I'm probably part of a 1% minority when I say this, but summer has always been my least favorite season.
I blame growing up in southwest Florida where summer meant hurricane season. Which meant flooding. Which meant 100% humidity. Which meant swarms of mosquitoes. Which meant a general sense of suffering. Never mind the crispy brown grass courtesy of the 100 degree heat that didn't end until Halloween. (Sweating through your princess costume? Not so ladylike.)
No, I never did enjoy those midyear months. Despite my birthday being in May, which was just around the end of the school year and exactly when the weather was perfect for beaches and boating, I've always been more of an autumn person (though, let's face it, there's no true autumn in Florida. Just two weeks of 70 degree weather before Christmas).
But all that being said, this summer has been different. We moved to the Catskills on the first day of May when the mountainside was dotted with sprouting trees and wildflowers were just starting to bloom. Now that we're into the second week of June, we have fields of brilliant green, lily padded ponds, dreamy pink sunsets and constant cool breezes.
Hubby and I have taken advantage of the gorgeous weather by exploring the nearby Mountain Top Arboretum (pictured), dining al fresco at the local shake shack and taking afternoon walks through our neighborhood where we've spotted wild turkeys, beavers and chipmunks nearly every day.
Another thing I've learned to appreciate about summer is the gardening. Last month, I planted my very first garden - basil, chives, lavender, cherry tomatoes, red bell peppers and jalapeno peppers. I've been watering and tending to my potted seedlings faithfully and am just starting to see the fruits (haha) of my labor. The vegetables are beginning to bud and the herbs are high enough to harvest.
I made risotto the other night and decided to garnish it with some of my chives. It was a very cool feeling of accomplishment when I took out the kitchen shears, cut a handful of Something I Grew, then sprinkled it over Something I Cooked.
As I ate my risotto with some chicken thighs hot off the barbecue, I was finally able to accept and appreciate summer for what is it - a respite from the harshness of winter, where afternoons are long and lazy, woodland animals say hello and the earth finally comes to life.
Creamy Parmesan Risotto
I usually associate a piping hot bowl of risotto with the cozy
comforts of a winter's day, but the use of white wine and fresh herbs
made this recipe feel summery to me. We had it for dinner on a rainy
evening with songbirds and frogs serenading us just outside our window.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup good white wine (something dry without too many fruity tones is best)
4 to 5 cups chicken stock or broth, simmering
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon lemon zest, freshly grated
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnishing
1/4 cup chives, finely chopped
salt & freshly ground black pepper
(Have your chicken stock is simmering in a pot before you begin cooking.)
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the rice and cook until fully coated in the oil and they click like glass beads when stirred, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the wine and simmer until fully absorbed by the rice, about 5 minutes.
Add 1 ladle of simmering chicken stock (about 3/4 cup) and, stirring constantly, cook until almost fully absorbed. Add another ladle and repeat the process until almost fully absorbed. Continue this pattern, adding the stock ladle by ladle and allowing the rice to absorb the liquid, and stirring constantly (this is important!) until the rice is suspended in a liquid that has the consistency of heavy cream. The rice should be cooked al dente, tender but firm (not crunchy or mushy). This will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and fold in the butter, mascarpone 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and lemon zest. Allow to set for a moment before spooning into bowls and sprinkling with chives, more Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
Welcome! I'm a pie-baking, dog-loving, antique-hunting patriot. I'm a fan of rustic home cooking, the Yankees and scenic drives through the mountains.