Welcome to our regular recipe column from teacher and stand-up comedian Sarah Whitmore. This time around, Sarah turns groundcover into gastronomic gold.
Story, recipe and photos by Sarah Whitmore
No country has the capacity to celebrate awareness in a more monthly fashion. Americans do a first-rate job of isolating issues into 30-day sections, thereby harnessing and training the nation’s attention on rubber bracelets. In fact, this focus on themed rubber bracelets could be our nation’s main strength.
In the USA, March is National Cheerleader Safety Month, National Sauce Month, National Craft Month, National Umbrella Month, National Celery Month, and National Credit Education Month!
Great At Days, Too!
America is not just good at months, but also days. March 1 is National Fruit Compote Day and March 7 is National Crown Roast of Pork Day. It’s not until March 9, though, that we direct our interstate, laser-focus on Crabmeat. Today’s school children might chant cheery songs like “5, 6, 7, 8, let’s all get that craaabmeat!”
Is it any wonder that modern adults grapple with hollow childhood impressions of March? We missed the opportunity to be highly aware of Poultry (March 19) and Tuberculosis (March 24). Our anemic past: plain old Women’s History Month. Honestly though, how are Sojourner Truth and Frida Kahlo supposed to stand up to Turkey Neck Soup (March 30) or Bleeding Disorders (all month!)?
Some say we are a young nation, multi-focused, full of awareness. Others say we are a nation with the depth of a free, trial-sized lip gloss and the attention span of squirrels.
One thing is certain, though: we are a nation that likes to eat.
March has me clinging to wintry comfort food. I’m cozy and don’t want to go outside. Splashy magazine covers are in my face with articles prodding me to entertain outdoors in needle-skinny Capri pants and halter tops. Um, no. I’m not yet ready to BBQ naked; leave me alone to cuddle my soups and lasagnas until at least Easter. March brings fresh, green things. Coax one last hug out of winter with this fresh, Sonoma County version of Italy’s luscious risotto, which is PACKED with bright herbs, veggies and—drum roll—NASTURTIUM LEAVES!
How cool are you to be eating that which sprouted up from under the porch? Young nasturtium leaves, with bright, peppery flavors, knock this satiating dish out of the park. Nasturtium leaves are available at farmers’ markets and in local yards (use discretion with those yards containing dogs and cats).
Creamy NASTURTIUM RISOTTO
4 cups hot broth (chicken or bone or choose your favorite—whatever pairs with your main dish; you likely won’t use all 4 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup pancetta, chopped
2 cups shallots (about 4-5), chopped
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt (maybe—depends on saltiness of broth)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2 1/2 – 3 cups fresh whole snap peas (about 1 pound), chopped
1 cup cream
2 egg yolks
1 brimming cup chives (2 big bunches), minced
2 cups Italian parsley (1 big bunch), chopped
2 cups small, new nasturtium leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan, plus more for serving
Risotto is a quick cook after ingredients are prepped—30 minutes tops.
Chop vegetables and herbs.
In a separate pot, get that savory broth simmering on the stove.
Combine chopped parsley, chives and nasturtiums in a bowl.
Remove snap pea stems and strings—keep the sweet shell in place. Don’t open. Chop pods into 3-4 little chunks each.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy-bottomed pot.
Add chopped shallots and pancetta. Cook until shallots are translucent.
Add 1 cup wine, ½ teaspoon white pepper and 1 1/2 tablespoons thyme leaves.
Add 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice. Stir to simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.
Add 2 cups hot broth. Simmer 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
Stir in 1/2 cup broth. Simmer 5 minutes, stir occasionally.
Taste rice. It should be soft, but al dente, with a bit of surrounding liquid.
Add chopped pea pods.
Gently whisk 2 egg yolks into 1 cup cream, fold into rice. Simmer a few more minutes.
Fold in fresh chopped herbs, including chopped nasturtium leaves.
Fold in grated parmesan and mascarpone cheese.
Great risotto is a little saucy/creamy—not soupy or clumpy. Add broth as needed.
Garnish with parmesan, whole nasturtium leaves and flowers.