Nothing makes a leisurely weekend better than a good friend to share it with. A couple weekends ago, my good friend Rebecca came to visit from New York and we had a fabulous time.
Rebecca is my oldest friend. We've been friends ever since we met at a family BBQ when I was 11, and despite a multitude of huge life changes, different schools, different cities, and plain old growing up, we've continued to be incredibly close. We might not keep in touch on a daily basis, but we manage a visit to each other's adopted cities at least every 3 months. And when we do see each other, it's all the more sweet because we pick up right where we left off and get to catch up on everything that's happened since we last visited. It's quite therapeutic. I'm lucky to have a lot of great friends in my life, but there's no substitute for years of history, and Rebecca and I have that.
We jumped right into her visit with happy hour at The Pig followed by cooking and wine in my kitchen and dinner on the roof. I decided on a spring vegetable risotto, as it was just the right balance of light and seasonal vs warm and comforting.
Risotto is a time consuming dish to make, but not at all difficult. Sure, you have to stir it frequently for about 20 minutes as you add liquid, but it doesn't take much skill or labor. Simply prepare the vegetables first and set them aside, then cook the rice. Add the vegetables back in along with lots of butter and parmesan cheese, and you have risotto! This recipe is topped with a poached egg (because they really do make everything better), which adds a delicious sauciness from the yolk and also some protein, since there isn't much in the rest of the dish. (For the best directions on how to poach an egg, see Deb's instructions, of course.) You can easily skip the poached egg if you prefer, especially if you're serving this as a side dish (to chicken, perhaps?)
The only unfortunate thing about the lovely time I had with Rebecca was that we didn't take any pictures as we made the risotto (I blame all the chatting and wine). But do no fear! Detailed directions are included below. Enjoy! Preferable outside with a glass of wine and a good friend :)
Spring Vegetable Risotto
Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2013
2 cups frozen peas, cooked (or 2 cups fresh peas, shelled and cooked)
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 pound mushrooms (crimini or chanterelle - I used crimini, which are just baby bellas)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, white and pale greens only, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (Three Wishes works perfectly here)
1 bunch spinach, torn into smallish pieces
1/4 cup chives, chopped
1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese, shredded (plus more for topping)
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, heat the broth, covered, over medium-high heat until it's just below a simmer. Turn the heat to low, keeping covered, so that it stays warm.
Slice or halve the mushrooms, depending on their size. Aim for bite-sized pieces. In a large saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook for several minutes and remove from pan; set aside.
In the same pan, melt another tablespoon of butter and heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and fennel and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more, or until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the rice and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine and stir to combine. Stir occasionally until most of the wine is absorbed by the rice. Add 1 cup of the heated broth and stir occasionally until most of the broth is absorbed. Continue to add the broth in 1/2 cup increments, stirring frequently but not constantly, until the rice is soft and cooked through (taste test to check!), about 20 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, spinach, chives, parmesan cheese and remaining two tablespoons of butter and stir to combine. The spinach will wilt. Remove the pan from the heat; add salt and pepper to taste.
Top with a poached egg if desired and serve immediately.
Note: Risotto reheats well and lasts for several days in the refrigerator. Portions can also be frozen and enjoyed later. Simply defrost and heat in the microwave.