be thankful for in this season of strange weather is the length of the pea season that we’ve encountered.  They seem unending, gracing us with their presence early, first with tasty tendrils, then later as crisp green vegetable, carrying on through the rain, and occasional sun, and, sigh, more rain.  I’ve been meaning to post a delicious recipe for risi e bisi for weeks, now, and thought the season might be well past that for a hot rice-porriage-type dish.  As of late, I find myself hungry for its soothing qualities.  Now that the weather has turned, once again, I’m longing for a warm, comforting rice dish to ward off the evening’s chill.  But since you never can tell with this fickle weather we’re experiencing, I’m also posting a refreshing sugar snap pea salad, for those days suited more for salad than soup.  Either way, it is a most enjoyable vegetable through most unusual climactic circumstances.

Risi e Bisi – Rice and Peas
adapted from Marcella Hazan
serves 4

This simple seasonal rice and vegetable dish is comforting when spring has sprung, but the weather still holds a chill.  It is more of a thick soup than a rice dish, but can be made thicker if desired.  It is starch and vegetable in one pot, and can be eaten for lunch, or as a supper side dish.  Try it with fresh peas while they are in season, or substitute frozen.

2 Tbsp. chopped onion
4 Tbsp. butter
2 pounds fresh (unshelled) peas, or 1 ten-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
salt to taste
3 ½ cups good quality, light flavored meat broth (if using canned or packaged, dilute 2 cups broth with 1 ½ cups water)
1 cup Arborio rice (Italian short-grained risotto rice)
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

  • Cook the onion in a saucepot with the butter until it is tender and golden.
  • If you are using fresh peas, add the peas along with 1 tsp. salt and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Add 3 cups of broth and cover.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the rice, parsley, and remaining ½ cup of broth, stir, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender but al dente, firm to the bite.  Stir from time to time as the rice cooks.
  • If you are using frozen peas, add the peas along with 1 tsp. salt and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Add the broth, bring to a boil, then stir in the rice and parsley.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender but al dente, firm to the bite.  Stir from time to time as the rice cooks.
  • Check for seasonings.  The dish should be somewhat brothy.  Stir in the cheese just before serving.

Sugar Snap Pea Salad

1 pound sugar snap peas, rinsed and zipped of their strings – to do this, grasp the pea in one hand and with the other, hold the pointy tip.  Gently break off the tip and pull downward along the straight side, as if zipping down a zipper, until you reach the stem end.  Turn the pea over, grasp the stem end, and zip back up the curved side of the pea.  Discard the strings.
kosher or sea salt
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 small spring onion, chopped
the zest of half a lemon
a sprig of fresh mint, leaves removed from the stem and roughly chopped
agrumato or lemon oil (about 1-2 Tbsp. or to taste)*
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, season the water with salt to taste (it should be pleasantly salty, like the sea).  Meanwhile, over a medium flame, heat the extra virgin olive oil in a skillet with the chopped spring onion.  When the oil is sizzling, remove it from the heat and let the onion cool in the oil.

Par-boil (or “blanch“) the peas until crisp-tender in the boiling, salted water.  Drain thoroughly and add hot to the onions and olive oil.  Toss to coat and season with lemon zest and salt.  When the peas have cooled, add the chopped fresh mint, and drizzle with lemon oil.  Add freshly cracked black pepper, and taste for seasonings.  Serve at room temperature, or slightly chilled.

*A lovely Meyer lemon agrumato is available from local distributor Real Good Food.


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About Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans

By offering Sage Culinary Advice, The Farmer's Feast assists Farmers' Market shoppers in making the most of their purchases, and helps vendors realize the culinary possibilities of their products. We create culinary education programs at Farmers' Markets. Through food preparation and cooking demonstrations, recipes focusing on technique, samples, stories and free advice, we're encouraging people to cook more often, from scratch, with market-fresh ingredients. Our goal? To cultivate domestic culinary arts. Once you've tasted the Farmer's Feast - glistening local produce, pastured meats, artisan cheese, wild seafood, rich nuts, grains and legumes - and see how easy cooking this bounty can be, you'll be hungry for fresh. Visit The Farmer's Feast on Facebook / E-mail wildeats@msn.com
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