The month of May in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, where we live, is wonderful. The mornings are usually fresh and cut-grass-scented, followed by warm and sunny days and seemingly never ending evenings. The weekends are perfect for picnics in the park, with our boys running around in search of snails and getting ice cream on every possible surface. As the sun sets rather late, days are long and warm until late night and café terraces are full of people enjoying a late apéro or dinner al fresco. I have come to love this period before the summer heat truly takes over. Work and school days are often busy and packed with everyday duties and routines, so on the weekends we loosen up on schedules, bedtimes and make room for spontaneity. Specially on a warm May evening, there are few things more enjoyable than having an apéro amongst friends which will grow into dinner, while children play until late hours and parents enjoy long conversations and great food.
Windows wide open, a playlist of Al Green and Louis Armstrong playing, you can feel the stress of the passing work week melting away. On an evening such as this, we usually plate a simple apéro selection on the table, no formality or fuss. Some olives, chips, tuna rillettes, radishes, saucisson and possible bowls of fruit or berries. Apéro chez nous usually includes natural cider, kriek beer or Prosecco, something fresh, light and bubbly. To start off the dinner, I might sauté some asparagus in butter with some salt and lemon juice or make a big green salad with vinaigrette. One of our favourites for an easy yet delicious meal is a simple risotto. It is versitile, you can add mushrooms, asparagus, beetroot or anything really. But a simple risotto is just as delicious on its own.
A Simple Risotto
60 g butter
250 g arborio rice
1 L broth (I usually use chicken broth)
40 g grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
30-40 ml white wine (or Prosecco, if you opened a bottle)
Over medium heat, in a pot melt one large tablespoon of butter (leave the rest for later) and add chopped shallots. Heat the onions for 4-5 minutes. Add rice, white wine, and stir it all together, until rice absorbs the liquid. Start adding broth, one ladle at a time, stirring until it is absorbed. Keep adding and stirring until you have added all of the broth. It should take about 20-25 minutes. Finally add the rest of the butter and grated Parmesan/Grana Padano and stir everything together. Serve immediately.
After the meal, strawberries with ice cream, first of the years cherries or just some dark chocolate will usually do the trick for dessert. This is the beginning of the season of leisurely dinners after all and an effortless meal, just as this, is the perfect way to begin. Bon appétit and let the season of open windows begin!