Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tips and Tricks: Homegrown Frozen Peas

Peas are easy to grow and rewarding, especially for little ones. Our son loves to help watering them, watch them climb up their trellis, pick the plump pods, break them open (okay, he needs our help with that one), and pluck the fresh peas out to eat as is. They are best eaten fresh, but they turn starchy if left even overnight in the fridge. We have peas coming out our ears over here. They are growing so fast, we can hardly keep up with the harvest. With so many coming at us, we need to preserve them, since we can't possibly eat them all immediately.

So, temporarily, our kitchen is a pea-freezing operation. Here's how we do it:

1. Pick your peas. Lumpy pods are likely to have tough, bitter peas, so discard those.

2. Shell your peas. Make a date with your DVR and catch up on an episode of your favorite show while you separate the peas from the pods. Discard any extra large or broken peas.

3. Boil a large pot of water, and prepare a large bowl filled with cold water and ice. Add peas to the boiling water, and cook for 90 seconds. Drain and immediately place peas in ice water. Swish gently until peas are cooled. Drain again.

4. Lay peas out in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for about an hour. Place frozen peas in quart-sized freezer bags to store long-term. Peas will keep for 3 months or so.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Risotto Primavera with Shrimp

In my parents' home growing up we had CTR nights. In the Mormon vernacular, CTR means to choose the right, which I'm sure my parents hoped we would do. But on CTR nights at our house it stood for Clean The Refrigerator. You might know it as leftovers night.
I've never been a big fan of leftovers, though if I liked it enough the first time around I'll generally eat the remainder with a straight face. But given the choice, I find a way around eating them.

In my own household, I rarely enforce CTR night in the way my parents did -- perhaps as my family grows older I will. Or perhaps it's because my husband often takes the leftovers to work for lunch the next day. In any case, when I want to CTR, I plan a meal I can throw whatever I have on hand into with stunning results. My go-to CTR meals are panini, risotto, and salad. Sometimes omelets or scrambles.
Risotto is my favorite, though.

This risotto primavera is a lovely example. Just toss in whatever veggies you need to use up. I used carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, red pepper, and peas. Corn would have been lovely, too. Then I roasted some shrimp, which took all of 5 minutes, and voila! A dish I wouldn't might eating for leftover night or any time.

Risotto Primavera

3 c. water
3 c. vegetable stock (I often just use the equivalent of bouillon cubes dissolved in water)
3 Tbsp. oil, divided
1/2 of a yellow onion, diced small
1/2 c. each of whatever veggies you have or want to use, diced small -- I used carrots, red pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus (If you want to use frozen peas as I did, save them to stir in at the end)
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 c. arborio rice
1/4 c. white wine (I use white grape juice with a little white wine vinegar)
1/2 c. frozen peas
2-4 oz. cream cheese or mascarpone
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Combine water and stock in a medium saucepan, and heat to a simmer on a back burner. Let continue to simmer while you work on the rest of the dish.
In a large pan, heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium/medium-high heat. Add onion and carrots (if using), long with a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until onions are translucent. Then add remaining veggies and saute again until just tender. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add remaining Tbsp. of oil to pan, along with the butter. Let the butter melt, then add the arborio rice. Cook and stir for about a minute or so. Add the white wine (or equivalent), and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook and stir until liquid is absorbed. Add a ladle-full of hot stock/water mixture, cook and stir until liquid is absorbed -- repeat this step until you have added all of the stock/water, or until rice is cooked through. This will likely take about 1/2 hour or so of continuous attention to the stove. Really stir vigorously to release the starches in the rice -- that's what makes it the creamy risotto you crave.
Add cooked veggies, frozen peas, cream cheese, and grated Parmesan. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Top with roasted shrimp (instructions below) and enjoy!

Simple Roasted Shrimp

shrimp, peeled and deveined -- make a big batch or a small batch (for risotto I like to do five or six per person/serving)
salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400ยบ. Place shrimp on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil -- about a tablespoon. Sprinkle on a generous pinch of kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Toss to coat evenly, then spread into a single layer and place in the oven.
Roast for about 4 minutes, on until shrimp is opaque and pink. Usually it will be cute and curly, too, but some fully-cooked shrimp will refuse to curl up and that's okay. Remove from oven and serve.