Start Shelling! Make Sweet Pea Risotto

We’ve been eating a lot of peas since mid-June. Freshly shelled, there is nothing better. The season for shelling peas is short, but the cold rainy Spring seams to be slowing down the parade of Summer produce and I’m still seeing plenty of these precious little guys at the greenmarket and our food coop.

Shelling - worth the effort

I’ve tried some new recipes, like a chilled pea soup with ginger and cumin (I riffed on a combination of this recipe and this one) and a Creamy Mussel Stew With Peas, Fennel and Lemon that Brad spotted in the NY Times Dining section (the latter inspired the flavors of my pea risotto). I even improvised on this recipe for a 4th of July potato salad and used them in place of green beans.

Sweet, Sweet Peas

In the Spring I often make Asparagus risotto, I love this recipe with barley and hazelnuts, but more often I make a traditional risotto using Arborio rice with the same asparagus puree technique. I started itching to make a sweet pea risotto this way the day I spotted the first shelling peas at the market.

Sweet Pea Risotto

I’m calling this my “peas de rĂ©sistance” (ha!) for early summer recipes. I love the flavor of the fennel and lemon with the peas. It’s creamy, delicious, and it just sings with the bright tastes of summer.

Sweet Pea Risotto

  • 1.5 lb shelling peas (will yield about 1.5 cups)
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 3 tablespoons butter (divided)
  • 5 cups stock (I use chicken most often)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion (1 small onion or 1/2 a larger one)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped fennel (1 small bulb or 1/2 a larger one)
    *You can save a few fronds for garnish
  • 1.5 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring the stock to a simmer in a small stockpot on a rear burner. Bring a second pot with salted water to a boil. Cook the peas in the boiling water until tender – about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Transfer half the peas to a food processor with lemon juice and zest and puree (add a tablespoon or two of water if needed to get it smooth). Set aside with the remaining whole peas.

In a large, heavy, saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onion and fennel and cook, stirring often, until tender – be careful not to let them brown – about 8-10 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat in the butter, then add the wine and simmer, stirring, until the wine is completely absorbed.

Begin adding the stock by the 1/2 cup, stirring slowly and frequently until almost completely absorbed, then add the next 1/2 cup. Continue cooking like this until you have about 1/2 cup of stock left (about 25 minutes). Taste the risotto – it should be tender with just a bit of firmness to the bite. Stir in the pea puree and whole peas with a final 1/2 half cup of stock. When nearly all the liquid is absorbed, stir in cheese, remaining tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving bowls and serve immediately.

*My pal, Alexis, was asking me the last time I made this dish what the secret to risotto is. I told him to keep stirring! Seriously, slow and steady wins this race. You’re coaxing those rice grains to absorb nearly twice the liquid they normally would by slowly adding stock and stirring continuously over a moderate heat. So if you’re making this dish for guests and they ask “can I help with anything?” tell them, stand here and stir!

Now, you may be thinking it doesn’t get much better than that. But wait, there’s more.

Whatchu gonna do with leftover risotto? It doesn’t really reheat well, not to that perfectly creamy consistency it once was. Not to worry.

Wait for it…

These aren't leftovers, these are Risotto Cakes!

Risotto Cakes

The trick is to use the risotto straight out of the fridge. When it’s cold it’ll stick together so you don’t need an egg or anything to bind it.

Heat a pan to medium-high heat and melt a few tablespoons of butter (you can also use olive oil) – be generous, because you want the cakes to quickly brown and crisp up without sticking. When a drop of water sizzles in the pan, you’re ready to go.

Drop the risotto by heaping, rounded spoonfuls into the pan (sometimes I use my ice cream scooper), and with the back of a spatula, gently press them to flatten a bit. Let them fry, about 3 minutes a side, until a golden brown crust forms. Very gently, so as not to break the cakes or loose the crust, slide the spatula under, flip and repeat. When the cakes are lightly browned with crisp surfaces on both sides, carefully remove to plates.

This makes for an awesome lunch or dinner with a simple leafy salad on the side (for that sexy photo I dressed those suckers up with some pea tendrils – I know, you can barely handle it). Crispy and crusty on the outside with rich, creamy goodness in the center. You’ll never serve all the risotto again – I always save some for making cakes.

Oh, and if you haven’t had your mind sufficiently blown…

Pea Pod Vegetable Stock

Here’s another great idea. Don’t just trash those pods, make veggie stock with them and use it to make pea soup or risotto!

4 Responses to “Start Shelling! Make Sweet Pea Risotto”

  1. #

    Kimberley says:

    Okay, it’s like a bajillion times hotter there than here and you’re making risotto. Love it. Also, good call on veg stock!

    • #

      Heather Feather says:

      Ha! True, this is definitely not a heat wave recipe. I think it was a *cooler* night when I last made it a week ago. Right now, it’s nothing but grilling.

  2. #

    Pea Sheller says:

    Wow, I never thought to use leftover risotto in cake form. That looks so yummy. I’m hoping the next time I make risotto there are some leftovers so I can try this out!

    • #

      Heather says:

      I was hoping someone would say that! They’re such a treat, enjoy!

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