Wednesday, June 8, 2011
The Kitchn, where I found this recipe, doesn't call this dish Risi e Bisi, the Venetian phrase for rice and peas. But, I mean, that's what it is, with variation. And the fact that they never mention the Italian roots of the dish (although it does get thrown around in the comments) is, as luck would have it, exactly what John Thorne is talking about in the preface to his book Simple Cooking where he discusses rice and peas. Thorne talks about learning to cook from cookbooks (as I have) and realizing that there is little conversing that goes on between them. And that it took introducing all of the Italian cookbooks in his collection to one another to make "the magically seamless world of those isolated Italian cuisines [dissolve] into five, six, seven Italian cooks all fruitfully squabbling with each other."
Because with a little looking, Thorne discovered that Risi e Bisi appear all over Italian cooking, with pasta sometimes replacing the rice in certain regions, and with meat being added in others. With more sleuthing, Thorne discovered that there are as many philosophies about how to make this dish as there are writers writing about it. Jane Grigson has her opinions, Waverly Root has his. Marcella Hazan asserts that Risi et Bisi is not risotto, as Grigson and Elizabeth David would have it, but soup as Ada Boni says.
I love this story because food people can be so strident in their opinions. And yet, they're always just opinions, and food is just food. And really, who the heck cares as long as it tastes good. So maybe the usual way is not to add a bunch of lemon juice and zest to your light spring soup of rice and peas, and maybe you're supposed to stick with parsley to flavor it. But the Kitchn adds plenty of lemon and even mint. I myself kept the lemon but swapped out the mint for chives. Like Thorne, who provides a recipe for both the soup and the risotto variety, I'm not taking sides. Except to say that I loved this risi, bisi e limone.
Lemon Pea and Rice Soup
Adapted from this recipe from The Kitchn
1 medium onion, diced
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3 tablespoons chives plus extra for serving
2 cups cooked brown rice (from 3/4 cups dry)
2 cups peas (fresh or frozen, both are fine)
Oil for the pan
Heat the oil in the pot that you're going to use to make the soup and cook the onions along with a pinch of salt until they're soft and translucent but not quite browned.
Add the stock and water to the pot and bring the liquid to a gentle boil. Add the lemon juice (I used all of it, but you might want to add only part, taste, and add the rest) along with the zest, 3 tablespoons of chives and 1 teaspoon of salt or to taste. Give it a quick stir, then add the cooked rice and the peas. Let the liquid come back to a simmer before serving. Remember, you can always add more lemon juice, chives, or salt if you think the soups needs it.
Posted by Andrea at 1:54 PM