Tuesday, June 9, 2009

risotto with favas, peas and asparagus

I remember the first time I ever had fava beans picked straight out of the garden. I happened to be teaching in Strada in Chianti, Tuscany at the most beautiful villa that's been in the Landi family for eight generations. A spectacular time of year, it was the end of May/early June, when fava beans were at their peak! We picked about a bushel. That was the easy part! OMG now I was faced with the task of peeling them. Picking up a handful, I showed my students how to peel them trying to make it look like a breeze. They looked at me like I was absolutely mad.

I got this brilliant idea.... I put a table outside, 4 glasses and a great bottle of icy cold crisp white Vernaccia from San Gimignano! I asked for volunteers! In a matter of minutes, those favas were shucked. Then was step number two.... Boiling them for 30 seconds. I rotated the group with 4 new volunteers and ta da.... DONE!

I got a huge bag of favas in my CSA box a week or so ago and was craving risotto. I didn't have my students at hand so I managed to rope Joe, my fiance, into the act. The cool crisp glass of Albarino did the trick!

OK now how many of you have ever cooked fava beans?


1 ½ pounds fava beans in the pod
½ pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 ounces diced fresh ham
1 cup dry white wine,-- sauvignon blanc
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 ½ cups Italian arborio or vialone nano rice
1 cup shelled fresh English peas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel the outer husk of the fava beans and discard. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the fava beans and boil 30 seconds. Drain, cool the beans and peel the outer bright green shell. Discard the shells and reserve the beans.

Bring 2 cups salted water to a boil, add the asparagus and boil until tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
Drain and place the asparagus water, vegetable or chicken stock and 2 cups water in a saucepan over low heat.

In a large deep saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and cook the onions and ham until the onions are soft, 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir until the rice is coated with oil and just begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is almost absorbed. Add a ladle of hot stock and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding hot stock , stirring constantly, until the rice is just tender and not chalky, l8 to 22 minutes. Add the peas and continue to add the stock for an additional 2 minutes, until the rice is creamy and just beyond the chalky stage. If you run out of shrimp broth, use hot water.

Remove the pan from the heat, add another ladleful of stock , butter, cream, asparagus, fava beans, half of the Parmigiano, salt and pepper. Stir quickly, cover and let sit covered off the heat for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, stir the risotto. Serve immediately garnished with the remaining Parmigiano.

Serves 6

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