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One New Mediterranean Recipe: Risi e Bisi (Rice and Peas)

April 4, 2011

Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton’s book, Canal House Cooking is wonderfully seasonal.  Hoping for spring and warmer weather in Boston, I focused on a quintessential spring recipe for a dinner with Cynthia and Lew Harriman last week.  Risi e Bisi is what Melissa and Christopher write they “like to welcome in spring and the arrival of fresh peas as the Venitians do, with this soupy rice and pea dish.”  The day I cooked this dish in late March was as cold as a January day, but we can say, hope does spring eternal. 

-Sara

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cups shucked peas
5-6 cups hot vegetable stock
1/2 cups carnaroli, arborio or other Italian short-grain rice
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt and Pepper

Preparation
1. Heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter together in a heavy medium pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until soft and golden, 5-10 minutes.  Add the peas and season with salt.  Cook for a minute or two, then add 1 cup of the hot stock.

2. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer the peas until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the rice and 4 cups of the remaining hot stock.  Cover the pot and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle boil.  Cook the rice, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 20 minutes. 

4. Remove the pot from the heat and mosten the rice and peas with the remaining 1 cup of stock, if needed (I did not add in the sixth cup).  Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Season with salt, if it needs it, and with pepper.  Serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese.

Recipe adapted from Canal House Cooking, Volume 3 by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer. 

NOTE:  The recipe says it serves 6, but this must be for 6 people with very large appetites.  There will be plenty of leftovers.

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