We've been down in Miami the past week, and though it was great soaking up the sun and eating seafood (and Key Lime pie!), it's nice to be back to enjoy springtime in NYC. Evidence of spring is everywhere, with pink and white blossoms on the trees, and daffodils and tulips popping up in the parks. AND...best of all, it's English pea season! I love adding plump, freshly shelled peas to just about anything. Their bright green color and clean, sweet taste make them an ideal complement for richer dishes like stews, braises, or spaghetti carbonara. Or of course, simply enjoyed on their own, briefly boiled and eaten with a drizzle of olive oil, a few torn mint leaves, and a dash of sea salt.

But one of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh peas is in this lush, lemony risotto. The combination of sweet peas, lemon zest, and sharp pecorino blended together in a creamy risotto is nearly too good to be true.

Plus I just love making risotto...I can unwind with a glass of wine while slowly adding in the broth and stirring the rice. Though it takes a bit of time to cook, it's an amazingly easy dish to whip up for a crowd, and in theory, you should have nearly all the ingredients already on hand (with the exception of the peas and the parsley).

I find that a lot of people are intimidated by the thought of making risotto, which needn't be the case. The basic method is very easy to follow, and once you master it, there are all sorts of variations and substitutions you can make. For example, instead of peas, try blanched asparagus or sauteed zucchini, or add some thinly sliced prosciutto for a heartier main-course risotto. Substitute the lemon zest for orange, or the parsley for mint (mint pairs especially well with the peas!). And of course you can use Parmesan if you prefer –I use pecorino because a) it's cheaper and b) I love its slightly sharper taste in this dish. Do what works for you – the idea is for you to enjoy yourself in the process!