As I impatiently stare at the dirt in my garden and look at plants I haven't had a chance to plant yet, I find some immediate garden satisfaction in herbs. They're the only thing out there I can harvest right now. So, this past weekend when the cold rainy Sunday seemed endless (and this weather has barely stopped since), I went out and grabbed a handful of herbs and made some risotto.
I have a "thing" for risotto. It's quite possibly the most flexible dish in the world. Whatever your recipe, it has the same base - rice, onions and wine with some olive oil (or sometimes butter) and the rest is up to you. Some people shy away from risotto because it's a LOT of stirring. I've seen quick recipes, but I prefer the traditional. I actually like the process of this dish - it's therapeutic in a way to nurture it to its end...kind of like gardening - it requires attention and work, but in the end, it's all worth it.
I used Lemon Thyme, Basil & Sage from the garden in this dish. I loved the combination of the basil and hint of citrus from the thyme. If you don't have lemon thyme on hand, I'd suggest throwing in some regular thyme and a little lemon zest instead. Honestly, you can choose any combination of herbs you have on hand. If you don't like shrimp or can't eat it, leave it out. The herbs alone are great in this dish. It makes a great side dish as well.
2 1/2 cups of packed fresh basil leaves
12 large sage leaves
4 sprigs of lemon thyme, leaves separated from the stem (discard the stem)
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 lb jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 - 2 1/2 quarts vegetable broth
2 cups finely chopped shallots (about 4-5 large whole)
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
Salt and pepper to taste
Note: Some people insist on not adding cheese to any dish that has seafood/fish in it. I think in something like this, it's perfectly fine and delicious. But if you're a purist, just skip the cheese, chop the herbs and at the end, before adding the herbs, melt 3/4 c. of unsalted butter into the risotto and then add the herbs.
Add herbs & cheese in a food processor and pulse about 10 times to combine.
Cut each shrimp into about 4 pieces. (If you bought different size shrimp, just cut into pieces that are small enough to eat as is. No one should ever put a knife to their risotto to cut anything....) Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Heat (don't boil) broth in a saucepan. Keep it at a low simmer.
Pour yourself a big glass of wine. From here on out, you're going to be chained to the stove, stirring.
In a large heavy sauce pan or dutch oven, heat the oil on low heat.
Add the onions to the oil. Stir occasionally for about 8 minutes or until soft (not browned).
Add rice and cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes.
Turn up the heat to medium and add wine. Stir until absorbed - about 1 minute.
Add about 1/2 cup of broth to the mix and stir constantly until absorbed.
Continue to add broth 1/2 - 1 cup at a time. Stir constantly. As each addition of broth is absorbed, add another addition. Keep doing this for about 20-25 minutes or until creamy but still al dente.
When it's close to being done, with about 5 minutes remaining add the shrimp and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and add the herb/cheese mix. Stir until completely combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).
I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)
This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.
In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself.
With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix DMC-ZS15 compact camera.)
I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.
Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!