It’s a lie though; these scapes are from New Jersey, not New York.

I wanted a better pun because you deserve more, but I can’t muster one just now. Nothing will ever beat the one my brother-in-law found on over the weekend: “Two monocles got together in front of a window and had sex. They made quite a spectacle of themselves.” (I’ve highlighted the relevant punny words for anyone who is pun-impaired. And yes, I know; that isn’t a very good pun either.)

What is funny is that I would go for the scape-related pun when there are also peas involved, as the potential for pea-related humor is clearly MUCH higher. But I like a challenge, and it is in failure that we grow. Or some shit like that.

This week’s Tight Ass Tuesday is brought to you by Farmer John from Starbrite Farm, my CSA’s farmer, because it is thanks to him that I have these fresh English peas and garlic scapes. It’s also brought to you by Brian Levine of the Michelle and Brian relationship, because he’s the one who stayed home shelling and blanching peas while I was out having dinner and enjoying a concert at a fancy pants wine bar with my friend Heather like the gadabout I am. The servers at dinner totally thought we were on a date and I’ve gotta be honest, it was one of the better dates on which I’ve been. Unfortunately for Heather, I don’t put out until the third.

I can’t feel too bad though, because Brian is a pea fiend and I know that there were many more peas than eventually ended up in the fridge waiting to become a part of this English pea risotto with bacon and garlic scape butter.

Yes, I just compared my evening out to his staying home eating peas. No, I am not being hyperbolic or unfair. The man truly and deeply loves a pea.

As has become habit on days where it’s likely Brian will get home first, I sent him dinner instructions so things would already be on the move when I got there. Over the past few weeks, he’s proven himself to be quite the adept instruction-follower. I’m very proud.

I knew he would be able to handle this one ably, although risotto daunts many, because step one was “render diced bacon.” The bacon creates an immediate zone of comfort, allowing one to move forward with a dish that can be thought of as intimidating.

It really shouldn’t be, though. Are you intimidated by risotto? Stop it. Because the instructions are pretty much the same as the instructions on the side of a shampoo bottle: Add liquid. Stir. Repeat. If you can stir, you can make risotto. Hell, you can make it even if you can’t stir – I don’t want to unintentionally exclude the stirring-impaired, who tend to be even more sensitive than the pun-impaired – because there’s a totally stir-free way to make it in the oven. Therefore: Quit yer bitchin’.

Mid-bacon rendering I got home, which means I immediately took over almost all tasks because I am a complete control freak in the kitchen. I admit this and I am not trying to change. I cook good. You want good food? Get outta my way. Also, I have an irrationally strong love of stirring hot foods. Even when a meal is totally Brian-centric (e.g., he is generally in charge of chili and mushroom-barley soup), I will forcefully insert myself solely to stir. This I AM trying to change, because it’s borderline pathological.

While the bacon worked its way on down I made the compound butter, the fancy term for “butter mixed with another thing.” In this case, it was butter and garlic scapes.* I had a bag of scapes sitting in the fridge about to head south because I refuse to march lemming-like over the garlic scape pesto cliff.** I wanted something more versatile and there are few things that garlic butter cannot improve, so into the FoPro they went.

God knows this was WAY more inventive than the lame mounds of pesto that beleaguer us each spring.

Unfortunately, the butter was still a little too cold to give in to the FoPro’s ministrations, so there was no small amount of starting and stopping and scraping giant butter chunks off the wall of the FoPro’s bowl. Then, somehow, ALL the butter and scapes ended up under the blades: given the amount of food in the processor, I’m still not sure how this is physically possible. Eventually, after much bewilderment, cursing and physical violence committed with a 1/2-size spatula, the butter deigned to allow itself to be processed with the scapes, which immediately released a garlicky assault on the nostrils.

*Here: Last year’s non-pesto adventures with scapes, along with a description of what they actually are. Why type that shit twice?

*Savory but DANGEROUS.

Brian had taken over FoPro duties while I ministered to the risotto; you know I’m not going to let anything involving that much stirring be wrested from my bailiwick.  I removed the cooked bacon, quickly sauteed some onions and added arborio rice, tossing it well to make sure every grain was nestled in a cocoon of bacon fat, much like most of my internal organs are.  I cooked the rice briefly, until it was toasty smelling and the grains had taken on the slightly translucent outer coating that lets you know the fat has well and truly gone to work, and then started with the liquids: white wine first, cooked until mostly absorbed, and then chicken stock by the glug-ful. I like to add another splash of wine at the end for a flavor boost.

I don’t actually measure how much chicken stock goes in each time because I keep my stock hot on the stove in a teapot, which makes it easier to pour it into the risotto without making a huge mess. It works out really well, assuming you remember to rinse the teapot well before using it for tea. Not that I’m speaking from experience.

