Spring risotto {Time to get out of the cave}

Prospect Park

I’m coming out of my cave.

Have you ever felt like that? Like you’ve been hunkered down for a while and now it’s time to get out…literally and figuratively?

Yesterday, on the first day of spring, after I picked up my daughter from school I walked through the park as she rode her bicycle in front of me. The grass was still brown or dry, the trees without leaves, the playground nearly empty, but hope could be felt in the chill of the wind that blew through our hair and the barren branches.

This winter, and much of this past year, was all about nesting for me, retreating, being present for my daughter who started Kindergarten and figuring a few things out.

I recently told a new friend of mine that two things I like, creativity and business, are often at war with each other. I am revising a book and working closely with my agent on it. So there’s that side of me, the introverted self who likes to sit alone and write, while sipping coffee or tea. I also started a line of kitchen products, starting with the cheese grater, while also researching teas, spices and other kitchen tools that I’d like to sell. So there’s that side of me, the extroverted self who enjoys sharing things I like and the hustle and bustle of business.

On some days, hunkered down in my cave, I feel like I have to choose between the two and my mind gets wrapped up in the difficult choice and I feel paralyzed. And I stay in my cave.

Which is why it was so refreshing to walk through the park on the first day of spring. I’d just sent revisions off, and I felt lighter, mentally. During the walk, looking around at the dogs playing, the people sitting on benches, the grass about to grow, my daughter running around the playground, I realized that I don’t have to choose. I can embrace these two sides of myself, and come out of my cave and just BE. What a relief.

If you’ve felt like you’re in a cave, spring is the perfect time to venture out.

KITCHEN NOTES

Types of rice for risotto
Arborio rice is the most popular grain for risotto, but you can also use Baldo, Carnaroli, and Vialone Nano, which are all sold at Eataly. They are all short grain rice which have a high starch content which is released during the cooking process, as it absorbs the stock. Kalustyans, and Il Buco Alimentari also sell different grains for risotto.

Tip from Chef Alex Pilas of Eataly
Make sure the stock is hot. If it is cold it will shock the rice, and prevent the rice from releasing its starch. I also like to use hot water about 2/3 of the way through. If you are adding butter, olive oil, or cheese to finish it, the end result will be very rich with all that starch. The water will cut it so the palate is not overwhelmed.

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risotto3

Spring risotto
Spring is the time for a few of my favorite ingredients: morel mushrooms, ramps, peas and radicchio. The bitter radicchio, earthy morels and tangy Parmesan meld together into a dreamy dish. I like to top it with a handful of fresh herbs.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of ramps, chopped into bite size pieces
2 cups of fresh peas
1 cup of radicchio, cut into thin slices
5 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
Salt, (I use a smoked sea salt from The Meadow called Halen mon gold. It won an important award, but more importantly, this smoked salt adds an oaky flavor to this dish, which works well with the morels.
2 cups of arborio, or other grain, *see call-out box
1 cup dry white wine, see recommendation*
1 cup of fresh morels, sliced
1 chunk of Parmesan for grating, to taste
fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, oregano, basil, thyme, for example)

Make the dish
Heat the butter over low-medium heat in a sauté pan, until it’s foaming. Add the ramps and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the peas and radicchio and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Set aside.

Add broth to a separate pot bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer. In a medium pot (I use the 3 1/2 qt. Le Creuset Round French Oven), heat olive oil then add onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in some broth (1/4 cup or so), then lower the heat, cooking for another 5 to 10 minutes, until broth evaporates.

Increase heat to about medium and add in your rice of choice. Stir the rice until it’s coated in the oil and the rice is glistening. Cook, stirring constantly, to coat the rice with the oil, about 3 minutes, until it’s glistening. Add some wine and stir, ladle in some broth and continue to stir, alternating between broth and wine. Add the morels and 1 cup of the mushroom broth, and keep stirring.

Continue stirring and adding in wine and broth, until the liquid is absorbed. When it’s just about done (about 15 minutes after adding in first batch of wine) rice will be al dente), add in the ramps/radicchio mixture and stir. Remove from heat and stir in grated cheese, to taste, about 1 cup. Top with fresh herbs of your choice, the more the merrier.

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