When I picked up my basket of secret ingredients I was surprised to see only: frozen sweet peas. The peas came with a note card and $20 clipped to it with instructions to create a meal for four for under $20 utilizing the frozen peas, a starch and incorporating protein.
With this, and my limited time to experiment being that my weekend was lost (due to moving my daughter back to school out of state), my mind started to panic as I drove home with my peas. Being that there was a cost cap to this challenge, I came to a quick conclusion that a pasta meal would work well. ... When looking around the house I noticed we had a lemon on the fruit plate. and my mind was set on using it in some way as I started to imagine how this would work with the peas, When I came across some frozen shrimp in the freezer I had the core of the dish as the subtle flavor of the shrimp would work very nice with the lemon and peas.
Cooking with shrimp for a sauce in the past I have used a little bottled clam juice to enhance the flavor. Not wanting to spend money on clam juice, I decided to toast or saute the shells in olive oil and onion to extract some additional flavor for the dish. After making my sample dish, I thought that it needed something more, as I tasting while looking out my kitchen window, my planter with fresh mint caught my eye and I knew that it was it. The parmesan toast was a result of some left over bread that I had, and figured a toasted crostini with a butter, garlic and cheese would make for an additional flavor and spice up the presentation.
The day I picked up my ingredient of frozen peas, my first thought was pea soup. However, I overlooked the challenge instructions which clearly said include a protein and starch. My first thought was to create a one pot comfort dish. It did not take long when risotto popped in to my head. My first attempt was a success however I had used ingredients that far exceeded the budget. Back to the store this time to be a bit more frugal.
My final choice of ingredients kept me well under budget and also included a bottle of wine with dinner. I think the apple wood smoked bacon brought a unique flavor to this very classic risotto dish. The color combinations almost remind you of the Italian flag colors. My mother, who was Italian, would have liked this dish.