If you have been a part of Ms. Jeannie’s blog since the summer, you’ll know that Ms. Jeannie enjoys the fun of gardening (minus April’s poison ivy outbreak, of course!). Her small summer crops were full of crunchy cherry tomatoes, crispy green peppers, snappy garden peas, buckets of sunflowers and more jalapenos then Mr. Jeannie Ology knew what to do with!
After she had harvested all her plantings and tilled her garden back down to the soil again, Ms. Jeannie half-heartedly decided to plant a fall garden in a neighboring patch that was overwhelmed with weeds. She says half-heartedly, because after the zealousness with which she approached her summer garden, (designing her own patch, layout and fencing) Ms. Jeannie felt sort of confined working in the perimeters of this already established bed. It was a funny shape too. Sort of like a squashed trapezoid or a flattened kidney bean, and was flanked on both ends by azalea bushes. But it did back up to garden fencing (ideal for fall peas!) and had a pretty brick border, so…
She carried on anyway and planted two rows of peas, several rows of alternating onions and carrots and a border of zinnias. She was using old seeds, some over five years old as an experiment of sorts to see if they would actually still grow.
The weeds returned almost instantly. Some of the seedlings started to sprout. Fire ants began to picket. Apparently, being fond of the neighborhood, they were not keen on Ms. Jeannie’s idea to relocate their home. And then there were the mosquitoes – so big and so bold, Ms. Jeannie began to think she, herself, was their only source of sustenance.
For weeks Ms. Jeannie battled nature. But, as it turns out 5 year old seeds in combination with weeds, fire ants and mosquitoes does not make for a garden great. The peas bloomed then promptly withered, the onion shoots sent up green antennas from the ground, surveyed the location and then disappeared – never to be seen again. And the zinnias nevr even showed up at all. Ms. Jeannie was depressed. Halfhearted gardening was no fun. No fun at all.
But there was one bright spot among all this sad state of affairs. The carrots! Dear readers, the carrots…the carrots gave it their all! They sprouted, they grew long lacy foliage, they hummed happily. All autumn. Growing, growing, growing in the ground undisturbed. Like a bad mother, Ms. Jeannie paid them absolutely no attention. She didn’t water them, she didn’t weed around them or cover them on frosty nights, she didn’t even visit them on a weekly basis. Frankly, my dears, she just sort of forgot about them.
Until yesterday. When a faint memory tickled her mind. A long lost thought…plantings in the fall…carrots for Thanksgiving dinner (Ms. Jeannie’s original idea for the garden in the first place)… vegetables throughout the winter. Dreamy eyed, Ms. Jeannie wondered what might have become of those carrot seeds from so long ago…
So with shovel in hand, she headed out to the garden to investigate. Expectations were low – incredibly low. After all they’d been in the ground for 5 months. There had been many, many handfuls of cold 30 degree weather. There had been times of drought and times of flooding. And there had been that issue of lackluster attention.
But alas! The carrots didn’t care! No worries, they shouted. The green lacy sprouts greeted her like a long lost friend. They practically sang to her as she pulled them, one by one out the ground. Here’s a picture of the chorus…
Full fledged carrots! Maybe a bit on the small side, some, but with such low expectations, Ms. Jeannie was practically overjoyed with the perfection of them all:) Such beauties they seemed!
Who would have thought you could enjoy such pretty vegetables in December? And with absolutely zero effort. Carrots may just very well be Ms. Jeannie’s new favorite vegetable.
This event called for celebration, so Ms. Jeannie found herself in the kitchen last night making a parmesan and carrot risotto. It was a chilly night – in the mid 30’s – and this was a warm, filling dinner full of autumn sunshine (thank you carrots!).
A lot of people shy away from making risotto because they think it is tedious or complicated, but really it couldn’t be a more simple recipe. The often thought tedious part just means you have to stay by the stove for about 20 minutes and stir frequently so the rice doesn’t stick. If you haven’t ever tried risotto, it is an Italian style rice based dish, that is filling like pasta and can be cooked a million different ways but always includes 3 ingredients: parmesean cheese, white wine and chicken broth.
Ms. Jeannie always likes to use homemade chicken broth but you could used canned or carton broth as a substitute too.
Here’s the recipe, which was adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe that had called for long grain rice in place of risotto. This is a picture of Ms. Jeannie’s finished product with a serving suggestion (see bottom of recipe for details).
Parmesan Carrot Risotto (serves 4)
- 3 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 6 medium carrots, grated
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 1/4 cups arborrio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- In a saucepan, bring broth and 2 cups water to a bare simmer over medium.
- In a large saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium. Add onion and carrots; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in rice. Add wine; cook, stirring, until absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add 2 cups hot broth; simmer over medium-low, stirring frequently, until mostly absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. Continue to add broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring occasionally, until absorbed before adding more. Cook until rice is creamy and just tender, about 20 minutes (you may not need all the broth).
- Remove risotto from heat. Stir in Parmesan and 1 tablespoon butter, and season with salt and pepper.
Ms. Jeannie served her risotto on top of a bed of raw baby spinach. She just grabbed a handful of spinach for each plate. The heat of the rice wilts the spinach a touch and adds a bit of bright color to the plate. Ms. Jeannie paired her dinner with Smoking Loon Sauvingnon Blanc, which complimented the sweetness of the carrots. She could have also served this with a crusty baguette too – had she not forgotten to get one at the store!
Here’s a close-up so you can see the texture…
Thank you sweet carrots for growing so great over all these months!!! See you again this spring for sure!