Spring Peas Sprouted

You know its spring when the fresh peas have arrived. Nestled in their natural little shells, they appear to be sleeping peacefully, content to lie unoticed for the time being. But I have noticed them, and I have scooped up a large handful for our sunday supper. They are vibrant and perfectly round and plump and a beautiful fresh mown grass green. And they are sweet. It is all I can do to keep more in the bowl than in my hand while shelling them for tonight's meal. Soon I am joined by other guests who saunter into the kitchen to see what will be on the menu. We strike up a conversation as we toss pea pods into a bowl. Conversation around the kitchen table, or island in this case. Those who get bored fall away like bees who cant find the honey.
The rest of us banter back and forth about how to prepare the lamb and what we will do with the peas. It makes for a delicious volley of ideas, but we finally settle on Roasted lamb rubbed with salsa verde and sweet pea risotto made with chicken stock and arborio rice. We are in the mountains with friends and the tools are limited. I chop all the herbs and spices by hand.
Bunchs of parsley are stemmed by hand, each delicated leaf tugged from its stem and tossed onto the board. Then fresh mint, pungently aromatic, deliciously fragrant. It will add a wonderfully refreshing flavor and texture to the sauce. And chopped garlic, zested lemon with its fresh juice, chopped salted capers, green olives and a pinch of peperoncini. There is somthing soufully satisfying about chopping by hand. It is a direct connection to the heart. Hand chopping, heart pumping, mouth imagining the tastes of each ingredient already made into a delicious recipe.

Risotto with sweet peas and fresh mint served with a roasted lamb stuffed with Salsa verde.

Marcella Hazan is the expert on making risotto. She says that you must cook it over relatively high heat to release the starches from the rice, while at the same time, taking caution to not burn the bottom of the pan. Use a heavy bottomed saucepan to solve this dilemna. Make your risotto according to the bible by Marcella and then, when the rice is about 5 minutes from being finished, put in the peas and finish ladeling in the last of the broth. Finish with a quarter cup of mascarpone and Parmesan cheeses {each } and a large pat of butter. If you have ever seen Mario Batali add butter to risotto, that is what I mean!

For the salsa verde:
2 cups Italian parsely leaves
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup fresh mint leaves
2 Tbsp. salt packed capers, rinsed
1/4 cup green olives
pinch peperoncini chile flakes
1 lemon, zested and juiced
salt and pepper to taste.
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Chop and chop and chop. You will want to keep it somewhat coarse, so you can taste each flavor as you bite into it.
Then drizzle in the oil and let sit for 20 minutes to let the flavors get to know each other.

And the lamb, butterflied and free of excess fat or silver skin, ready to be rubbed with half of the salsa verde and seasoned with salt and pepper. Rub it in to every crevice and then roll it up and tie it off. Rub the outside and season. Roast in a 375 degree oven until pink and tender and ready to eat.

Buon appetito!
Copyright 2007 Alisa Barry

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