Friday, June 11, 2010

Garden Pea Risotto with Braised Summer Squash

Sometimes it is so hard to decide what to make for dinner. The great thing about having a garden is that it can choose for you! With dozens of pods full of crisp, sweet peas hanging on the vines, we knew that a celebration of the vibrant flavors of spring was coming to our table. Our gargantuan zucchini plant is also working overtime lately, and with the recent rain in Brooklyn, the fruits practically doubled in size overnight. We wanted to prepare the squash simply, so we marinated it with fresh basil and lemon and then braised it, blossoms intact. To make our meal stick to our ribs a little more, we paired it with one of our favorite comfort foods - risotto.
A lot of people are scared of making risotto, but aside from patience, it doesn't require any more skill than making oatmeal. The basic risotto recipe we use is full of savory, hearty flavors. Usually we use browned onions for the flavor base of our risotto, but for this bright spring meal we decided to let the peas be the dominant flavor, supported by fresh garden herbs and a squeeze of lemon. To round out the meal, we served the risotto on a bed of Swiss chard from the garden, sauteed simply with a splash each of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. The resulting meal is hearty and satisfying while still retaining a fresh springtime feel. It left us thanking our garden for its help. Becky Mae thanks the garden too, and we have the remnants of pea pods to prove it!
Garden Pea Risotto
Serves 2 hungry people
Cooks in 30 minutes
1 tbs vegan margarine or oil
1 tsp asafoetida (see note)
1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 cup arborio rice
3/4 cup sake or white wine
3 -4 cups water
3 tbs light miso, in 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup fresh garden peas
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
fresh chopped oregano, to taste (or use dried)

1) Heat vegan margarine or oil over medium heat. Add
asafoetida and fennel seeds, and stir to toast, about 1
2) Add rice and stir to coat with oil. Allow to toast for
about 2 minutes, until some rice is golden brown.
3) Add 1/2 cup of the wine. Once the wine has mostly
evaporated and appears somewhat milky, add 1/2 cup
of water.
4) Keeping pot uncovered, continue adding water 1/2 cup
at a time. If you can cross the spoon along the bottom of
your pot and there is no liquid, it is time to add more
water. Once you have added 3 cups (this should take
about 15 minutes), taste the rice. If it is still hard,
continue adding water. Once the rice is chewy and al
dente, add the peas.
5) Add peas along with 1/2 cup more water and allow
liquid to cook off. Peas should turn an even brighter
green within a few minutes.
If rice tastes done, allow most excess liquid to evaporate.
6) Add remaining 1/4 cup wine and stir. Cook for about a minute.
7) Turn off heat and add dissolved miso, lemon juice,
nutritional yeast and chopped oregano. Allow to stand
for 5 minutes. The mixture will thicken slightly. Taste
and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon, herbs, yeast
or salt, if desired.
8) Garnish with fresh oregano and serve.

Note: Asafoetida is a potent, savory tasting spice with a
very strong and unique aroma. It is available at Indian
grocery stores and spice markets. The flavor is very
unique and we have come to love its taste in risotto.
If you don't have it, you can just leave it out, or
substitute onion powder, or for a different flavor,
some fresh chopped onion or garlic.
It's your dinner!

Braised Summer Squash
Serves 2
Cooks in 10-15 minutes
For marinade:
1/2 cup fresh chopped basil
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp salt
2 tbs sake or white wine
1 tbs grapeseed oil
pinch crushed red chile

4 medium summer squash (I used 3 large homegrown zucchini, with blossoms intact), quartered lengthwise

1) Whisk all marinade ingredients together in bowl.
2) Cover sliced squash in marinade, and let sit for a minimum of 10 minutes, or as long as you want.
3) Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove slices of squash from marinade and place in the ungreased skillet. Allow to brown for about 3 minutes on each side, watching to keep from burning.
4) After squash is browned on all sides, add remaining marinade liquid. Allow to evaporate briefly.
5) Turn off heat and serve, garnished with fresh basil and a squeeze of lemon, if desired.

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