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Monday, April 22, 2013

Discovery Channel Nerd...a coming out story for Earth Day

Considering the fact that I used to say I wanted to be a Prong-Horned Antelope whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, it will come as no surprise that Earth Day has a special place in my heart.

Despite my mother's kind assertions that I really could be anything I wanted to be, I eventually grew out of the ungulate phase. That wasn't without spending countless hours glued to every Discovery Channel, National Geographic or Disney special having anything to do with the natural world. My mother could probably still produce the countless VHS tapes on which I insisted having everything recorded, in case I ever want to re-live the adventure of the Outback Brumby or the excitement of the Hyenas of Ngorongoro Crater. My toys were 100% wild animals (except for the Barbies) and I spent every warm summer day "helping" my mother in the garden by playing 'Amazon Rainforest' on her tomato plants. It goes without saying that every middle school science project surrounded some obscure bovine from the jungles of sub-saharan Africa. Thanks to a bout with homeschooling, my awkward stage was spent safely in the confines of the Dorling Kindersly Encyclopedia of the Animals. My parents nurtured this passion for planet earth in so many ways; constant family hikes, an in-home recycling center, and never laughing at my four-hooved career ambitions - for this I will forever be grateful. 

The natural world was (and still is) everything to me, awesome and inspirational. I lived to learn about every newly discovered species and mourned every new mention on the endangered list. As every Earth day came around at school, you had better believe I was decked out in the latest "Save Our Planet" 90's couture, forever proud to show my spirit for Mother Earth. 

I may have traded "Wings over the Serengeti" for the Real Housewives of Atlanta (equally primitive and tragic I must add), but I am a true Discovery Channel Nerd at heart. It has been and always will be a part of who I am. I will admit to correcting someone recently on the difference between Dromedary and Bactrian camels (don't ask me why it came up) and getting a little too excited when I spotted a manatee on a recent trip to Florida, but I wear the badge with honor and today is my day to celebrate

While social media seems to have diluted the meaning by allowing for an inundation of Earth Day proclamations, I still find it heartening that despite the demands of these times, so many people still find the time to share their love for the planet on which we live.

We decided to give our nod to Earth Day through our dinner tonight. Bon Appetit's Spring Vegetable Risotto with Poached Egg (Page 90, April 2013) is both a delicious expression of the earth's bounty and a gentle reminder of the humble beginning of every living thing. I'll let you digest the metaphor while we enjoy dinner.

A few notes:

  • Choose the seasonal vegetables you like. I chose english peas simply because they are P's absolute favorite. 
  • Try poaching the eggs ahead of time so you get the nerves out of the way

  • 2 cups shelled fresh (or frozen, thawed) english peas
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 4 large organic eggs (or as many as people you are feeding)
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I used water tonight)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, whites and pale greens only, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper


  • Eggs: Bring a large skillet of salted water to a bare simmer over medium-low heat. Add vinegar. Crack 1 egg into a small bowl, then slide into simmering water. Cook until whites are cooked but yolks are runny, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water. Repeat with remaining eggs.
  • Risotto: Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large, wide heavy pot over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to bowl with the peas.
  • Heat oil and remaining 1 tablespoon butter in same pot over medium heat. Add leeks, fennel, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat and rice begins to look translucent, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until evaporated, about 4 minutes. 
  • Add 1 cup broth/water. Cook on medium heat, stirring often (no need to stir constantly), until liquid is almost absorbed. Add remaining water/broth by cupfuls, allowing it to be absorbed before adding more, stirring often, until rice is tender but still firm to the bite and mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. (this is the part where the cook finishes that bottle of white wine)
  • Add spinach, 1 cup grated Pecorino, and reserved peas and mushrooms to risotto. Cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted and cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Season risotto with salt and more cheese
  • A few minutes before risotto is done, reheat poached eggs in a large skillet of simmering water, about 1 minute.
  • Divide risotto among bowls and top with eggs, more Pecorino, chives, black and crushed red pepper

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