One Thursday afternoon, Daniel and I were in the car on our way to finally buying our grill. It was a spring day, through and through. Daniel’s work schedule was different that week, so he had the day off, making it feel like a mid-week Saturday. Morning rain and clouds put a damper on the lawn mowing plans so Daniel set up shop on the front porch staining a wood project. As the morning grew old, the sun started to peak through the clouds and Daniel and I rejoiced. Literally. (In this household, sunshine=happy).
A stormy morning turned into a beautiful, sunny afternoon which was fully taken advantage of by both of us. After reveling in the warmth and sun, we later decided it was finally time to purchase our grill (what better way to welcome the warmer weather)?! We were going to buy one last July but we kept putting it off until winter came. There was no use in getting it then until winter had run it’s course. So now that winter was FINALLY over, it was grilling season!
As we drove the 5 minute trip to Lowe’s, Daniel asked his usual daily inquiry, “What’s for dinner, babe?” I had been contemplating the answer to that question earlier in the day and responded by explaining my idea of attempting to make risotto. I see tons of risotto recipes all the time and had been wanting to try it myself. Not only do the recipes sound neat, but so does the name (my love of fancy titles must have been my inspiration that day, as I also made cheese souffle for breakfast). The funny thing is, after telling him my dinner plans, and after explaining that my partial reasoning for having rice for dinner was that we could probably benefit from adding more whole grains to our diet, I went on to say that I’d like to branch out and try some different whole grains because I’m not a fan of rice. Rice reminds me of when I had it growing up as a side in a typical meat and potatoes meal (or in this case, meat and rice). A bland, generally unadorned, unspectacular side.
Now, fast forward to that evening. I had SO much fun thinking up a master dinner plan which included trying a new dish, using up four different ingredients that needed to be used (the little handful of frozen peas in the freezer, the last 3/4 cup of rice, etc.), AND most importantly, celebrating the arrival of spring by using fresh spring-inspired ingredients like crisp scallions and bright lemon zest. I wanted this dish to feel light, bright, and refreshing, giving the effect that spring was having on us that day. And to my utter delight, it was a success!
As we ate this exciting new meal, I thought to myself how funny it was that that same day I told Daniel that I didn’t like rice. Now, here I was thinking, wow…I could get used to eating rice THIS way. It was so creamy and packed full of lovely flavors. My favorite was the lemon that cut right through all the other flavors with a big splash of delightful tartness. Also, the sweetness of the roasted red pepper and the bitter notes of the spinach rounded out the dish beautifully. All in all, I was super thrilled that I 1) finally made risotto and 2) discovered a new-found love for rice.
Whether you’re like me and have never thought too much of rice, or whether you’re a huge, rice fanatic, you HAVE to try this delicious risotto, especially as spring arrives. It’s the perfect dish to match the bright, cheery mood of spring.
Lemon Risotto with Spinach, Peas, and Roasted Red Pepper
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 onion, chopped
3/4 c. arborio or other short-grain rice
1/4 c. white wine or water
salt and pepper
2 c. vegetable or chicken stock
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
8 oz. of fresh spinach
1 c. frozen or fresh peas, thawed if frozen
1/2 red bell pepper
scallions for garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a small pot on medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook until soft.
- Add the salt and pepper and then the wine. Cook until the wine evaporates.
- Add about 1/2 c. of the vegetable stock. When it’s almost evaporated, add another 1/2 cup. Keep adding more stock in this way until the rice is done, stirring frequently and keeping the heat at medium to medium-high heat.
- Meanwhile, turn the broiler on high and place the oven rack as close to the broiler as possible. Then place the red pepper under the broiler and cook until soft and a bit charred.
- Heat some oil in a saucepan and saute the spinach and peas.
- When the rice is done, dish into bowls and top with the spinach, peas, slices of roasted red pepper and scallions.