Chosen Bites: Spring Pea Risotto

Risotto doesn't just have to be a starter, this flavorful dish is a meal in a bowl.

Spring Pea Risotto 370 (photo credit: Laura Frankel)
Spring Pea Risotto 370
(photo credit: Laura Frankel)
Though risotto is usually served as a Primo or first course, this brightly colored concoction is a meal in a bowl.
If you want to add roasted salmon to gild the lily, this luscious risotto will satisfy the heartiest of appetites. Serve with salad and crusty bread and smile with satisfaction knowing you have created art.
For the stock
8 cups water3 medium carrots, roasted until golden brown and rough chopped1 medium onion, roasted until golden and rough chopped2 large leeks, roasted until golden and rough chopped6 cloves garlic, roasted and chopped½ cup mushroom stems, roasted and chopped1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms½ cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or cannedSeveral fresh thyme sprigs and parsley stems
1. Place all of ingredients for the stock in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the vegetables to steep for 1 hour.
2. Strain the stick through a colander. Discard the vegetables. Cool the stock before storing. The stock can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for 2 months.
For the Risotto
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil2 medium shallots, minced finely3 cloves garlic, minced finely2 cups Risotto rice1 cup dry white wine 7 cups vegetable stock6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces1 cup parmesan cheese, gratedKosher salt and freshly cracked pepper½ cup mascarpone cheese (optional)
1. Heat the stock to a simmer and continue simmering while cooking the rice.
2. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil, shallot and garlic and sweat the vegetables until they are translucent and very soft (about 5 minutes). Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with the oil. The rice will take on opaque sheen after 2 minutes.
3. Add the wine and increase the heat to medium high. Stir constantly until the wine has been absorbed. Once the wine has been absorbed, add one cup of hot stock and stir until completely absorbed. Continue adding stock and cooking until the rice is very creamy and flowing, you may not need all of the stock.
4. Remove the risotto from the heat and add the cold butter and cheese. Return the pan to the heat and vigorously stir the risotto trying to get a little air worked into to the mix (this makes the risotto creamier) until the butter has melted. Salt and pepper to taste.
5.  Add the spinach puree and vegetables as desired. Serve immediately and garnish with a dollop mascarpone cheese if desired.
For the Peas
The pureed spinach turns the risotto bright green and adds a sweet flavor. They key to great flavor is to use in-season produce for the best flavor.
3 cups Fresh-not frozen baby spinach, pulsed in a food processor to become a puree½ cup petit English peas, fresh or frozen2 cups sugar snap peas, blanched and shocked and cut into thirds*¼ chopped Fresh mint¼ cup chopped Fresh parsley
*Blanching and shocking are exactly what they sound like. It's a process where vegetables and sometimes starches and proteins are cooked for a brief period in boiling and salted water and then immediately plunged into ice water. The blanching quickly cooks the vegetables and then stops the cooking process.
The set-up for this process is key to making the technique quick and easy. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and season with kosher salt. Have a large bowl of ice water standing by. Place the vegetables in a heat proof colander that fits in the pot of coiling water and the ice water. Place the colander in the boiling water for several minutes (literally just a few minutes to keep the veggies crisp) and then, carefully, lift the colander out of the boiling water and plunge it into the ice water.