No really. That Saturday feeling. That Friday night feeling where you're just so wild and free and you have a drink and maybe two more because HECK you don't have to get up early in the morning and because this is the best time. This is summer. This is the YES FRIDAY NIGHT IS GREAT time and HOLY SMOKES THIS IS THE BEST SATURDAY OF MY LIFE time.
I realize that not everybody is like this. I mean sure everybody likes the weekend. But I am talking about food right now. I am talking about being outside in the sunshine and spending a good five minutes carefully selecting the best three avocados. I'm talking about doing a little happy dance when we see those little sungold cherry tomatoes pop up again, 3 baskets for 10 dollars yes please. I'm talking about the dude from White Crane Springs Ranch who has the best herbs, flowers, and salad greens and who always has some kind of lettuce in his teeth.
You think I am crazy but I am not alone. Every time I visit my parents in Houston my mom brings me outside first thing to show me the five or six types of basil she has planted this year. Then we walk around to the side of the house to see how crazy and overgrown her oregano plant is. She is excited and I am excited and this is who we are. Plants make us happy and being in the kitchen is our happy place.
All of this crazy talk is just to say that I freaking LOVE this time of year. Heirloom tomatoes are back, Green Gulch Farm is back, the peaches have been FANTASTIC, and I've been getting a butter croissant every Saturday morning from Della Fattoria where we buy bread because I'm just so giddy and because those croissants are just so damn good. On our walk home from the market Mady and I will randomly announce exactly what we are going to eat when we get home. Sliced tomatoes, avocado, basil, balsamic, olive oil, flaky sea salt, and pepper. Doesn't get much better than that.
This recipe comes from Peter Miller's great little book Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal. This is a book about slowing down for the midday meal, taking a little time to enjoy good simple food. It doesn't have to be hard but it does take a little planning and TLC. I've been making my own lunch since I was a kid, so this book really strikes a chord with me - I read it cover to cover the day I brought it home with me. I had some carnaroli rice that I'd been trying to figure out what to do with (I had no idea that there were other types of risotto rice besides arborio), so this seemed like just the thing.
SPANISH RICE WITH PEAS AND SPRING LEEKS (adapted slightly from Lunch at the Shop)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 yellow or Spanish onion, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 cup Carnaroli rice
- 1/4 cup white wine or sherry
- 3 cups slowly boiling vegetable or chicken stock
- 3 tomatoes, sliced
- 3/4 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
- 1 small bunch spring leeks, spring onions, or scallions
- 12 fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly shredded
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne
- freshly ground back pepper
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Heat a cast-iron pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil and butter, and once the butter has melted, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add the red peppers, half of the spring leeks, the paprika and cayenne, and sauté for 5 minutes more.
Add the garlic, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the rice, stir to coat, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to barely toast the rice. Add the wine; it should sizzle for a moment when it hits the pan. Stir it well to combine then cook for 1 to 2 minutes until it has evaporated.
Add the stock. The liquid should cover the rice by no more than 1 inch. Stir one last time to make certain nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan and to ensure that the ingredients are well combined. Cover the pan and carefully place it in the oven.
Bake the rice for 25 minutes. Carefully remove it form the oven. Uncover the pan, lay the tomato slices, the rest of the spring leeks, and the peas on the surface, and quickly put the lid back on (keeping the heat in will steam the peas and the tomatoes). Chop the basil and parsley together. After 10 minutes, uncover the pan and add the basil and parsley, stirring them carefully into the dish. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add a little grated Parmesan while the rice is hot, sprinkling it on top. Serve immediately.