Monday, June 13, 2011

Fresh Peas and Mint Risotto - inspired by "The Dirty Life"

This is a recipe inspired by a book inspired by a life. The recipe is with Fresh Peas cooked in milk and mint (then turned into Fresh Pea and Mint Risotto.)

The book is "The Dirty Life" by Kristin Kimball. The life is Kristin's experience going from a city girl to falling in love with a man of the land, then falling in love with the land.

I have personal reasons for loving the idea of this book, but the story touched on themes universal and sustaining.

I spent my earliest years living with just a field of corn, vegetables, and berries between my house and my grandparent's survival farm. As a child, I watched the hard work of farming like my own personal theme park. The giant Shire horse that pulled the plow for my grandfather was the same one I shared a salt lick with in the hay barn. It didn't occur to me, that he was also the source of indispensable strength required to work the soil.

My brother, cousins and I built many elaborately chambered forts of hay bales that had recently been tediously gathered and tied for feed. We threw grains to the chickens and gathered eggs when we felt like joining in, not knowing it was a daily chore the adults were bound to every morning at dawn.
We ran through the yard from escaped pigs, not reading the concerned faces of the tired parents who had already spent this season's budget on fence repairs.

We'd grab the handle for churning butter and claim our success after a few strokes, leaving the rest of the hour to Grandma. We stole strawberries and mulberries from the vines for our own red stained version of paintball wars. We sprinkled salt into one palm of our hands and dipped fresh hot juicy tomatoes into it and ate them like apples. We'd sit in the yard with a lap full of chores and feel besieged with suffering that we couldn't go play until we had snapped our little bowl of green beans, or shucked our share of corn.
Grandma gave us steaming buttermilk biscuits that we poked holes into and filled with molasses to eat while we headed out for the day on what we thought were newly forged faraway pathways through the woods. We returned late in the afternoon, grouchy with exhaustion from our difficult day of work and exploration. Later, as an adult I realized it was only about a city block in distance away from the main house.

For these and other memories of farm living, "The Dirty Life" gave me a new appreciation for how much work had been going on around my little world.
If I had never experienced a farm, Kristin Kimball's book would still be on my bedside table. Her writing tone feels like a letter to a friend, and somewhere in there I start feeling like I am the friend.

Through the journey of her falling in love with her husband, community, animals and nature, I am inspired. In her words, "Why is farming like a relationship? Because you do not reap what you sow. That's a lie. You reap what you sow, hill, cultivate, fertilize, harvest, and store."
Along the way, Kristin casually tosses us a few recipe and cooking ideas. One of my favs is cooking fresh summer peas in a saucepan of milk briefly, then adding a few sprigs of mint.After gathering our first season peas from my tiny little "dog run" size garden, I turned the minted peas into a Risotto for a family dinner.Obviously I really enjoyed this book, so you can imagine how exciting it was to have Kristin Kimball join in during an online virtual book club meeting this past week. She was generous and funny, spoke of her two kids being watched by her farmer husband, Mark, while our book club tweeted comments and questions regarding her writing, her inspirations and her plans.

At one point Mark brought her a plate of fresh and simply prepared asparagus and she mentioned how the right ingredients were so much more important than the recipe to her. It was a joy.

This online book club was hosted by
Allison for Leite's Culinaria (David Leite). You are invited to join us for the next event/book which will be decided soon. It's a great way to challenge and encourage yourself to carve out time for reading and then discussing what we read without even leaving your own home/office. A time is set, you go on twitter and put in the subject #LCBookClub and join in the meeting.(Here's a special treat: there will be another time with Kristin Kimball this coming Tuesday night, June 13th, 2011 at 9PM EST. Even if you haven't read the book (yet), stop by and experience the energy.)

RECIPE: Fresh Peas & Mint Risotto

2 cups fresh peas

2 cups milk

pinch of salt

1 Tbls fresh mint leaves or chopped in pieces

3 Tbls. Butter

3 Tbls. Olive Oil

1 small Shallot (chopped)

1 cup Arborio rice

1/4 cup white wine (or non alcoholic Verjon)

1 qt. stock (vegetable or chicken)

1/2 cup grated cheese (parmigiano or pecorino work well)

1) In a small saucepan, bring the peas and milk to a simmer for about 2-3 minutes, then add the mint and salt. Remove the pan from heat and hold.

2) In a sided skillet over med. heat, cook the shallot in the butter and oil until tender (about 3-5 minutes).

3) Add the rice and stir (season with salt) until the rice turns opaque (about 5-10 minutes).

4) Add the wine and stir to deglaze the skillet until almost all the liquid has been incorporated (au sec.)

5) Add the stock, one cup at a time, for 3 times. Stirring between each addition until the liquid is absorbed and the rice begins to create its own sauce.

6) Stir in the milk and the peas (as you did the stock), continuing to incorporate and cook the rice. Use the rest of the stock as needed to stir in and keep the Risotto creamy. Season to taste.

7) Stir in the grated cheese, briefly and serve with more grated cheese as desired.


Diane Schmidt said...

Looks delicious, can't wait to try it!

The Sentimental Suitcase said...


Cathy don't you know I'm on a diet! ;) How am I supposed to read your blog with all this goodness?!!!!



Susan said...

What a wonderful & inspiring post, Cathy! I love Risotto & fresh Peas, so will have to give this recipe a try.

I love your story & was thinking you should write a book of your own - punctuated by recipes!

Lana said...

The memories of your childhood hit home with me, too. We spent summers with our grandparents who had a small farm, but the chores were interminable. We were playing, and occasionally whining if we had to do something, without considering how much endless work goes into feeding us.
I loved the book, and you are right, Kristen's writing style is warm, inviting, and friendly, with fresh metaphors and a lot of prompts for thinking.
I hope to make it tonight, as I don't have to work like on Sunday:)
BTW, I have to be jealous of your garden, even if it is small. I yearn for fresh peas and would love to make this recipe for my girls!

Allison Parker said...

Hey, thanks so much for posting about the LCBookClub. It's one of the best things I get to do over at Leite's Culinaria (and there are many!).

Kimball's book, The Dirty Life, is so wonderful. It is impossible to think of it not touching everyone, no matter if you're a farmer in reality or just in your dreams (or even not at all). But I am especially pleased to read how this book touches you.

Thanks for taking it one step farther and cooking from the pages of our book selection!

Hope to see you in future book club chats!

Kim said...

Beautiful risotto, Cathy!

I too, have personal reasons for loving this book. Isn't it better when we can relate to the story?! :)

I "attended" the second discussion tonight. It was wonderful sharing thoughts and notes with the author herself. Look forward to the next book club selection already!


Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

I love this...just one more extension of the book so many of us loved and for different reasons.

I've never been associated with a farm like you have but have long worked to produce for myself and my family in many ways that made the book something I could relate to.

Loved it, loved meeting you there and now...I must do these peas!

Anonymous said...

I've been wanting to make a risotto for a while now...and this looks really good!