Green Tea Risotto with Peas and Mint
Now this is a springtime recipe. And it came about in several different ways. First, there was the issue of the dying refrigerator, which forced me to pour a pot of just-made chicken stock (tearfully, of course) down the drain. Then there was John Thorne and his homage to rice and peas, risi e bisi, in his book Simple Cooking. Should they, as Elizabeth David maintains, be cooked as a risotto, or should they, as Marcella Hazan believes, be made into a soup? I don't presume to take sides, but I do love risotto...
Then, when reading about tea somewhere, it was suggested that when cooking, it might be used to replace a stock. A stock which, unfortunately, I needed to replace. And if I was going to make a risotto with green tea, I thought I'd keep it all green. With peas and mint. This is a light, subtle dish, not the brick that some richer risottos can be. If you pay attention, and slow down a bit, taking care to breathe in deeply, you'll notice the undertone of tea. Just after you get through the fresh flavors of mint, lemon juice and peas.
If you crave something with a bit more body, add a splash of white wine before you begin to stir in the tea. If you crave something richer, you can add in a few pats of butter just at the end.
I've never found risotto to be too much of a chore. I kind of like the stirring. I like watching the transformation, helping it along, coaxing out the creaminess. Normally I'm not paying enough attention to anything to actually witness a change. I like that risotto demands to be watched. So don't let anyone tell you that it's complicated, or just too much effort. When did stirring becomes such a Herculean task anyway? Didn't we all start out standing on a stool wearing a too-big apron, wooden spoon in hand, entrusted with slopping some batter around in a bowl? It's time to bring the joy back.
Green Tea Risotto with Peas and Mint
A Cooking Books Original
2 quarts water
8 bags green tea
oil for the pan
10 oz package frozen peas, thawed
1 cup mint (1 smallish bunch), minced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups arborrio rice
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for passing at the table
Bring 2 quarts of water to a near boil, then pour it over 8 bags of green tea in a pot. Allow to steep for 5 minutes, but be careful not to over-steep, as you don't want it to get bitter. Place the pot over a medium to medium-low flame to keep it warm.
Blanch the peas in boiling water for one minute, then drain and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
Warm the olive oil in a large pan or heavy-bottomed pot and sauté the onion for about 4 minutes until it softens. Add the garlic, and continue to cook for 1 minute more. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 7 minutes, then begin adding the tea, one cup at a time. Stir constantly until all of the tea has been absorbed by the rice and add another cup. Continue this process, adding tea and stirring to incorporate. As the rice gets thicker, it will take more time for it to absorb the liquid. The rice will be done in around 20 minutes, so begin tasting at about minute 17. The rice should be creamy, but still firm.
Stir in the grated cheese and peas until the cheese is melted and incorporated and the peas are warmed through. Remove the risotto from the heat, and begin adding the lemon juice, tasting, until it has a bright flavor. Then stir in the mint as well as the salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a few shavings of parmesan cheese over the top.
* This is not a thick, creamy risotto the way I have made it, but a more lightened version. If you want something more along those lines, you might think about adding in some butter at the end. And perhaps some white wine at the beginning, before you start with the tea.
* Have leftovers? Here's an idea for what to do with them.