Nine times out of ten, cooking is a matter of necessity, nothing more than a requirement for getting food into your belly. Convenience is paramount — there are a million Internet recipes with “quick” and “easy” keywords. (I’ve got a few here.)
But every now and then, I want to spend a little time in the kitchen. Nothing too laborious, but something that requires a bit of work, something that feels like “cooking.” Risotto is perfect for those moments. It’s pretty easy, work-wise: you mostly stir, and stir and stir and stir. There’s something meditative about it, and as I’ve been in a state of near constant work-related stress, there’s something calming about doing extremely simple tasks over and over, where I can shut my brain off for an hour and focus on nothing else but stirring rice in a pot. (See also: running long distances at a slow, plodding pace, which oh by the way I’m running another half-marathon at the end of May, so I’ve been doing more of … )
Risotto is especially perfect this time of year, when there are new, exciting vegetables popping up at the farmer’s market, but it’s still chilly enough to crave creamy carbs for dinner. Asparagus and peas shine here, but you could swap in anything: leeks would be delicious, as would ramps or morels or anything else that’s fresh and bright and beautiful. I had one slightly weird swap — I didn’t realize I was totally out of Parmesan until halfway through the recipe, and instead added a slightly alarming amount of Irish cheddar instead. The cheddar was tangy and lemony and worked really nicely, so it’s worth trying.
This spring risotto isn’t one of those weeknight wonders. It takes time and attention and care. It’s something to make when you really feel like cooking, when an hour in front of the stove with a glass of wine (you need to open the bottle anyway!) seems ideal. And your reward is comfort, both in the process and in the result, and what’s better than that? …