I knew that my African American forbears were rolling in there graves as I made this dish. I can tell you, you’ll never look at collards and black eyed peas the same after tasting this nutritious and delicious dish. Say a prayer and let the spirit guide you, as you cook this gorgeous fusion of collard and black eyed peas. It’s a veritable marriage of two great soul foods in one pot.
I discovered the lush Sacramento and San Joaquin River Delta agricultural region and the city of Brentwood over twenty years ago. There were many farms in Bentwood then, before several were converted into large tract home developments. This area has had a rich agricultural heritage going back to the early 1900’s with major crops like cherries, corn and peaches. Sadly, many farms are disappearing and many families have tired of farming decided to move on.
Spring Harvest Risotto
As you may have guessed, risotto is one of my staple dishes. I have a number of seasonal risotto recipes in my repertoire and never tire of trying out new inspiration for risotto. I’ve been romanced by a dream of this Spring Harvest Risotto for a number of weeks. I was inspired seeing all those fresh spring peas, asparagus, fava beans, corn and bright yellow squash blossoms at the Alemany Farmers Market in the San Francisco Bay Area. I hope you’ll enjoy this Spring Harvest Risotto as much as we do.
- 2 Cups of Risotto Rice (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
- 4 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Cups of Chopped Onion
- 1 Cup of Dry White Whine
- 6 Cups of Hot Vegetable or Chicken Stock
- 1 Bunch Fresh Small Asparagus (Cut into 1.5" pieces)
- 1 Lb Fresh or Frozen English Peas (Shelled if fresh)
- 1 Lb Fresh Fava Beans (Shelled and Hulled)
- 12 Fresh Squash Blossoms (Stamens removed and cut into 1" slices) plus 5 for garnish
- 2 Fresh Ears of Corn (Kernels sliced off the ears)
- 1 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Pour yourself a glass of white wine as you'll enjoy this therapeutic recipe more with a good glass of wine and you need to taste it before you add it to your risotto. Ready your big guns and those of a beloved in case you tire of stirring for 20-25 minutes.
- Prepare the squash blossoms, onion, asparagus, peas and favas and place in separate containers.
- Heat the stock to a very slow simmer.
- To a large heavy 8-10 quart pan add the olive oil and heat over medium high heat then add onions and stir until the onions are translucent.
- Add the rice and stir vigorously, coating each grain of rice with olive oil until you hear the rice begin to crackle in the oil.
- Add the white wine and stir until the wine is taken up by the rice.
- Add two ladles of hot stock and stir until almost all the stock is absorbed by the rice.
- Continue adding stock and stirring it into the rice until the rice reaches an al dente stage (rice still has a little crunch when bitten)
- Add the corn kernels and stir into rice.
- Add another ladle of stock and stir until partially combined
- Add the peas, asparagus and favas and stir into the rice.
- Add a little more stock and stir.
- Add the squash blossoms and stir to combine.
- Test the asparagus for doneness before serving with freshly grated Parmesan.
- Garnish plates with fresh squash blossoms and parmesan atop each serving or on top of a family style serving platter.
- Remember, risotto waits for no one. Have your table set and plates heated just as your rice is completing it's cooking process. Avoid overcooking the delicate green veggies as they will quickly turn grey. Don't stop stirring until your rice is the perfect consistency individual rice grains are coated in their own silky sauce. Since all the additions will cook very quickly, I course the individual additions beginning with the corn followed by the peas, favas and asparagus ending with the squash blossoms to insure even cooking and bright colors. I garnished my risotto with fennel fronds and whole squash blossoms.
Last year, my dear friend Kailey and I made a pact to have brunch at a much touted bakery on Valencia Street in the Mission district by the name of Craftsman and Wolves. I must admit, I was very pleasantly surprised when I strolled into Craftsman and Wolves like a wide eyed kid plastered to the jewel like display cases of delicately crafted patisserie (brownies, rolls and cube cakes) as well as the expertly constructed viennoiserie (croissants, brioche, morning buns and financier).