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
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)
In This Recipe
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.
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.