What inspires your kitchen as the seasons change? Do you relish the idea of welcoming in new dishes to your table after the long, cold winter? For the last several days, I’ve woken up to the sound of song birds… This is the first exciting sign of spring. Inevitably, with the awakening of the earth from its winter slumber, we typically crave fresh spring meals. My favorite part about spring is being able to shop at the farmers market and using those ingredients to make super simple, fresh recipes. Food that’s light, clean, crisp and colorful. Here the spring produce has started to arrive to our local markets, and farmers markets open up for the new growing season. With all these fresh peas, asparagus, artichokes, radishes, fennel and rhubarb it’s no wonder I like to pair wines with these dishes as well.

I love a rich and creamy risotto, which is Italian-style comfort food. Because of its high starch content, imported Arborio rice makes the creamiest risotto, so look for the imported Arborio rice for best results. Here is a favorite to get spring off to a great start.

Risotto with Spring Fresh Peas & Zucchini

2 cans 14.5 ounces each chicken broth

3 tablespoons sweet butter

1 to 2 large garden fresh zucchini 1 pound, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 1/2 cups imported
Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup spring fresh peas, frozen will work

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the broth and 2 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan over low heat; keep warm. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add zucchini; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until zucchini is golden, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove zucchini to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add onion; cook until soft, 5 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Increase heat to medium. Add rice; cook, stirring, until translucent around edges, for about 3 minutes. Add the wine; cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Continue to cook, adding 1 cup heated broth at a time stir until almost all liquid is absorbed before adding more, until rice is tender, likely 25 to 30 minutes total.

Add zucchini and peas; cook until peas for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining tablespoon butter and the Parmesan. Serve, topped with more cheese.

For a choice wine try a Pinot Grigio and Albariño.

Yield: 6 servings