Green Pea Risotto

Sometimes when I plant pea seeds in the garden, I can feel my impatience to see them sprout and feel there is a small child inside of me avidly watching the ground for the first sign of lime green to poke through deep brown.  That child is practically dancing around the pea bed, with barely contained restraint.  While outside, of course, I’m an adult and wait patiently for each new delight, savoring the waiting and the manifestation with my hands folded nicely in my lap.  NOT.

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The peas have come really well under the cold frame where I can control the amount of water they receive and avoid both drying out from spring winds and rotting from spring rains.  I think I may have found my system!

This week’s column also has Snap Pea, Almond and Feta Salad; Lemony Peas, Pea Shoots and Tomatoes; Pea Shoots with Red Peppers and Red Onion.

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Green Pea Risotto
1 1/2 cups fresh peas
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup diced onions, about 1 onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
several grinds of fresh white pepper
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium sauce pan, bring the chicken broth to a boil.  Meanwhile add the half the peas to a blender.  When the broth is hot, add gradually to the peas in amounts just enough to achieve a smooth paste or a little looser.  Reserve the remaining broth in the pan off the heat.  Puree the peas until they are very smooth.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and salt and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.  If the onions begin to brown, reduce heat.  When the onions are done add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon for one minute.  Add the white wine and stir.  Bring the wine to a simmer stirring occasionally.  When the liquid has mostly evaporated, which you can tell by sight of course, but you can also hear it as the rice begins to get a little noisier and crackle just a little, add 1 cup of the chicken broth and stir.  Continue to add the stock, one cup at a time, until it is all incorporated, stirring frequently and listening for changes in the sounds of the rice.  When the rice is almost done and needs maybe only a minute or two more, add the pea purée, the rest of the fresh peas and the white pepper.  The rice is done when the liquid is completely incorporated but everything is still creamy and the grains are just the tiniest bit al dente in the center.  Add the Parmesan cheese, stir and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Annie
Tickled Green

New Chickens Arrive!

Our retirement home for aging chickens is woefully short on the production of eggs right now.  One egg per day – total – just isn’t cutting it.   It could have something to do with how freaking cold it is here right now (Even my husband is wearing his fingerless mittens today.  In the house.)   … or that they are all molting.  How unfair is it of Mother Nature to cause her sweet hens to drop their feathers on some of the coldest days of the year?  The coop is well insulated now with a layer of feathers, but the hens are scraggly, cold and sorry looking.

The plan is to every year or other year add some yearlings to the brood so that the egg production stays level.  As hens age, they lay fewer and fewer eggs.  And while a true farmer would allocate them to the stew pot, I just can’t do it.

They were precious cargo in the back of our car.  Held with great care.  Me without my chicken bin lined with hay, but instead with three cooing girlies in the back of the car content to hold them on the way home.

Annie
Hoping, generous hens, for a few more than one a day

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How a Hen Hatches an Egg

When I first went to college, I was sure that I wanted to be a veterinarian.  While I’m a far cry from that now as a chef and owner of a Maine windjammer, I’m inching in that direction again by having chickens and a cat and dreaming about my own horses, goats and pigs.

We’ve had chickens for almost two years now and I’ve, until this morning, never seen one hatch an egg.  My patient daughter has.  My daughter who can’t sit still hasn’t.  Guess which side of the spectrum I fall?

As I sat on the fresh sawdust I’d just spread for the hens, Chocolate hopped up into a nesting box.  The one they all prefer to use was overcrowded with three other hens all vying for prime real estate as they answered the call of their rhythms.  Chocolate fussed and pecked and adjusted as one does sometimes when they are settling in for a nap, getting everything just right.

She then began to rock back and forth a bit.  It looked a little like gentle labor, which I suppose it was.  Her back end came up a bit and then the egg began to appear.  Her membranes surrounded the egg as it gently plopped onto the hay.

Amazing.  Animals are amazing.

Annie
So grateful to have these simple, gentle beings gifting us fresh eggs every day

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Fairy Pink Lemon Cupcakes

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A friend of mine once told me that when your chickens ate the shells from shrimp, the egg yolks turned from a deep orange to a shade with a little more red.  When you used the eggs, it turned yellow cakes and light batters pink. 

My girls needed to try this experiment and I was game, hoping that we didn't end up with pink, shrimp tasting cupcakes.  Turns out, they do turn pink, although not quite pink enough for my girls so we had to add a little food coloring.  And thankfully, no shrimp taste at all.  Just yummy lemon.

Fairy Pink Lemon Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 tablespoon lemon zest
red food coloring
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk

Frosting
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 teaspoons lemon juice
milk if needed
red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 3, six cup muffins tins with cupcake liners.  With a mixer or wooden spoon beat butter and sugar together and add eggs one at a time.  Add lemon extract and zest.  Add a few drops of food coloring and mix until incorporated.  Sift all dry ingredients into the bowl and mix adding buttermilk 1/2 cup at a time. 

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins and bake for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center.  Remove from tin and cool on baking rack.  When cool, frost and eat with cute children and chamomile tea.

Makes 18 cupcakes

© 2009 Anne Mahle