No seasonal food taboos can get between me and my favorite Italian rice dish (are there any others?): risotto is delicious year-round. It simply absorbs the season into its gooey mass and holds it there snug like a mother kangaroo. Lemon? Sure. Crisp spring vegetables like sugar snap peas, juicy zucchini and fresh chopped scallions? Why not? Welcome to spring, risotto. You’re looking green and well today.
It took me a really long time to notice the existence of the sugar snap pea. Looking up the legume, I learned that they’re a mix between an English pea (in which the pods are not eaten) and the snow pea (in which the pods are flat and edible and the peas are tiny). I thought, cool, it’s like an east-west fusion vegetable. It’s like me. (I wonder if it’s confused.) I’m not so sure its sweetness is any greater than either parent pea to qualify “sugar” being in its name. Perhaps it was once a pet name. Unlike green peas, they grow in slightly cold climates and adapt well to frost, making them quintessential spring vegetables. Plus they’re incredibly crunchy and taste just fine raw in salads or just barely cooked in stir fries.
Or, in risotto. I’ll admit that the assertive crisp bite of the snap peas (here filling in for the ubiquitous green peas) are a bit of a jarring contrast to the creaminess of the risotto and soft zucchini. And fresh, crisp scallions may not be for everyone, so perhaps chives can be used as well.
Spring Snap Risotto
(makes 4 main course-size servings)
1 zucchini, sliced
½ cup sugar snap peas, chopped in half
2 scallions, chopped
1 cup risotto
About 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth (preferably homemade with lots of veggie flavor)
1 cup dry white wine
½ medium-size onion, chopped
1-2 shallots, chopped
Squirt of fresh lemon juice (optional)
½ cup grated parmesan
3 Tb olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Heat about half the olive oil in a medium pan on medium-high. Place down the zucchini and shallots and don’t stir for a few minutes, add a sprinkle of salt, and let cook until just caramel-brown on one side. Stir once to try to get the other sides of the zucchini on the bottom of the pan, and leave for another minute. Stir around a bit and until zucchini is somewhat evenly browned, remove from pan, reserving in a dish.
Add the rest of the olive oil, chopped onions, and rice. Stir for 3-4 minutes, coating the rice with oil. Add wine and stir until absorbed. Add warmed broth in ladleful at a time. Once risotto has achieved a soupy, creamy consistency and the rice is cooked, toss in the snap peas, zucchini, scallions and parmesan (reserving some for serving) and give it one final stir. Serve immediately with a little more parmesan if desired.
(for 4 main course-size servings)
1 cup Arborio rice (about ¼ box at $4.19): $1.00
1 cup white wine (about 1/8 $12 bottle): $1.50
3 cups homemade broth: $0.50
½ cup grated parmesan: $0.70
2 shallots: $0.15
1 zucchini (at $1.99/lb): $0.75
1/2 cup chopped sugar snap peas (at $2.99/lb): $0.80
1/2 medium-size onion: $0.20
3 Tb olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper: $0.30
Three brownie points: This risotto borders on salad territory when it comes to nutrition. Zucchinis (with skin on) have antioxidants, fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, and as much potassium as a banana for a 1-cup serving (how many other things now have “as much potassium as a banana”??). Sugar snap peas have all that and protein, vitamin A and iron. Need we say more?