Note: This post is part of an ongoing report on my efforts to eat locally for the month of May. You can read about my goals, exceptions and guidelines here.
In late April, Venetians celebrate Saint Mark's Day by highlighting the first of the spring peas in a risotto-esque soup, Risi i Bisi. I know this not because I keep track of major Catholic holidays but because about this time last spring, Nigella Lawson told me so in her column in the New York Times. Since then, I've made the soup numerous times, both with fresh and frozen peas. What I'd never done, however, was use the fresh pea pods to make the stock for the soup, a recommendation from Nigella in the version of this recipe in her cookbook, Forever Summer.
This additional step meant the recipe was perfect for eating local--no worries about the provenence of canned stock, and all the veggies are in season at the farmer's market (I had the arborio rice in my cupboard already). Plus, you actually use all parts of the vegetable, and I do hate to see those beautiful pods unceremoniously dumped in the trash.
So, here's to San Marco--and a city that celebrates its saints with local food!
Risi i Bisi
slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer
2 lbs shelled fresh peas, pods reserved
7 c. water
1 stalk celery
1 bay leaf
1 small onion, diced (I actually subbed 1 shallot and two pearl onions)
1 c. arborio rice
handful of mint, chopped
salt and pepper
In a large stockpot, bring water, pea pods, celery and bay leaf to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and cook for approximately 1 hour, until pods are soft. Strain liquid into metal bowl, and run the pods thru a food mill. If you don't have a food mill, do what I did: put them in your food processor and then strain through a metal strainer into bowl of stock. Even though it's a pain, you'll want to strain so you don't end up with stringy bits in your soup.
In a large sauce pan, saute onions in butter until translucent and starting to brown. Toss in your shelled peas and stir, then add rice and stir until everything's slicked with butter. Pour all of your stock in at once, bring to a boil, then turn down and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, taste for seasoning. Mix in handful of chopped fresh mint, and serve.
Erin's Kitchen Index: Soups and salads; Easy Weeknight Meals