It normally takes about 20 minutes to get from initial dose of chicken stock to finished, creamy risotto. I tossed the blanched peas in for the last minute or two to heat them and cook them through slightly more, then mixed in some finely grated parm and the crumbled bacon off the heat.

A teaspoon or so of scape butter was artfully perched atop the bowls of risotto, allowed to melt slightly in a picturesque way and then violently stirred into the rice because we were fucking hungry and had to be out the door in negative five minutes.

Risotto is often thought of as a winter food, but Homey don’t play that. Mix enough spring vegetables into that shit – peas and asparagus being both the most traditional for good reason, because they taste the best, and you’ve got yourself a big ol’ bowl of risotto primavera. Creamy rice, sweet peas, salty bacon. Fresh peas have a snap that their frozen counterparts never do and that canned peas can only dream of from the circle of canned vegetable hell they inhabit, and they taste like little pops of springtime in your mouth. (Granted, it’s the middle of July, but with the fucked up weather we’ve been having it may as well be March. What do we want? BEACH WEATHER! When do we want it? NOW!) Like, if you had the wherewithall and stomach capacity to eat an English cottage garden, fresh peas are what it would taste like.

And garlic scape butter – don’t even get me started – is my new favorite. It’s A Good Thing. If I hadn’t had scapes (which, although I know I technically paid for them months ago seem free to me because no money changed hands when I got them) I would have just roasted up some regular garlic and whizzed that with the butter along with a raw clove for good measure and that would have worked just fine, but the scapes really – if I may – kicked things up a notch. They’re garlicky, but are slightly sweeter and have a vegetal freshness that cloves don’t have. They manage to be punchy and delicate at the same time, and were a perfect foil to the sweet creaminess of the dish. As it melts on the risotto, it goes from a pale mint to a  verdant kelly green.

I have some risotto left over, which will become excellent arancini (fried rice balls) later this week. I also have a metric ass-ton of scape butter, which will go on everything I eat for the rest of the summer. I may live on potatoes roasted directly in a wood fire then split and daubed with scape butter.

I know it seems like you shouldn’t be able to make this on the cheap, but you certainly can: frozen peas. Rice. Two-Buck Chuck. A box of stock. A couple slices of bacon. An onion. Roasted garlic butter.

Brian suggests that I cut-and-paste the directions I sent him rather than re-writing a recipe so you too can see the level of detail needed to con your significant others into making dinner, although I will be nice and give you amounts. All other instructions are verbatim.

Spring Pea Risotto with Garlic Scape Butter
Serves 4 for dinner or 8 as a side
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
4 c. chicken or veggie stock
1 1/2 c. dry white wine
1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 c. peas, fresh or frozen
4 strip bacon
1 c. finely grated parmagiano (May nonna strike me down, but pre-grated is fine as long as it’s not the green can nonsense.)
black pepper
garlic scapes

First, prep:

  • Get peas, wine, out
  • Cut 3-4 slices of bacon into strips
  • Dice onion
  • Take 2 stick of butter out of the fridge

Then, cook:

  • Pour the peas into a white bowl and take a picture of them, get all macro on that shit. Take some pictures of piles of chopped things heaped on the cutting board, if you remember. If you don’t, no big whoop.
  • Get out the little dutch oven, put over medium heat.
  • Put stock in a pot (or the teapot, makes adding it to the rice easier) and heat up (but not to boiling/simmering. Just hot.). Leave on the heat.
  • Add a drizzle of olive oil + bacon to the dutch oven. Cook until bacon is done but not super-crispy or burned.  Remove bacon to paper towels. If there’s more than 2-3 tbsp of fat in the pot, pour out the extra.
  • Add the onion. Saute for a few minutes until it starts to get see-thru.
  • Add 1 ½ cups of rice. Toss to coat it all in fat. Cook for about 5 minutes. If the rice starts to brown the heat is too high. Eventually, the rice will look like it has a see-thru coating – that means it’s coated in the fat.
  • Turn heat up to medium/medium high. Pour in 1 c. of wine. Stir until wine is pretty much all absorbed. At this point, start adding 1-2 ladles of stock at a time. Stir. When stock is mostly absorbed, add more. Stir. Add stock. Continue.
  • Taste about 15 minutes in. Rice should be almost done. Add the peas so they can finish cooking with the rice.
  • When the rice is done – usually takes 18-20 minutes from when you start adding the stock, you have to judge by tasting it – stir in 1 c. grated parm, black pepper and the bacon.  Check for salt (with the bacon and parm, it’s probably fine).


When I get home, I’ll make the garlic scape butter. We’ll have enough for dinner, and enough to make some rice balls later this week (or for lunches).

(For scape butter: 2 sticks unsalted butter + 5 or 6 garlic scapes + food processor.)

[tags]food, cooking, recipes, italian, risotto, peas, bacon, garlic, scapes[/tags]