At my mother's local farmers market in Sarasota, Florida, is a fisherman who sells the best shrimp I've ever tasted. This week, she bought a boatload of them to celebrate the start of a week-long family vacation. Cobbling together some other ingredients my mother had around -- basil from her herb pots, almonds from her freezer, the steady supply of vidalia onions in her fridge -- my mother, brother, one of my sisters, and I dreamed up and then cooked up this risotto. It's the kind of dish that comes together at the end. Eight adults and six kids all ate happily. A bittersweet nod to the vulnerable bounty of the Gulf. —Amanda Hesser
- Serves 6
packed basil leaves
olive oil, plus more for the shrimp
sugar snap peas
chopped vidalia onions
1 1/2 cups
carnaroli or arborio rice
thinly sliced small yellow squash or baby patty pan squash (about 3 of the former, 12 to 15 of the latter)
- Remove the heads and shells from the shrimp. Place the heads and shells in a medium saucepan, cover with 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Season the water with salt. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain into a clean pan and bring to barely a simmer.
- Meanwhile, lightly coat the shrimp with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a grill to medium high -- and find someone to grill the shrimp for you while you make the risotto.
- Combine the basil leaves, almonds and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a blender or small food processor, and puree until coarse, not entirely smooth. Season with salt. Scrape the pesto into a small bowl. Rinse out the blender and place back on the base.
- Bring a medium pan of salted water to a boil, add the sugar snap peas and cook until just softened on the edges but still crisp inside. Drain and add to the blender; puree until just faintly coarse.
- In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and cook until softened. Add the rice and stir to coat. Cook for 3 minutes to toast the rice. Add the wine and cook until evaporated. Begin ladling in the shrimp broth a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring all the while. The liquid should be at an active simmer; adjust as needed.
- Continue adding broth and stirring until the rice is softened on the edge and al dente -- like pasta -- in the center. Season as you go. When it's halfway cooked, send your grill person out to cook the shrimp.
- When the rice is cooked, remove it from the heat. Fold in the yellow squash, followed by the sugar snap pea puree. Adjust seasoning and liquid -- the rice should be loose but not soupy.
- Ladle the risotto onto dinner plates, top each with a few shrimp and spoon over some pesto. Savor the remaining bounty of the Gulf.